If you want to play a role in the smooth running of a university, college or school, then a career in education administration may be for you

Education administrators organise and manage the administration, support systems and activities that keep an educational institution running smoothly. They're usually based in higher or further education (HE or FE), but jobs are also available in schools and private colleges.

You will normally work in areas such as admissions, quality assurance, data management and examinations or in a specialist department such as finance, careers, marketing or human resources. All of these can be either centrally based or within faculties, departments or other smaller units.

Job titles and job descriptions vary widely, and not all will have 'education' or 'administrator' in the title.

Responsibilities

As an education administrator, you'll need to:

  • work on committees including academic boards, governing bodies and task groups;
  • assist with recruitment, public or alumni relations and marketing activities;
  • administer the 'student lifecycle' from registration or admission to graduation or leaving;
  • provide administrative support to an academic team of lecturers, tutors or teachers;
  • draft and interpret regulations and deal with queries and complaints procedures;
  • coordinate examination and assessment processes;
  • maintain high levels of quality assurance, including course evaluation and course approval procedures;
  • use information systems and prepare reports and statistics for internal and external use;
  • participate in the development of future information systems;
  • contribute to policy and planning;
  • manage budgets and ensure financial systems are followed;
  • purchase goods and equipment, and process invoices;
  • supervise other administrative staff;
  • liaise with other administrative staff, academic colleagues, teachers and students;
  • communicate with partner institutions, other institutions, external agencies, government departments and prospective students;
  • organise and facilitate a variety of educational or social activities.

Salary

  • In general, you can expect to start at around £17,000 to £26,000.
  • With experience, you could earn £27,000 to £35,000.
  • At managerial level you may reach salaries of around £50,000 or more.

Universities tend to have structured pay scales, although schools and colleges may not have such a tight pay structure. Salaries vary widely depending on your role, level of responsibility, type of institution and location. Membership of a pension scheme is usually possible.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are generally 9am to 5pm, although some roles, particularly those that are student facing, can include weekends or evening work. You may have to work overtime at certain points in the year, for example during examinations, enrolment or academic quality visits.

Part-time work and job shares are usually offered, and term-time only working is sometimes possible.

What to expect

  • Jobs are available in further and higher education institutions, schools and colleges in most towns and cities throughout the UK.
  • The work can be challenging, particularly at key points during the academic or school year. Any changes in the education sector impact directly on administrative staff.
  • If you're working in a schools liaison role, you may need to travel locally and further afield, staying away from home overnight if necessary. More generally, you may need to travel to national conferences and training events.
  • Overseas work or travel is uncommon unless your work involves liaison and collaboration with overseas partners, in which case you may need to visit partner institutions abroad.
  • Although freelance work is uncommon, there are occasional opportunities for very experienced administrators to work freelance in specialised areas such as quality assurance, project management, preparing funding bids, marketing and public relations.

Qualifications

You don't generally need a degree to work in education administration. However, this depends on the role and some posts, for example senior roles in university administration, may require a degree. Having a degree may also help make you stand out from other applicants.

For specialist administration roles, such as human resources officer or marketing executive, you may need a relevant degree or professional qualification.

Some universities run their own graduate trainee schemes, which provide experience of a range of departments and areas of university management. Alternatively, you may be interested in Ambitious Futures (The Graduate Programme for University Leadership). This programme is open to graduates from partner universities who have graduated with a 2:1 degree or above and provides the opportunity to undertake a series of project-based placements within a university setting, as well as a postgraduate qualification.

It's useful to have qualifications in areas such as business administration and you'll need experience of working with word processing and common IT packages. Apprenticeships in business and administration are available at three levels: intermediate, advanced and higher. Find out more about apprenticeships.

Although you don't need a postgraduate qualification, a relevant professional qualification or Masters degree may be useful, particularly at senior level. Search for postgraduate courses in education management.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • strong interpersonal skills to help you relate to students, academic staff, teachers, senior managers and colleagues in other areas of education administration;
  • excellent written communication skills;
  • team working skills and the ability to work alone without supervision;
  • the ability to deal positively with change;
  • experience in organising, prioritising and managing your time effectively;
  • IT skills in areas such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases and the internet as well as the use of social media;
  • a flexible approach to work.

Work experience

Some formal office experience is required for most jobs and previous experience in public sector administration can increase your chances of getting a job. Temporary work and work shadowing are excellent ways to develop your skills and experience.

Many institutions offer opportunities for casual employment at busy times of the year, which will also give you an insight into the daily activities of administrators. You could also contact your old college or school to find out about possible opportunities.

It's important to show your interest in the education sector through, for example, involvement in university or school life, committee work, work as a sabbatical officer, student recruitment activities, and participation in skills development schemes and mentoring.

Employers

The main employers of education administrators are universities and HE and FE colleges. Opportunities also exist within tertiary colleges, private colleges and specialist training colleges and, increasingly, within primary and secondary schools.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies rarely handle vacancies.

Professional development

On starting your job, you'll usually get an induction to the institution and training in the specific systems they use, such as student records and finance software packages. If you're working in a specialist area, such as finance, marketing or IT, you may have additional training.

If you're on a university graduate trainee scheme, you will usually get to work across a number of departments, working on a range of challenging and strategic projects.

Graduates on the 15-month Ambitious Futures programme will do three placements and complete a variety of different projects in a fairly short space of time. The aim of this scheme is to help equip you with the skills and experience to take on more senior roles within higher education.

The Association of University Administrators offers a range of seminars, conferences, lectures and workshops, as well as the AUA Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership validated by Nottingham Trent University. As a new starter, this qualification will help you develop an understanding of the UK HE sector, as well as plan and develop your own career. On completion of the PGCert, you can progress to the Postgraduate Diploma and then the MSc in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership.

You're encouraged to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) through in-house, regional and national courses and conferences. Many education institutions have a performance and development review system that you can use to identify your training needs.

Training opportunities for administrators working in schools, looking to move into a leadership role, include the Level 4 Diploma in School Business Management offered by the National Association of School Business Management. Levels 5 and 6 are aimed at those interested in developing their skills at senior management level.

Professional qualifications can be useful for gaining promotion and you may be able to negotiate time off to study, especially if the qualification can be done at your own institution.

Career prospects

There are various opportunities available to move into other related roles or to gain promotion to more senior levels. You may occasionally be able to apply for internal vacancies or move to a different department on secondment.

Because of the range of jobs within education administration, promotion and career development is rarely linear. As you gain experience, you're likely to develop your own personal interests and look for opportunities in that area. This may lead you into specialist areas such as human resources or finance, which may require further qualifications.

You may need to change institution and, in some cases, relocate in order to progress, especially if you're interested in reaching the most senior positions. Competition for senior posts can be fierce.

As there is no formal post-entry qualification or promotion structure in the educational sectors, grades, job titles and salaries may vary across institutions. However, there is generally support and guidance available for staff looking to move to the next level. Getting a formal professional qualification may improve your promotion prospects. Buoyant student or pupil numbers are crucial to every institution's financial health and if funding is under threat, it can affect opportunities for career progression.