Steps to Exploring a Career in Student Affairs

If the idea of a career in student affairs appeals to you, you can take these steps to learn more about the profession:

Talk to student affairs professionals at your school, a nearby college or your alma mater. Talk to the senior student affairs officer, usually known as the Dean of Students or the Vice President for Student Affairs. Or talk with another student affairs professional on campus – perhaps the director of orientation, the coordinator of student activities, or staff in residence life. You may want to start with a brief informational interview to learn more about what they do or set up a day of job shadowing.  If you're not sure how to get started with this idea, the career services office on campus will be able to help.  Also, if you are still a student or working on a campus, go a step farther and establish a mentoring relationship with one of the professionals that you talk to.  Sample Informational Interview Questions

If you are a student, you have a great opportunity to explore your potential workplace. Take advantage of every chance you can to learn how your college works and develop your skills. If you are a student, run for an office in student government or in a student organization; serve on a judicial board; be a tour guide, orientation leader, resident assistant, or peer educator; or join a student organization. If you are not sure where to start, ask a member of the student activities staff.

Work in a student affairs office. Ask about internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities in student affairs offices on campus. Consider possibilities during the summer as well as during the school year. You'll get hands-on experience and have a chance to interact with professionals in the field.

If your college offers an undergraduate class geared toward learning more about student affairs (or related paraprofessional or leadership classes), sign up. Often, these classes are taught by student affairs professionals and can help you learn more about your interests and preferences, as well as what it is like to work on a college campus.

Join a student affairs professional association. Undergraduate students can become a member of NASPA for $25 a year. Benefits include member discounts, access to publications and online resources, and a range of professional development opportunities (including regional/national conferences and workshops). 

Explore programs designed to help you learn more about careers in student affairs and higher education. These include the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, targeted toward increasing the number of ethnic minority, LGBT, and persons with disabilities in student affairs; the National Orientation Directors Association's (NODA) internship program; and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International's (ACUHO-I) STARS College and Housing Internship programs.Learn more about graduate study. You'll find graduate programs in student affairs (also known as "college student personnel") and higher education at colleges and universities across the country. A helpful resource is NASPA's comprehensive online Directory of Graduate Programs. Once you've identified programs that you're interested in, call, write, or e-mail them to request more information. Ask for admissions, curriculum, and financial aid information, as well as information about possible assistantships and fellowships. If possible, visit the campus, meet with current students and faculty in the program, and talk with recent graduates.

(Source: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators - NASPA; www.naspa.org)