How to Become an Academic Advisor

Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman
ELL academic support specialist; Ph.D. candidate in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies with Education concentration
An academic advisor sitting with a student and pointing something out on the computer.

Working in higher education ofter requires a different set of skills than working in K-12 education. Academic advisors are not an exception to that. Acquiring those skills is necessary for success in this position, and graduate programs provide a great opportunity to develop the mastery needed for a successful career in academic advising.

What Does an Academic Advisor Do?

Academic advisors are crucial to the success of many students. Academic advisors have a variety of different roles which assist them in creating meaningful relationships with students. Academic advisors typically work with students at either the high school or post-secondary level. This type of advisor develops career or college major maps with students to guide them toward the successful completion of their goals.

Academic advisors provide academic counseling and advisement to students with diverse backgrounds. An advisor has to take the time to get to know their advisees and their background in order to offer the best academic advice.

Academic Advisor Requirements: Skills

An academic advisor must be up to date on all curricular requirements of their advisees. This can be the most challenging part of their job because curriculums tend to change over time. Academic advisors can be working with students from many different departments and need to offer accurate guidance to their students.

Academic advisors must be ready to do extensive and proactive advising. As an advisor, you will be given a list of students. It is your responsibility to evaluate their credits and make sure they are on the path to graduation. There may be times when you have to look at their transfer credits they are bringing into an institution from elsewhere and ensure that they are approved by the appropriate department.

Academic advisors also need to be able to recognize when a student is struggling not just with academics. There will be times when a student comes to you because he/she is failing courses but you see that it might not be because of challenging coursework. Hence, academic advisors should know the mental health counseling programs available to students and have good working relationships with those counselors.

Academic advisors may find themselves working with the retention office at a college. Retention offices typically work with students who are struggling academically. These advisors may have small group sessions for these students or provide workshops on topics like study skills and life/school balance.

Another requirement for academic advisors is to facilitate communication between students, faculty, and staff. In addition to knowing all of the curricular programs, be sure to know the different staff positions and faculty on campus. The more relationships you form on campus, the better you will be able to serve your students.

Why Consider Academic Advising?

Academic advisors can be found in high schools, community colleges, private institutions, and other post-secondary schools. An academic advisor has room for career growth. Depending on the department in which you work, you may advance to the assistant director or director of advising. You may also have the skills and experience to become an instructional coordinator. Depending on your educational background, you may also be a great candidate for a counseling position.

There are many benefits that go along with this type of job in addition to making meaningful relationships with students and watching them succeed. If you are working at the college level, you most likely will be able to take courses and complete a new degree for free. A person should never pass on this amazing opportunity.

According to, the average salary of an academic advisor is $49,696 but ranges between $44,240 and $56,268. The salary will also depend on your education level. Most academic advisors only require a bachelor’s degree but will offer higher pay if you have your master’s degree.

How to Become an Academic Advisor

A bachelor’s degree is what is typically required. However, some schools require a master’s degree. An academic advisor usually holds a degree in education, counseling, or a related field. The initial steps in becoming an academic advisor is to be sure you are the type of person who is able to help students explore majors and career goals. Additionally, you must not be overbearing and encourage students to take responsibility for their own decisions.

In order to start the process you must be knowledgeable about academic programs and admissions requirements. When thinking about applying for an academic advising position at a school, take the time to research their academic programs. Showing your awareness of programs to the interviewer will make you a much stronger candidate for the position.

Academic advising really depends on relationship building. You must be able to create trusting relationships with the students you are advising. Issues outside of school may impact a student academically. If you have been able to get to know your students, they may open up to about other problems in their lives that are affecting their ability to succeed in their classes. Then, you will be able to offer them the support and guidance that they need. You will make the connections between the school counseling center and other support systems and those students in need.

Navigating through collegiate experiences can be very overwhelming even for the most competent student. You will be the support that many students will need to turn to when things are getting too challenging or overwhelming.

Academic advisors want to see their students accomplish their goals and need to be there when challenges arise. Harnessing the skills and strategies your advanced education imparted on you, you need to help students problem-solve and gain real-world skills. There may be times when you have to have difficult conversations with students when you recognize that they may not be able to attain the career goal they have set for themselves. However, when this happens, you must be prepared to help them choose new goals. These students will be forever grateful to you for showing them that it is okay to go on a new path to find success in school and life.

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