The United States has the world’s most diverse higher education landscape with 7,253 post-secondary institutions. Attending college is virtually required to land well-paying, in-demand jobs where a high school diploma is insufficient. According to the NCES, an estimated 20.5 million students are studying in American college classrooms. Helping these young scholars register for classes according to their degree plan is a task placed on university registrars’ shoulders nationwide. Registrars are academic officials who handle the effective processing of students’ records and schedules. It’s their goal to manage enrollment procedures so that learners reap a good education and sufficiently progress toward graduation. Most universities hire one registrar with full- or part-time associates and assistants to complete the position’s laundry list of duties.
Survey statistics compiled by Salary.com depict a median annual salary of $78,206 for university registrars at America’s Title IV-eligible institutions. This is equivalent to a median hourly wage of $38, or $3,088 per biweekly paycheck. Average income varies significantly by college size. Universities enrolling over 20,000 students pay registrars $100,165 on average, but registrars at small schools with under 1,000 matriculated earn a mean wage of $44,564.
Recent graduates entering entry-level roles like assistant registrar make an average annual income of $39,566. The AACRAO reports that being promoted to associate registrar comes with a salary jump to $51,224 on average. However, senior university registrars with 5+ years of experience can eventually bring home salaries above $150,000 at top-tier schools. Advancing to the coveted role of Chief Academic Affairs Officer offers a median annual wage of $168,219.
University registrars have the primary responsibility of coordinating class enrollment and student recordkeeping to maintain the school’s academic order. The registrar will help matriculated individuals sign up for courses based on their major and drop any unwanted courses. They work with department chairs to establish each semester’s class schedule without time or location conflicts. Electronically, registrars will log students’ grades and attendance to file transcripts. Other common tasks include preparing the Dean’s List, determining eligibility for graduation, planning commencement, and managing transfer requests. In smaller schools without a Bursar’s Office, the registrar could also oversee tuition and financial aid payments.
Hiring deans will look for university registrars with exceptional communication skills to speak and listen to students’ unique needs effectively. Interpersonal awareness is a must-have for officials to facilitate good teamwork in the busy Registrar’s Office. University registrars need organizational skills with attention to detail to accurately schedule courses without overlaps. Since registrars often juggle multiple assignments at once, flexibility and focus are crucial. Having good problem-solving skills will help registrars quickly address any requisite changes early in the semester. Leadership ability is imperative for effectively supervising assistants and Federal Work-Study (FWS) students in their office. University registrars also need strong moral character and integrity to handle confidential records in compliance with institutional policies.
Degree and Education Requirements
Becoming a university registrar will start with earning your own four-year bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited institution, preferably in educational studies. Advanced education in graduate school is traditionally required to promote beyond assistant registrar though. Schools seek registrars with at least a master’s degree in higher education, school administration, student affairs, or educational services. Whenever possible, take registrar-related courses like enrollment management and academic program evaluation. Earning a doctorate, such as a Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration could increase your hiring advantage at top-ranked universities. Some Ph.D. holders transfer into the registrar’s role after teaching.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Stepping into the university registrar’s shoes will come with both rewards and challenges. On the plus side, registrars can expect healthy job prospects because more people need extra education for their career ambitions. Faster-than-average job growth pairs well with an above-average salary potential that could pass the six-figure mark. Boredom isn’t possible in the busy Registrar’s Office with degree candidates constantly needing academic guidance. University registrars also have the intrinsic reward of working with new and continuing students who are exploring their vocational passions. However, extensive education requirements to the master’s level can result in hefty student loans and reduced ROI. Some may find the registrar’s job description stressful, especially helping students who are failing. University registrars mostly work sedentarily at a desk, which can have physical consequences. Continuing education may also be needed to stay abreast of the latest collegiate regulation changes.
Display a master’s degree at the top of your resume won’t be sufficient for aspiring university registrars. Significant experience in the higher education field is usually necessary for promotion. During your schooling, request internship or practicum placements in college administrative offices to begin shaping your career. Some will work at their school’s Registrar’s Office as resident assistants. Working in admissions, financial aid, or the Office of the Provost could also be helpful. Once you’ve placed several years under your belt, begin applying for registrar openings. Positions at smaller universities or junior colleges may be easier to land. Consider becoming a member of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) for networking and skill-building webinars too.
Despite tuition’s rising price tag, the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education reports that college enrollment is increasing. Nearly 90 percent of millennials enroll in college within eight years of high school graduation. Therefore, it’s safe to predict that university registrars will be in-demand to register these degree hopefuls in the right classes. The only worry is that tightening state government budgets could temper growth in two- and four-year public colleges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics still predicts a generous 9 percent job growth for university registrars through 2024. Besides universities, registrars can find full-time employment at liberal arts colleges, vocational schools, community colleges, medical schools, and distance learning institutions.
Overall, the university registrar plays a pivotal role certifying the enrollment of students in for-credit courses to make academic progress. Registrars protect the security of education records and oversee the issue of transcripts in accordance to FERPA standards. It’s also essential that registrars maintain accurate reports to assist college deans in formulating institutional policies. Deciding to become a university registrar is a rewarding path for educational administrators who are drawn to overseeing registration functions.
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