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Dear BI Career Consultants:

by Black Issues

Dear BI Career Consultants:

I’m interested in getting an academic/administrative appointment but have nontraditional credentials: i.e. no Ph.D.  How do I go about getting an appointment?

Dr. Ernestine Madison associate vice president for administration, and assistant to the president for human relations and diversity, Washington State University,

The first step to obtaining an academic/administrative appointment with nontraditional  credentials should be to perform a critical self-analysis of your actual capabilities.  Identify, document, and assess your learning experiences, skills, and interests. Once this analysis is completed, you will be better able to ascertain the type of appointment you wish to pursue.
Next, you should actively seek and cultivate mentors. Build a network of individuals who have an interest in higher education or who currently have careers in advanced education. These relationships can provide you with knowledgeable information, candid suggestions, and thoughtful advice concerning your quest.  Mentors may also serve as useful avenues for academic career advancement.
Careers in higher education are very demanding and many positions require a great deal of education. You should, however, be aware that experience, in some instances, could be more relevant than education. Experience may lend more influence and serve as the catalyst needed to obtain your desired occupational outcome. Therefore, strengthen your credentials and enhance your reputation through various pathways such as part-time (adjunct) academic appointments, senior management experience, fellowship opportunities, professional associations and publications, and volunteerism.
Traditionally, individuals selected for administrative positions in higher education are chosen because they are experienced problem solvers and critical thinkers. For example, individuals who have moved up through military ranks or climbed various rungs of corporate ladders make desirable administrative candidates. On the academic side, the individuals chosen for positions have talents that are very well-recognized and documented. Examples of these appointments would be writers, musicians, scientists, or engineers who have a proven reputation in their field. Institutions base their reputations on the ability to acquire widely known and talented instructors.
Also, identify institutions, including community colleges, which have areas closely related to your interest and learning experience. Develop a process for researching these institutions and applying for available positions you find desirable. Use your experiential learning, talents, and interests, and established network to your advantage.
Above all, “sell yourself” with a carefully written and accurate resume/vitae and look forward to achieving your career goals.

Dr. Michael Suess
associate vice president of academic administration,
California Polytechnic Institute-San Luis Obispo

There are various points of entrance for careers in academic administration. The most traditional way starts with attaining a teaching position. Most institutions of higher education respect the fact that an academic administrator has had actual experience in the classroom because teaching is basic to all mission statements in higher education.
The requirements for a teaching position vary by discipline as well as by the nature of the institution. For example, many community colleges will often accept a master’s degree, whereas, it is not uncommon for four-year colleges and universities to expect the doctorate.
After attaining a teaching position in a college of choice, leadership opportunities arise to be elected/selected to chair a department or important committees, such as accreditation or diversity committees. These opportunities allow the talents of those with administrative skills to be recognized by those in administration. When a vacancy occurs in an administrative position, sometimes the faculty member is lured to fill it on a temporary or permanent basis. Even if not selected to the permanent position, such experiences help to strengthen and enrich one’s resume.
Those with a master’s degree who are interested in careers in academic administration may choose to focus on entry level positions, such as an assistant in the budget office, the employee relations office, or some other administrative unit. Another alternative would be to concentrate on positions available at community colleges.
Some four-year colleges and universities may be interested in attracting those with substantial industrial or government experience for either teaching or administrative positions. In such cases, the institutions are more interested in a combination of work and educational experiences than only the terminal degree.               

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