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Teaching Careers and Professional Development

College President: Education, Salary, and Outlook

By The Editorial Team

A college president is responsible for overseeing all operations — both academic and administrative — within an educational institution. The president of a college is equivalent to the CEO of a major corporation, meaning they have to ensure that their organization is successful. In a college, that means focusing on enrollment rates and student GPAs while ensuring the school spends within its budget.

To become a college president, you need to have plenty of experience in education. In most cases, experience in education and administration is necessary, and often, schools promote school presidents from within their own organizations. Aside from building a track record of experience, it’s important to prelude your career with an adequate education if your ultimate career goal is to head up a college or university.

At a glance: College president

A college president’s responsibilities are vast. In addition to ensuring the administrative side of the college runs smoothly, they’re responsible for ensuring the success of the student body. Additionally, the college president needs to make sure the school has a positive image, which can contribute to enrollment rates and as a result, the school’s overall profit.

Job description: College president

A college president’s job description is long and all-inclusive. As the person in charge of their organization’s entire operations, it’s nearly impossible to list all of the duties a college president. The list that follows includes some of the more notable responsibilities a college president is expected to take on:

  • Oversee the school’s administrative staff and faculty
  • Create and submit annual budgets to the school’s board of trustees and once approved, oversee all spending to ensure it fits within the budget
  • Maintain school policy and make recommendations when changes are necessary
  • Analyze and report on student success
  • Formulate reports regarding spending, enrollment and other school-related matters
  • Assist with curricula recommendations and development both in the school and as an active member of local, state, and national organizations
  • Play an active role in determining faculty needs and recommend additions or changes in personnel
  • Direct all activities within the college, including those undertaken by faculty, administrative staff, and student committees
  • Take on other duties as required

What are the qualities of a college president

College presidents are masters of their industry. They’ve climbed the ranks within the education system to reach the top of their organization and are experts in all matters pertaining to their school. Some of the qualities that are shared among most successful college presidents include:

  • Unparalleled leadership skills, including the ability to delegate diplomatically and direct employees without micromanaging
  • Advanced knowledge of curriculum development, particularly when it comes to the majors offered by the school they preside over
  • Keen ability to adapt to abrupt changes in funding, staffing, and policy
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing

College presidents in-depth

Education requirements for college presidents

A college president should have a postgraduate degree, such as a master’s degree. There are many college presidents who hold a doctorate, such as a PhD or EdD.

Work experience is important, as well. A college president is likely to have years of experience in the education system under their belt, likely with some experience in administration and some in education. In many cases, they may have been previously employed as an academic dean or a public officer.

Certifications for college presidents

There are several certifications and endorsements that college presidents can consider obtaining to further their own education and abilities.

Average salaries for college presidents

College presidents’ salaries range depending on the school that employs them. Those in ivy league and other well-known institutions typically earn the highest salaries, those presiding over smaller universities or community colleges can expect to earn less.

According to PayScale.com, the annual salary earned by college presidents across the U.S. ranges from $82,000 to $486,000, with bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $103,000 per year. PayScale.com states that the average salary for college presidents is $150,143 per year. Ziprecruiter lists university presidents’ average salary a little lower at $73,079 per year, while Glassdoor lists it at $111,000.

Potential career growth for college presidents

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a government agency that monitors salaries and growth for several careers across the U.S. Its database doesn’t have an entry for college presidents, but it does predict a 7% rise in job opportunities for post-secondary administrators by the year 2028.

Pros and cons of becoming a college president

The prestige that comes with becoming a college president is certainly something to consider when choosing it as your ultimate career goal. Making it to the top of your industry is a major accomplishment, and that alone is a major pro of becoming a college president. However, there are plenty of other important things to consider before committing to a career path that paves the way to taking on this important job.

Pros

  • You’ve risen to the top of your organization and have a say in all operations and initiatives.
  • You have the opportunity to play an important role in the lives of staff and students.
  • You’re able to liaise with other important figures of higher education throughout the country.
  • In addition to your generous salary, you’re likely extended a long list of perks and benefits.

Cons

  • If your school isn’t performing well financially or academically, it’s up to you to come up with a solution.
  • Your list of duties is extensive, and it may sometimes feel overwhelming trying to stay on top of your to-do list.
  • While you may want to spend your time liaising with faculty and other staff, you may have to spend full days at your desk completing reports and other paperwork.
  • If one of your employees isn’t performing well, it may be up to you to decide when personnel changes are required.

Professional development opportunities for college presidents

There are plenty of academic conferences across the U.S. that offer opportunities for college presidents to expand their knowledge of current academic policy and curricula requirements, as well as liaise with other school administrators and educators. Those who hold memberships in The Presidents’ Trust have the chance to attend an annual symposium, during which college presidents and CEOs strategize and discuss issues and concerns facing higher education.

Continuing education for college presidents

Although spare time may be limited for many college presidents, those who can make time for it may wish to consider continuing education programs that can enhance their skills as both educators and administrators.

Professional associations for college presidents

There are a wide variety of associations in the U.S. and beyond that are available to educators and college administrators, including several that are specific to college presidents, vice-presidents, and academic deans.

Best of the web: college presidents

College presidents can use the web to make connections with other professionals and learn new strategies that may help to ensure the success of their schools.

College president blogs

College president twitter accounts

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