Education administrators organise and manage the administration, support systems and activities that enable the effective running of an educational institution. The majority are based in higher or further education (HE or FE), with opportunities also available in schools and private colleges.
Administrators work in areas such as admissions, quality assurance, data management and examinations or in a specialist department such as finance, careers or human resources. All of these can be either centrally based or within faculties, departments or other smaller units.
There are a huge number of possible job titles within education administration and job descriptions are equally diverse.
The responsibilities you have in your job can vary greatly depending on the type of institution and the section or department in which you work.
Tasks that may be carried out in various roles include:
- working on committees including academic boards, governing bodies and task groups;
- assisting with recruitment, public or alumni relations and marketing activities;
- administering the 'student lifecycle' from registration or admission to graduation or leaving;
- providing administrative support to an academic team of lecturers, tutors or teachers;
- drafting and interpreting regulations and dealing with queries and complaints procedures;
- coordinating examination and assessment processes;
- maintaining high levels of quality assurance, including course evaluation and course approval procedures;
- using information systems and preparing reports and statistics for internal and external use;
- participating in the development of future information systems;
- contributing to policy and planning;
- managing budgets and ensuring financial systems are followed;
- purchasing goods and equipment, as required, and processing invoices;
- supervising staff;
- liaising with other administrative staff, academic colleagues and students;
- communicating with partner institutions, other institutions, external agencies, government departments and prospective students;
- organising and facilitating a variety of educational or social activities.
- Salaries for education administrators vary widely depending on the role, level of responsibility, institution and location.
- In general, you can expect to start at around £17,000 to £26,000. With experience you could earn £27,000 to £35,000 and at a higher managerial level you may reach salaries of around £50,000 or more.
- Universities tend to have structured pay scales which may start at around £13,500 and can reach up to £68,000. Schools and colleges may not have such a tight pay structure.
- Membership of a pension scheme is usually possible.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are generally 9am to 5pm, although some roles particularly those that are student facing can include weekends or shift work. Many positions require occasional overtime, which can be concentrated at peak periods of the academic year, such as examinations, enrolment or during academic quality visits.
Education institutions generally have good conditions of service and usually offer career breaks, part-time work and job shares.
What to expect
- Term-time working is sometimes possible. Some jobs may be offered on a specified contract basis.
- Self-employment/freelance work is uncommon, but there can be opportunities for freelance work for very experienced staff in specialised areas, such as quality assurance, project management, preparing funding bids, marketing and public relations.
- Jobs are available in most geographical areas. Higher education (HE) institutions are located throughout the UK, often in or near large towns and cities. Schools and further education (FE) colleges are found in most cities and larger towns. Tertiary colleges are more common in some areas of the country than others and do not exist in Scotland.
- The work can be stressful, especially during busy times of the year. Changes in the education sector impact directly on administrative staff.
- Travel within a working day and absence from home overnight is occasional. Some jobs, e.g. in schools liaison, involve frequent travel in the UK and overnight stays. Attendance at national conferences and training events may also be required.
- Overseas work or travel is uncommon unless the specific role involves liaison and collaboration with overseas partners, in which case occasional travel abroad is possible.
A good honours degree is often required for general administration posts. Depending on the role, the following subjects may be helpful:
- business studies;
- information science/management;
- social/public administration;
Specialist administration roles, such as human resources or marketing, may require a relevant degree and professional qualification.
A degree is increasingly desirable in both higher and further education (HE and FE) and is often essential for entry to HE administration and for promotion to more senior roles. Your study subject and classification may not be as significant if you have some previous experience in administration.
Entry is possible with an HND, especially in FE, tertiary education and schools, and at lower grades in university administration. Relevant subject areas, such as business administration and administration-related qualifications, would be an advantage. Skills-based qualifications, such as the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), may also be required.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed, although a professional qualification or higher degree, particularly one that is directly related such as an MBA in Higher Education Management, may help in progressing to the higher grades. Search for postgraduate courses in education management.
It is useful to make sure you have up-to-date knowledge of the education section and reading industry press can help with this. See the Times Educational Supplement (TES) and Times Higher Education (THE).
You will need to have:
- ability to deal positively with change;
- strong interpersonal skills, to relate effectively with others at different levels including students, academics and colleagues in other areas of education administration;
- good written communication skills;
- team working skills;
- ability to prioritise and manage time effectively;
- IT skills including word processing, spreadsheets, databases and use of the internet.
As well as relevant work experience, evidence of an interest in the education sector is also helpful. This may include:
- involvement in university life;
- committee work;
- student recruitment activities;
- participation in skills development schemes and mentoring.
For some roles, pre-entry formal office experience may be essential. For senior grades, a minimum of three years' experience in an administrative capacity is usually required. At all levels, previous experience in public sector administration may increase your chances of getting a job.
Temporary work and work shadowing are excellent ways to develop skills and experience. Many institutions offer their students 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 talk to staff at your university or college to find out more.
The main employers of education administrators tend to be universities and higher and further (HE and FE) colleges. Opportunities also exist within tertiary colleges, private colleges and specialist training colleges and, increasingly, within primary and secondary schools.
Educational institutions are publicly funded and you need to be able to understand and adapt to changes within the education sector, particularly those which may affect funding. Student recruitment targets, monies from research bodies, sponsorship and support from industry all impact on the finances of an academic institution.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Association of University Administrators Jobs
- FE Jobs
- Local Government Jobs - for local council and school positions.
- Times Educational Supplement Jobs
- Times Higher Education Jobs
- Websites of individual schools, colleges and universities.
- Local and national newspapers.
Recruitment agencies rarely handle vacancies.
A general induction to the institution and training in specific systems in use, such as student records and finance software packages, is usually provided.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is encouraged via in-house, regional and national courses and conferences. Education institutions usually have a performance and development review system, which can be used to identify training needs. Staff are generally encouraged to have their own personal development plan.
A Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice, which is validated by the Open University, is available through the Association of University Administrators. Once you have the certificate, if you choose to go on to study for either the MBA in Higher Education Management or the MA in Higher and Professional Education at the University of London, you may be exempt from some components.
The AUA also offers a range of seminars, conferences, lectures and workshops that allow education administrators to update skills and knowledge, as well as to network with colleagues.
If you work in a specialist area, such as finance, marketing or IT, it is likely you will have additional training or take formal qualifications. Professional qualifications can be useful for gaining promotion.
Training for administrators working in schools includes the certificate, diploma and advanced diploma of school business management offered through the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).
It may be possible to negotiate time off to study for further qualifications, especially if this can be done at your own institution.
There will be many opportunities to move into other roles or to gain promotion as there is such a wide range of positions in a single institution, particularly in higher and further education (HE and FE). You may occasionally be able to apply for internal vacancies or move to a different department on secondment.
Because of the huge range of occupations within the education administration field, promotion and career development is rarely linear. It is likely you will 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.
To progress, it is common to change institution, and this can be less disruptive when there are several in a region. If you are interested in reaching the most senior positions, you may have to be prepared to relocate. Competition for senior posts is often quite fierce.
As there is no formal post-entry qualification or promotion structure in the educational sectors, there is a lack of consistency with regard to the relationship between grade, job title and salary across institutions. However, there is now more recognition of the value of formal professional qualifications and these can be significant in improving 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.