Why Jobs in Higher Education Deserve Your Attention:
8 Common Benefits of Working for Colleges or Universities
You're smart. After all, other career-seekers tend to overlook jobs in higher education, along with the great potential they offer. Maybe that's because a lot of people only think of teaching when they contemplate possible careers in the post-secondary sector. But what if, like you, they started opening their eyes to the real opportunities? They might just discover that colleges and universities employ a wider variety of professionals than they ever imagined.
And higher ed jobs are often easy to find. In fact, between 2000 and 2011, the number of federally authorized colleges, universities, and vocational schools across America increased by over 11.6 percent to a total of more than 7,230.* That means you probably live near at least one post-secondary school, and chances are good that multiple schools operate within your general region.
Do you know why student demand stays so strong for higher education? Jobs, of course. Most college students attend school in order to get training and credentials that they can build their careers on. It's why enrollment in U.S. post-secondary institutions rose by 24 percent from 2002 to 2012. And it's why enrollment is projected to increase by an additional 14 percent from 2011 to 2022.* Many people simply recognize the fact that you're much more likely to find good employment if you have a college education.
What it all means is that this sector will probably provide many reliable jobs for years to come, even as it adapts to social, economic, and technological changes. So why not find out how you might benefit from being a part of it?
Many jobs in higher ed offer significant advantages over what you might find in other sectors. It really just depends on the individual school that you work for. Not all institutions offer the same benefits. But here are eight of the most common advantages that you're likely to encounter:
1. Abundant Career Possibilities
Many college and university campuses function almost like small self-contained cities. Large institutions, in particular, often generate their own heating and electrical power. And it's common for big campuses to include stores, residential housing, childcare facilities, restaurants, fitness facilities, medical clinics, and cultural and entertainment venues. As a result, a large college or university can employ hundreds—or thousands—of people at a single campus. And the occupational variety is often a lot more diverse than in most other sectors.
Even at smaller colleges and trade schools, the staffing needs go way beyond just academic faculty. After all, a school can only be successful at attracting, educating, and retaining students over a long period of time if it pays attention to every facet of its operations. That's why you might be more likely to find a higher ed job in a non-teaching occupation than in a purely academic one.
For example, consider some of the basic areas of operation that a large or mid-sized college or university might have. For every faculty member (i.e., academic dean, professor, or other teaching employee), any given school might have several other employees in areas such as:
- Student affairs
- Institutional administration
- Fiscal management
- Facilities management
- External relations
- Judicial affairs
- Recruiting and admissions
- Technology management
- Health, safety, and environmental affairs
- Alumni affairs
- Athletic affairs
Think about what that means. Most occupational categories are represented by good employment opportunities within the higher education sector. That's why it's smart to explore jobs in this sector if you have, or plan to pursue, formal training in any of the following areas:
- Business administration
- Project management
- Skilled trades
- Commercial and industrial maintenance
- Information technology (IT)
- Culinary services
2. Competitive Pay
Is it possible to find higher-paying jobs for the same occupations within the corporate world? Yes, of course it is. But as anyone who has held multiple jobs outside of higher education can attest, those high-paying opportunities aren't always so easy to attain. And the post-secondary sector does have its share of jobs that come with good salaries.
Obviously, most people know that being a tenured professor often comes with high pay. (In the 2013-2014 school year, the average salary for professors at American degree-granting institutions was $109,900.*) But what about other roles?
Check out the median salaries of the following examples, which are based on survey results from the 2014-2015 school year.** (Keep in mind that these real examples represent only a small fraction of the many types of positions you might come across.)
- Chief administrative officer—$172,550
- Chief campus real estate administrator—$125,182
- Head of campus construction—$92,000
- Chief campus marketing administrator—$87,662
- Database administrator—$72,420
- Mechanical engineer—$70,398
- IT security analyst—$70,160
- Building maintenance manager—$69,944
- Landscape architect—$67,873
- Network administrator—$62,816
- Student counseling psychologist—$62,236
- Childcare site director—$59,637
- Web designer/developer—$56,047
- Nutrition/dietetic professional—$53,954
- Staff nurse—$52,115
- Disability services coordinator—$50,252
- Public relations specialist—$47,948
- Human resources generalist—$47,000
- Event coordinator—$46,531
- Computer network support technician—$46,067
- Career counselor—$45,314
- Office manager—$45,244
- HVAC technician—$45,069
- Academic advisor—$42,880
- Graphic designer—$41,291
- Athletic trainer—$41,206
- Campus recreation coordinator—$40,782
- Auto mechanic—$40,287
- Campus police officer—$39,938
- Communications specialist—$39,000
- Heavy equipment operator—$35,422
- Dental assistant—$34,921
- Administrative assistant—$34,830
- Medical billing specialist—$34,730
- Pharmacy technician—$33,077
- Foodservice supervisor—$32,635
- Medical assistant—$31,992
- Security guard—$29,796
- Preschool teacher assistant—$26,817
3. An Employee-Friendly Atmosphere
Few work settings are ever perfect. But a lot of post-secondary schools offer more relaxed and flexible work cultures than you'll find in other sectors. And they frequently support the ambitions of employees who want to try taking on unfamiliar roles in different departments. In fact, one of the potential perks of a higher education job is that you may get to discover and refine talents that you never knew you had.
Think about how special that could be. After all, a lot of professionals in other sectors know on a deep level that they are capable of much more than they ever get to show. By working at a college or university, you could become one of the lucky people who actually get to bring those parts of themselves to life.
4. Being Able to Contribute Toward Something Bigger
Progress often depends on educated people using what they've learned to help make the world a better place. That's why the pursuit of knowledge is one of life's highest ideals. So, what if you could get paid to help keep the power of education alive? As someone who believes in the importance of learning and cares about our collective future, you could play a role in that larger mission.
It's about doing work that can have a positive and lasting impact. Regardless of your individual position, working at a college, university, or trade school can provide a true sense of meaning. Plus, doing something that has a noble purpose is simply good for the soul.
5. Health, Dental, and Retirement Benefits
Most post-secondary institutions give their full-time employees the opportunity to enroll in group benefit plans. Those plans often include health insurance coverage as well as things like vision, disability, and life insurance. In many plans, dental insurance is also included or offered as a separate option. At some schools, even part-time employees have access to such benefits.
In addition, a lot of colleges and universities offer generous retirement plans. Many schools will match your contributions to a retirement savings plan, and some will even make sizable contributions without requiring extra deductions from your paycheck.
6. Free or Discounted Tuition
The post-secondary sector has a way of providing truly life-changing jobs. Higher education is simply unrivaled in this respect. That's because, at many schools, employees can take classes at their institution for free and receive credit toward a degree. As a result, it's possible to begin your career in a lower-level position while pursuing the education necessary for a more advanced role at little or no cost to you.
Plus, many colleges and universities even extend their tuition benefits to the immediate family members of their employees. So by working in this sector, you may be able to give your spouse and/or children access to a free or significantly discounted post-secondary education. It's a huge benefit.
7. Extra Time Off
Vacations have been shown to be very important to the health and general well-being of working people. But a lot of American employers still only provide minimal paid time off. In the higher education sector, however, employees often receive at least three weeks per year of paid vacation time in addition to the standard holidays. They also frequently receive multiple days of paid sick time. And, depending on their particular positions and years of service, some of them even get the chance to take extended sabbaticals during their careers.
8. Easy Access to Enriching Cultural Experiences
Colleges and universities tend to be major cultural centers. They regularly attract and host inspiring speakers, entertainers, and various events that you might not find anywhere else. And the students and employees of post-secondary schools are, themselves, important sources of diverse and meaningful ideas. So working on a campus provides the opportunity to engage with all kinds of people and participate in all kinds of happenings that can broaden your horizons and enrich your life.
Make Your Future Count
As you can see, jobs in higher education often come with advantages that people don't always think about. And you don't even have to become an educator in order to access them. So take a moment to consider the vocational paths that really inspire you. Then find out where you can begin your pursuit of a career in higher education by using your zip code in the following search tool to locate convenient programs in your area!
* U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, website last visited on January 26, 2016.
** College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, website last visited on January 26, 2016.