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Author Topic: Advice for becoming an Academic Advisor  (Read 8765 times)
guthrie26
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« on: November 15, 2012, 2:35:14 PM »

Hi everyone,

I am a young professional who is in search of some real advice on how I can effectively become an Academic Advisor at a university or community college. I graduated from a New York State school with my Bachelors of Science in Communication Studies, and English Literature. I then choose to remain at my school, and completed my Master of Arts in Communication as well. For the past year and a half, I have been working as an admissions counselor, but sadly have come to find that I really don't want to stay in admissions. I love working with students, and I enjoy helping them choose what majors to study, and as a transfer counselor specifically, I am involved with looking at transcripts and evaluating which credits will transfer. As a result, I get many questions about which classes a student should take prior to coming to my school. I enjoy these aspects of my job. However, I really do not like the sales aspect in admissions. In the end, at least, where I have been, it always comes down to numbers, and I feel like advising would be a much better fit for me, because I could focus more on helping students, without having to worry about "selling" them on our school. I also realize that being in admissions means paying your dues, and I understand that patience can be rewarded by moving up the ladder. The problem is, I have come to realize that I don't want to move up in admissions, since I have no desire to be a Director of Admissions. I guess my real concern is that I have been looking at job posting for Academic Advisors, and I see that many of them require a Master's, and higher ed experience. I am just wondering if my Master of Arts in Communication is going to be enough to get me in the door, or if I ultimately want to move into Academic Advising, am I going to need to return to school and get a second Master's degree in Counselor Education, or higher education. I apologize for the long explanation, but just want to explain my situation clearly. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
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flyingbison
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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2012, 2:53:45 PM »

Do not waste time and money on a second master's degree.  You don't need it for most jobs in academic advising.  If you feel compelled to seek another credential, there is an academic advising certificate program through Kansas State. 

At this point, 2 things would be most helpful, IMO.  1) More advising-related experience.  Some of what you do in admissions is related to advising, particularly the transfer stuff, but are there any opportunities at your current university to get involved with doing advising for orientation or something along those lines?  2) Networking.  You obviously already know people at your own institution, but I'm guessing you know a lot of admissions people from other schools too.  Make sure they know you are looking for an advising position, and use your contacts to get information about open positions at other schools. 

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archimedes12
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« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 11:34:47 PM »

Having worked in advising, I would agree that you should get as much experience working with students and doing things related to advising as possible. You don't need another degree and unless you pursue some program or certificate specifically related to advising, it won't teach you a great deal about the actual advising duties. That comes with practice. Try to show how your current skills will help in an advising position, and/or go to workshops/conferences on things like retention, first year experience programs, orientation, programming, etc. They always seem to be looking for people who have multiple skill sets and can bring new ideas to the table. You will likely be required, as an advisor, to be part of other initiatives so any additional knowledge can help. Really try to demonstrate that you have a passion for helping the students but that you can balance that with enforcing policies & procedures, when appropriate. Advising often involves delivering bad news (you're going to be suspended, you weren't accepted to that major, etc.) and you have to be able to do that with tact.
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guthrie26
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2012, 7:40:21 PM »

Thank you so much for the advice from both of you! I'm starting to feel better, since it looks like I won't need to return to school. Archimedes, I actually spent my two years in grad school as a TA, and the way the program was set up, the three TA's independently taught a section for a public speaking class each semester. So, perhaps I can make the argument that that experience gave me the skills you referring to where I cared about the success of my students, but at the same time, it was critical that I understand academic policies, and enforced them, had to give students bad news about grades, etc. I really do love working with students, and have been applying to advisor positions as I see them. I just didn't know if there was a requirement for how many years I had to stay in admissions before being able to cross over.
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guthrie26
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2013, 4:03:56 PM »

 Hello again,

It has been awhile since I last posted, and thought I would seek some further advice. I have been trying to find a position in academic advising since this past Fall, and have applied to multiple positions throughout the Northeast, and even some in other parts of the country, but have not been offered a single interview. I know I'm just complaining, so I apologize, but my "burnout" in admissions has reached an all time high. Part of this is the nature of the job itself, and the other part unfortunately is the school I work for, where communication between staff members in the admissions office is terrible. As mentioned in my first post on this thread, I really do enjoy working with students, and helping them decide where their interests lie, but I am not fond of the recruiting aspect, which is obviously a large part of my job. I guess what I'm starting to wonder about, is if I can't transition into academic advising, what else should I look into? I would like to get advice from people who have left admission's behind for other student support services, or who left higher education completely. I have a Bachelor's degree in communication (general communication) so the degree itself is very broad, and a master's in communication as well. I want to stay away from sales jobs, because I believe that is one of the reasons I dislike admissions so much. Thanks again for all of your advice!
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michigander
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2013, 5:01:47 PM »

At some schools, academic advisors function at least part of the time like recruiters or admissions staff.  When the happy day comes that you do get an interview, make sure you find out whether or not the position will involve these responsibilities which you dislike.
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flyingbison
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2013, 5:09:11 PM »

Guthrie, can you share any more details about your search so far?  How many applications?  All for academic advising roles, or any for related areas (TRiO programs, orientation, etc.)?  Has your approach been scattershot, or are you targeting particular types of jobs and institutions that are the best fit for you?  Have you asked a colleague in student service to review your resume and cover letters?
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guthrie26
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2013, 5:52:12 PM »

Hi Flyingbison,

Thanks so much for your reply. I lost count of the number of applications I sent out, but it has to have been at least 30 or possibly more. I did forget to mention, and perhaps this is what is hurting me, I have held positions in admissions at two different institutions within the past 2 years. The reason was because my fiancee and I moved far from home initially, but then she had a better job opportunity closer to home, and we both wanted to be within driving distance from our families in New York. It wasn't until working at another institution that I realized it wasn't just location, but the position itself I wanted to distance myself from. All positing I have applied to have been for entry level Academic Advisor Positions, although I did apply for a Graduate advisor position as well at my alma mater recently. I have had a colleage review my resume and cover letter, but they are young like me, so I'm not sure how helpful their advice has been. My search has been for positions more in the northeast, so that my fiance and I can still remain closer to New York, but we're also willing to move again possibly, if the right opportunity came up, just not as far away as we were.
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flyingbison
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2013, 9:35:34 PM »

30 may be a little high for no interviews, but entry level advising jobs can sometimes draw 100 or more applicants - particularly in the Northeast.  Perhaps you know a more senior colleague in Advising or Career Services at your current institution who would review your application materials and offer you some suggestions.

Have you been able to network effectively?  With so many applicants for each position, most of whom already have experience, getting to the interview stage is often a matter of knowing someone (or knowing someone who knows someone) connected to the institution or department. 

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guthrie26
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2013, 10:33:07 PM »

Unfortunately, the campus I'm at doesn't even have an academic advising office, so I'm unable to go to another colleague. It's a small private college, where the admission counselors do most of the initial advising, and once students matriculate, faculty members from each academic program do the actual advising. If you thought it would help, and had the time to, I would be willing to send you my resume and cover letter for a general position in a private message, and delete my personal information. But I certainly don't expect you to do that. I have tried networking as much as possible while traveling, but most of the time I am talking to other admission counselors, so they haven't had too much insight on their academic advising office.
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dale1
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2013, 10:41:08 AM »

guthrie:

What are the educational credentials required of the academic advising positions to which you've applied? Generally the posts that I have seen either require or strongly prefer a master's degree in hand. You could make yourself more competitive with the online graduate certificate in academic advising from Kansas State University in the interim. In all my time in advising (now 8+ years), I have only seen one advisor hired without a master's degree, and he was finishing up but did not seem to complete the degree.

I would be happy to take a look at your materials. Recently I helped another forumite from the PA area settle into an advising position.

I also second the idea to broaden the scope of your search. Look at student support services (a TRiO program), orientation, student life positions (often they need marketing/communication type people).

Good luck! I do strongly believe if you want to move up into any sort of higher position than a front-line advisor (which has its own challenges -- you'll need a master's.
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Dale (original)
guthrie26
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2013, 11:36:23 AM »

Hi Dale,

Thank you so much, I will forward you my materials later this evening in a private message. I appreciate you taking the time to look at them. I actually do have a Masters degree, but am not sure if it is the type of degree holding me back. I have my Master of Arts in Communication from SUNY Brockport. Most of the positions I have applied for required a Bachelor's degree, and preferred a Masters
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michigander
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2013, 11:38:21 AM »

Guthrie:  If all suggestions here fail, you may have alumni privileges at the career services and academic advising offices at the schools where you earned your degrees.  You can also contact your regional, state, and local (if any) affiliates of NACADA for contacts with experienced academic advisors to look over your cover letters and resumes.
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alleyoxenfree
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Countin' all these posts as publications


« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2013, 2:21:05 PM »

I think 30 applications for no interviews is nothing, actually.  You should be doing more than 30 a month if you're serious, and yes, apply for all kinds of jobs that have advising as a component.  Ask yourself, what is unique or special in your preparation?  For what jobs would you be the top candidate?

What are advising jobs asking for that you can provide?  Real-time online work with students?  Work with athletes?  While in your current position, see if you can add skills that will make you more competitive.

See if you can join NACADA based on the advising you already do.  Get on their listserv.  See if there are local advising events you could attend.  Invite local advisers to coffee or lunch to ask questions (you pay, of course).

You're young; you haven't moved too much.  I doubt that's holding you back and you don't need to be defensive about it.  Just focus on volume, meeting people and talking to them about the job itself and any upcoming opportunities they may know about, and what can set you apart as a candidate.
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mntwins
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2013, 10:10:04 AM »

At my CC, our last advising position opening received 300 applicants.  The majority of folks we interviewed had advising experience at a CC. 
The degree is less important than experience.
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