The smooth running of a university, college or school needs highly organised, friendly and approachable education administrators who are passionate about making a difference in the sector

Education administrators 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 there are opportunities in schools and private colleges.

As an education administrator, you'll 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

Depending on your department and area of work, you'll need to:

  • provide administrative support to a team of lecturers, tutors or teachers
  • manage the student life cycle from registration/admission to graduation/leaving
  • work with academic boards, governing bodies and task groups
  • assist with recruitment, public or alumni relations and marketing activities
  • draft and interpret regulations
  • 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 both 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
  • 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 a starting salary of around £17,000 to £26,000.
  • With experience, you could earn between £27,000 and £40,000.
  • At managerial level, your salary may reach well in excess of £50,000.

While universities tend to have set pay scales, schools and colleges may not have such a tight pay structure. Salaries vary widely depending on your role, level of responsibility, type of institution you're working for 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 weekend 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. 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

Generally, you don't 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 you stand out from other applicants. 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.

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.

If you've graduated with a 2:1 degree or above, or have a postgraduate qualification, you can apply for Ambitious Futures - The Graduate Programme for University Leadership. This 18-month programme provides the opportunity to experience different universities and work areas and aims to equip you with the skills and experience to take on more senior roles within higher education.

You'll be employed by a host university and will undertake three project-based placements within a university setting in areas such as student admissions, alumni relations, HR, marketing and finance. As part of the training, you'll undertake an accredited sector-specific leadership programme - the Emerging Leaders and Managers Program (eLAMP), which provides professional development for aspiring and current higher education managers.

You can also complete a business apprenticeship, available at three levels: intermediate, advanced and higher.

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
  • 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 using social media
  • attention to detail to avoid mistakes
  • the ability to cope with a heavy workload and frequent interruptions
  • awareness of confidentiality when working with student or staff records
  • 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'll usually work across a number of departments on a range of challenging and strategic projects. Graduates on the Ambitious Futures programme will do three placements and complete a variety of different projects in a fairly short space of time.

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.

The AUA 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 (NTU). This qualification aims to help you develop your understanding of the UK HE sector, as well as enhancing your skills. NTU also offers the Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership, as well as the MSc in Higher Education Management and Leadership.

The ILM offers a range of school business management qualifications aimed at administrators working in schools, looking to move into a leadership role. See the Institute of School Business Leadership for details on training for administration roles in schools.

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

Career prospects

Because of the range of jobs within education administration, promotion and career development is rarely linear. There are various opportunities 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.

As you gain experience, you're likely to develop your own personal interests and look for opportunities in that area. Doing this could lead you into specialist areas such as human resources or finance, which you might need further qualifications for.

Because of this, in some cases you'll need to change institutions and/or relocate in order to progress, especially if you're interested in reaching the most senior positions. Senior positions are likely to be in a supervisory, managerial or strategic planning role. Competition for jobs can be fierce.

As there's 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 funding under threat can affect opportunities for career progression.