Are you someone who enjoys helping others to reach their full potential? Are you a student leader who has loved being involved throughout your college career? Are you still undecided about which career path to pursue? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you might consider a career in student affairs. During October, professionals nationwide are celebrating “Careers in Student Affairs Month.”
Okay, you’re probably wondering, “What is student affairs, anyway?” It’s not a career path most college students have heard of before, like being a journalist, lawyer, or teacher. Well, you might be aware that Hofstra has Division of Student Affairs, which is comprised of 16 offices that “work together to promote student learning, growth, and success, in and out of the classroom.” The people who work in these offices are student affairs professionals. They include academic advisors, residence directors, counselors, and deans, just to name a few. They are all people who are working to support you and promote your success as a student. If you have served as a Resident Assistant, Orientation Leader, or Welcome Week Coordinator, for example, roles in which you were helping, advising, and programming for students, then you were doing student affairs work.
So how does one pursue this field? First, there is no one career path that needs to be followed in order to work in student affairs. Student affairs professionals study a wide variety of majors as undergraduates and hold many diverse interests (a quick survey of some of the folks in my office revealed majors in psychology, communications, and business). Most people fall into student affairs by accident because they were very involved in college and realized they could continue this type of activity as a professional. Some pursued other career paths, but realized they missed the college environment. Though there are some exceptions, most entry level student affairs jobs require a masters degree (typically in areas such as higher education, college student affairs, or counseling), so advanced education is something you should consider if you wish to pursue this field. Typically, you can work as a graduate assistant while you are studying, so you can gain related work experience at the same time you earn your degree.
If you’re still reading this, then I hope I’ve piqued your interest. So you’re probably wondering, “How can I learn more and figure out if student affairs is right for me?” Here are some suggestions:
1) Set up a 15 minute informational interview with a student affairs professional to learn more about what they do. You should already know at least one, because they serve as your Advisement dean, your club advisor, or your Residence Director. People love to talk about what they do and are generally flattered to hear that someone wants to enter their field, so don’t be shy about reaching out!
2) Visit The Career Center and speak with a career counselor. They can help you clarify your goals, interests, and skills and help you better understand if this field would be a good fit for you.
3) Visit the field’s professional organization websites to learn more about student affairs. There are regional, national, and international professional organizations related to student affairs that help set standards for the field, offer training and development, and provide a forum to discuss important issues within the profession. Two of the largest of these organization are the American College Personnel Association- College Student Educators International (ACPA) and the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
4) Research graduate preparation programs in the field to see what degrees are offered and the courses they require.
If you are still reading this then perhaps we will be colleagues one day! I wish you luck and fulfillment in whatever career path you choose!