An academic director is the "head honcho" who keeps a school, college or university running smoothly. Academic directors oversee the education aspects of student life, including giving advice and direction on academic paths and how to meet graduation requirements. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reported that academic directors, who are included in the "education administrators, post-secondary" category, made a median salary of $83,710 in 2010. The BLS predicted an increase in these jobs of 19 percent from 2010 to 2020. That compares with a predicted average increase of 14 percent for all U.S. jobs in the same period. So, you'll not only be in charge, you'll be well paid for your efforts.
If you are a "go to" or "take charge" kind of woman, then a career as an academic director may be right for you. The academic director makes sure the university's academic strategy is a success. She doesn't just take the credit when things go well, however. If there are problems, such as overall student performance is low, she'll get down into the weeds, reviewing coursework, teaching and learning strategies, for example. She's responsible not only to the students but to her entire management team -- to whom she has to make regular progress reports. On top of all that, she's the "academic policewoman" of the campus, ensuring all new programs meet licensing and regulatory standards.
Academic directors are like explorers on the forefront of developing new programs and curriculum that is cutting edge. She's the chairperson on academic development and improvement committees, weighing in on new ideas, such as adding a new academic department. The AD also must resolve conflicts, such as who has to teach introductory psychology this fall. As if that isn't enough pressure, she has the last word on any new or existing academic programs, so she must use objective criteria, such as job placement for graduates or grade point average, to evaluate their success.
As an academic director, you must know how to crunch numbers and you had better like attending meetings where they discuss money. You'll create an annual budget and monitor how much money your department is spending. You'll analyze trends in annual enrollment and registration until your eyes and fingers are sore, in a valiant effort to help your school meet its bottom line. You'll manage all of the teaching resources, examining details such as classroom size and teaching hours to make sure the numbers add up.
The academic director ensures that all students know what they must do to graduate. She makes sure her staff, and at times, she herself, are advising students on what the mandatory courses are, what the minimum grade point average is and how many total credit hours they have to sit through to graduate. She and her department guides students who want to change their majors, are on academic probation or want to change to part-time status. She performs annual evaluations of all her direct reports to keep her team on track. In short --- she runs the academic advisory department like a well-oiled, efficient machine.
2016 Salary Information for Postsecondary Education Administrators
Postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual salary of $90,760 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, postsecondary education administrators earned a 25th percentile salary of $66,730, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $126,750, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 180,100 people were employed in the U.S. as postsecondary education administrators.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Education Administrators
- University of New England: Academic Director Positon Description
- Undergraduate Academic Life, Stanford University: Advising
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Postsecondary Education Administrators
- Career Trend: Postsecondary Education Administrators
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.