How to Get a Job As Dean of Students

Posted in Uncategorized on 05/17/2013

dean of students

Within a college campus, the Dean of Students is the chief advocate for the student. Regardless of whether the college is 2,000 students or over 20,000 students, the Dean of Student’s main role is to preserve the safety, well being, health, wellness, and fullness of life while attending college. They may do this through one on one interactions with students but more often than not, they accomplish this by leading a portion or the entirety of the Student Affairs division.

The organizational structure of a Student Affairs department can vary widely from one college to another. The Chief Student Affairs Office (CSAO) is the Dean of Students on many campuses. This would put this position in charge of all of the various Student Affairs functional areas on the campus, as well as serve as the student’s representative to the executive leadership of the college or university. The Dean of Students position is a highly sought after position, and the pinnacle of a career in higher education for most people.

What Does the Dean of Students do?

Most job descriptions call for someone with previous executive management experience, progressive management responsibilities, a terminal degree in student personnel management or students affairs counseling, at least 10 to 12 years experience, and a variety of other philosophical ideals on student development.

This position is a pivotal one on most college campuses because it can shape and mold the student body. The Dean of Students is also the student’s chief advocate. Their office is where students will turn to if they are having difficulties with parents, friends, roommates, teachers, bullying, discrimination, or the death of a friend. The Dean of Students is often a member of the campus crisis management team and routinely rotates through weekend duty and being on-call. As the executive manage of the Student Affairs department this position would need to lead and manage all the other branches of student affairs which could include counseling, academic advising, financial aid, the registrar, admissions, greek life, student activities, study abroad, the career center, and campus recreation.

The job duties are wide and varied and often never contain the same activities two days in a row. The position is very challenging but also very rewarding, especially for someone who has spent their entire career working in Higher Ed!

Where Do You Start?

One does not simply start out in their first student affairs position as the Dean of Students. It is essential to have experience in as many functional areas of student affairs as possible. You do not want to be viewed as someone who is not dedicated to their job, but you also do not want to stay in one job for too long and miss out on valuable experiences in other functional areas. Before applying for a Dean of Students position you will also need to have served as the director of a student affairs functional area. This will prove you have the leadership abilities to head a department and ultimately to head multiple departments.

You will also need to exemplify excellent counselor skills. You may not get to counsel as many students one on one as you have in other positions, but you need to understand counseling skills so you can create policies for your departments. A Dean of Students with a strong background in student counseling can make a powerful impact on a college campus. Your students will thank you for this!

Be prepared for job duties that are very demanding. Being a member of the crisis management team will leave you on call at all hours of the night, and it is essential that you travel to peer institutions to meet with other similar level positions. You will need to be able to work with a wide variety of people from very diverse backgrounds, and be comfortable speaking in front f large groups. You should also be adept at conflict resolution as you will be doing much of this among your staff as well as among your students.

The Bottom Line

The Dean of Student’s position is an admirable goal for anyone in student affairs. It is one of the highest student affairs positions available and is often an excellent way to put a capstone on your career. It is however, a very demanding job and can cause burnout early.

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