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Assistant Chief Academic Officer: Education, Salary, and Outlook

By The SHARE Team

The assistant chief academic officer is one of the top executives in an academic environment. The assistant chief academic officer has many of the same job responsibilities as the provost, or the chief academic officer, and can take on designated executive tasks as needed. This position is generally salaried and requires many years of experience in both management and education.

The role of the assistant chief academic officer has transitioned as universities have adapted to meet the needs of new generations. Education executives need a solid understanding of technology, cutting-edge instructional knowledge, and all the cash flow and money management experience any CEO would need.

At-a-glance: Assistant Chief Academic Officer

Assistant chief academic officers often stand in for and handle many of the jobs performed by the chief academic officer. These jobs are among the highest-ranked in education and offer the opportunity to combine front-line educational knowledge with a broad look at organizational strategy.

Most universities will hire only a few assistant chief academic officers, depending on enrollment and course offerings, and opportunities for growth may be limited.

What is an assistant chief academic officer?

An assistant chief academic officer often takes on a direct management role within the university. Job expectations may vary depending on the departments under their management. For example, an assistant chief academic officer for IT might need a deeper understanding of technology functions than someone assuming the same role in student affairs. In general, these professionals must be able to perform functions such as:

  • Overseeing the administrative side of academic programs in their department
  • Working with professors and other resources to deliver exceptional classes and monitor student learning outcomes through regular assessment processes
  • Coordinating accreditation activities for the institution and specific academic programs
  • Monitoring and creating reports surrounding key success metrics including enrollment, graduation rates, retention, average class size, student/teacher ratios, and other data that might be strategically required
  • Working with department directors and deans to glean insight from performance numbers and make data-driven changes based on performance.
  • Developing academic policies and preparing statements for the board of trustees
  • Coordinating with colleagues to create the academic calendar, class schedules, and university catalog
  • Managing the online course program development and assisting with implementation

Other duties may involve interfacing with major stakeholders in place of the chief academic officer or providing notes from meetings that the CAO can’t attend.

Skills and abilities of a great assistant chief academic officer

The best assistant chief academic officers share certain traits, including the ability to:

  • Communicate clearly with students, instructors, management professionals, and trustees
  • Demonstrate confidence and clear leadership in an ever-changing academic environment
  • Use new technologies and implement usage throughout the university
  • Develop policies that have the intended effect once implemented
  • Design curricula for best learning outcomes, working alongside professors

Assistant chief academic officer in-depth

Education requirements for assistant chief academic officer

  • Education: Doctorate or master’s degree
  • Typical study time: 5-10 years

A master’s program is often a good starting point since it offers areas of concentration such as administration and educational leadership. However, while some smaller colleges might only require a master’s degree for this position, most academic managers possess a doctorate.

Certifications requirement for an assistant chief academic officer

Requirements for certification will vary between states and career fields. Some college departments may require all staff associated with that department to obtain appropriate certification.

Average salaries for assistant chief academic officer

Compensation for an assistant chief academic office can vary dramatically based on the size and type of college, the education level of the administrator, the number of years of experience, and the field of expertise.

The national average is difficult to calculate since there are relatively few jobs available for assistant chief academic officers, and salary ranges are often included in the chief academic officer pay band. Ziprecruiter lists the average at $107,966 for any assistant chief operations officer, not specific to education.

In general, assistant chief academic officers earn more at large, private colleges and earn the least at local community colleges. Compensation packages often include perks such as free tuition for family members and generous amounts of leave.

A snapshot of average salaries for assistant chief academic officers is as follows:

What to expect in the job market for assistant chief academic officers

Expected increases to enrollment at post-secondary institutions also mean that jobs for administrators of these organizations are expected to become more available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 7% by 2028, which is faster than the average for all other industries. Growth is even higher than other management opportunities, which are expected to grow by 6% during the same time frame.

However, while the need for administrators may grow, the number of assistant chief academic officer positions may not grow at the same rate. Also, state and federal budgets directly impact hiring at some post-secondary institutions.

Pros and cons of working as an assistant chief academic officer

Moving up the management ladder in post-secondary education has considerable benefits. Management positions often come with a relatively big pay bump and job security. Other pros and cons of the position include:

Pros:

  • Responsibilities are varied, and each batch of incoming students brings new challenges.
  • Positions are salaried, so changes to enrollment do not directly affect compensation.
  • There is an opportunity to influence university policies, trends, and educational outcomes.

Cons:

  • As is true in all management positions, you may bear the brunt of any shortfalls in budget or testing scores.
  • Administrators often spend little to no time directly interacting with the student population.
  • Executives in private companies often earn more and may have a bonus structure that may not be available in the academic world.

Professional development

There is little room for advancement as an assistant chief academic officer since it’s quite near the top of the employment ladder. Potential upwards or sideways moves include chief academic officer, dean, and college vice-president or president.

Professional associations

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