If you polled almost any workplace, you probably would find that employees majored in various subjects in college, some of which do not have anything to do with their specific job. There are communications majors working in finance, and finance majors working as technical writers. Universities are no different, and since they are unique nonprofit “businesses,” it is a work environment filled with job and career changers.
Universities have two types of employees—faculty and staff. Faculty members typically hold the highest degree in their fields and do research and teach courses. Many faculty work in administrative positions, but staff hold most student, administrative, and academic affairs positions.
Positions in student affairs usually require a master’s degree in higher education or a related field. If you work in student affairs, you work collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students to create a campus environment that fosters student development. This includes positions in housing, student advising, career development, and student life. In student affairs you will have a lot of direct contact with students.
Alison Harmon, Graduate Academic Advisor at Loyola University Chicago, returned to school after several years as an IT consultant. Harmon, says that “although my previous experience within a university had only been as an undergraduate student, the combination of theoretical and practical (assistantships and internships) learning during my time in graduate school adequately prepared me for a career change.”
In other divisions you may not work directly with students on a regular basis, but your work benefits them and the university in numerous ways. There are not only traditional business offices that help the school run (like publications, accounting, and human resources), but there are also offices distinctive to a university (admissions and alumni relations). People with a business background may find it is easy to transition the skills they learned in business to jobs in these areas. For instance, the skills you learn as a marketing major will be helpful in creating a recruitment and marketing campaign for undergraduate or graduate admissions.
If you are interested in working in higher education, The Chronicle of Higher Education posts open university positions online. You can visit www.chronicle.com for a list of their current postings.