So You Want to Be a College Academic Advisor
Campuses often overlook the academic advising profession, but advisors serve and meet the academic needs of students. This profession has been around since the 1800s John Hopkins University pioneered the college advisor profession and Harvard soon followed. In recent years, universities have deem advising the key to student retention. Though quite rewarding, the job often goes unnoticed because few university faculty and administrators understand the impact of an advisor’s relationships between students.
One can characterize this profession as someone that helps students with academic planning, choosing a major, locating campus resources just to name a few. Oftentimes advisors can serve as mentors to the students they advise. It is a job that may not pay a lot but the rewards of seeing a student graduate can be quite rewarding and exciting.
Oftentimes I am asked how I chose this profession. I can honestly say that the profession sort of chose me. After I graduated from college, I enrolled in a master’s program and became a graduate assistant academic advisor in the Center of Academic Skills at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Needless to say, the four years I spent working as an academic advisor to freshman and sophomore students was quite challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Not until my second year did I begin to really take to my role as an academic advisor and leader to the students I served. I had always felt a passion to serve and to help students to succeed. I think that passion for your profession is a necessary component for being able to fulfill the destiny or your work assignment.
I would offer the following advice to those who want to become academic advisors which includes but are not limited to:
· Join the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and you can find many resources to becoming an effective advisor.
· A background in student development or psychology it is ideal for someone wanting to work in advising.
· Job shadow and advisor to your liking. This will give you a sense of the day-to-day job duties of an academic advisor.
· Interview a current academic advisor in an area that you are wanting to pursue for your career.
· Work on improving your communication skills.
· Be knowledgeable of the collegiate environment, general education requirements, major requirements and the university graduation requirements.
· You can have a bachelor’s degree and work as an advisor but a master’s degree in education, higher education or student development would make you more marketable.
· Attend any advisor workshops and conferences to gain more knowledge in the field of academic advising.
· Seek out someone in the profession to mentor you.
Finally, I tell young people who want to enter the profession of advising to have passion, be determined to help students, make sure you are growing as a professional, and embrace the profession with your whole heart. If you do all that, you will find that the profession will embrace you and open doors to other jobs in higher education.
Regina Middleton, M.S. M.Ed.
RM Academic College Consultant