Academic Dean: Education, Salary, and Outlook

Academic Dean: Education, Salary, and Outlook
The Editorial Team January 17, 2020

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Academic deans typically head up specific departments or colleges within a large university. They’re responsible for overseeing all academic and administrative operations within their sector, including recruiting and hiring faculty, managing the budget, and developing curricula. Essentially, the academic dean is responsible for the department’s overall academic performance.

If becoming an academic dean is part of your career goals, it’s important to define the path to get there clearly. Most schools require academic deans to have experience in administration, as well as leadership experience. Education is important as well, with many schools requiring academic deans to hold a doctoral or master’s degree. While the prerequisites for academic deans may seem hefty, the responsibility that comes with this role is significant. Academic deans are generally employed full-time on a year-round basis.

At a glance: Academic Dean

Academic deans have long been an important figure in the education system. Taking on a top role in colleges, universities, and other institutions, academic deans are required to stay up-to-date on changes in the education system, including overseeing ever-evolving curricula requirements for each degree program the school offers.

Job description: Academic Dean

Academic deans typically work full-time hours and need to be available to the school year-round, even if the school doesn’t enroll students during the summertime. During the school year, they maintain relationships with the student body, overseeing academic progress and administrative matters. While school isn’t in session, they have plenty of administrative duties to tend to, including monitoring budgets, creating or updating curricula, and supervising strategic planning for the months and years ahead. A typical list of duties for academic deans includes:

  • Coordinating the activities of administrative staff, advisors, and faculty
  • Developing and maintaining academic policies
  • Overseeing personnel matters, including recruiting school staff and handling discipline issues
  • Liaising with outside agencies, including those that evaluate academic success
  • Participating in faculty committees
  • Playing an active role in planning and evaluating curriculum
  • Providing academic support to students
  • Developing and implementing strategic plans to ensure overall academic success
  • Managing the school’s budget and allocating funds appropriately
  • Conducting evaluations of instructors and other staff and offer professional support

What are the qualities of a good academic dean?

The most successful academic deans share several key qualities. These include:

  • Innate leadership skills and a high level of comfort with delegation and management
  • Extensive knowledge of curriculum development and academic policy
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Organizational skills, particularly when it comes to academic administration
  • Ability to adapt to changing technologies and policy requirements
  • A good leader who is comfortable delegating and good at empowering their employees
  • Impeccable time management skills

Academic deans in-depth

Education requirements for academic deans

In almost all cases, academic deans require a high-level degree. Some schools search for candidates with master’s degrees in education or college teaching, while others prefer to hire a candidate who has a PhD or EdD.

For those applying for an academic dean position, work experience is just as important as education. Most schools require candidates to have a minimum of three to five years of experience in an administrative position within a college or university, as well as professional experience in a leadership role, such as a teacher or public officer.

Certifications for academic deans

Depending on the school, an academic dean’s job requirements may include continuing their own education. In some cases, this might mean obtaining additional certifications or licenses, such as a professional administrator license.

Average salaries for academic deans

The salary an academic dean earns depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the school, the location, and the type of institution that employs them.

According to, academic deans earn between $57,000 and $161,000 per year, with bonuses ranging as high as $15,000. The median salary for academic deans is $91,641. Ziprecruiter reports a lower median wage of $48,682 per year, while Glassdoor lists an annual salary that ranges from $70,000 to $135,000 with a median of $95,457 per year.

Potential career growth for academic deans

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks growths and predicts change within many industries and jobs across the United States. While it doesn’t specifically list academic deans, it does anticipate an increase in opportunities for post-secondary administrators. The BLS anticipates a 7% rise in opportunities for post-secondary administrators by the year 2028.

Pros and cons of becoming an academic dean

An academic dean’s role is comprehensive, and their list of duties is long, but even with a busy schedule and occasional workplace stress, there are plenty of benefits to taking on this role.


  • Interacting with most of the school’s employees and students
  • Helping students progress toward achieving their goals through educational and extracurricular programming
  • Taking part in every aspect of the department’s operations
  • Having a say in the hiring of faculty members and creating a team that can help the school achieve academic goals


  • When the school isn’t meeting its goals, the academic dean is often held responsible
  • Schedules can be hectic, and the list of duties and responsibilities is long
  • Academic deans typically take the blame if their department isn’t adhering to its budget
  • Administrative tasks can sometimes get backed up, requiring the academic dean to spend long days completing reports and other paperwork

Professional development opportunities for academic deans

Academic deans have many opportunities to participate in professional development seminars and workshops. For example, the American Conference of Academic Deans (ACAD) offers several opportunities for academic deans and those who work alongside them to enhance their job skills, including several workshops each year that are held in various cities across the United States.

Continuing education for academic deans

Academic deans have many opportunities to continue their job-specific education through courses and certificate programs. At many schools, course calendars include a selection of certificate programs that are specific to those in high-level positions within an academic setting. These courses often include some designed to enhance the skills of administrative professionals, while others are specific to those in a teaching role. Academic deans can benefit from both of these learning opportunities.

Professional associations for academic deans

Several organizations throughout the United States support academic deans. These include:

Best of the web – academic deans

Several blogs and social media accounts across the web exist to help academic deans receive professional tips and stay on top of changes in American academia. By staying connected to these resources, as well as the associations mentioned above, academic deans may find themselves feeling more confident when planning for their school’s future. Making connections to other academic deans can prove to be useful throughout their career as well.

Academic deans blogs

Academic dean twitter accounts

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