With so many different career fields to choose from after college, often times it can be hard to decide what career you want to pursue, even if you already have a degree in a specific field. I graduated from Arizona State with a B.S in Speech and Hearing Sciences and a B.S in Family Human Development. After graduation neither of these field interested me and I was looking for something different. Then came along the idea of “Student Affairs”…
What is Student Affairs?
In my own words, student affairs includes everything on a college campus outside of the classroom. Greek life, Housing, Orientation, Athletics, even a school’s tutoring center all fall under student affairs! Simply put, when you’re in the classroom you’re working with faculty, when you’re outside the classroom you’re most likely working with a student affairs professional (although it is possible to teach as well as work in student affairs).
Click here for more detailed information on what student affairs is and what you can do in the field.
What do I need to start my career in Student Affairs?
The first thing to know is you cannot get a Bachelor’s degree in Student Affairs (yet). However, while you can’t major in Student Affairs, there is an undergraduate organization called NUFP, that you can join while in undergrad to help you learn more about the field. Click here to learn more about NUFP. The good news is that most people gain experience in Student Affairs by being involved on campus during their undergrad! Being a part of an organization, having a passion for student rights and social justice issues, working with faculty on research, or even wanting to work more closely with a specific population (such as transfer students, international students, first-generation students, etc.) are all characteristics of a potential student affairs professional. Here’s the thing: You CAN get a job in student affairs without having a Master’s degree. I know many people with only a Bachelor’s degree who work in Student Affairs, love their job, and continue to be promoted! However, to be competitive for some entry-level jobs and definitely for future managerial jobs you’ll need a Master’s degree!
How do I choose the right Master’s program for me?
The most common degrees people hold that work in Student Affairs are a Master’s degree in Education or Counseling with an emphasis in student affairs or higher education. Note that many Student Affairs jobs in the California Community College system require a Counseling degree, but not all! The website I found most helpful to me when looking for the right Student Affairs Master’s program was NASPA’s graduate program directory. Click here to check it out!
When looking for the right program, there are many things to consider: location, the course curriculum, length of the program, graduate assistantship availability, cost of the program, scholarship availability, number of days you’ll have class a week, is it full-time worker friendly, faculty research interest, the program’s involvement in Student Affairs professional associations such as NASPA and ACPA, whether or not it is cohort model or not (a cohort is when everyone takes the same classes at the same time and with the help of each other hopefully graduate at the same time as well). You’ll want to rank what is most important to you in a program, then go ahead and call the program coordinator or director and ask questions, or better yet attend an info session if you can! This is a huge commitment so you’ll want to have as much information as you can before you apply.
Should I fully commit to this field?
Before you jump into the field, figure out your why! Why do you want to go into Student Affairs?! What kind of change do you want to make in this field to better serve our students? This wouldn’t be a completely truthful post if I didn’t say that Student Affairs is NOT the money making field! We do a lot of great work for not enough of pay, sad but true! Therefore, request informational meetings with people who work in the field or who are currently getting their Master’s degree in Student Affairs. The more personal stories you hear the better. There are also some great YouTube videos online that talk about Student Affairs and its many components. Check out my favorite Student Affairs related YouTube channel here.
I hope you were able to learn more about this amazing field after reading this post! If you have any questions about my experience in Student Affairs and what I’ve learned thus far feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly in the ‘Contact’ tab!