How To Become an Admissions Counselor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published February 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Higher education institutions need representatives who can represent them successfully and recruit potential students. If you find this responsibility interesting, you may consider pursuing a career as an admissions counselor. This position offers you an opportunity to build a strong educational community through effective communication, organization and promotional skills. In this article, we discuss what the admissions counselor career entails and provide steps to become one.

Related: How to Become a College Counselor (With FAQ)

What is an admissions counselor?

An admissions counselor represents a college or university and has the responsibility of attracting and recruiting potential students. As part of the recruitment process, they also have a responsibility to evaluate applicants and determine whether they align with the institution's enrollment standards. Some admissions counselors work with high schools to help students assess their post-secondary education options and guide them through the application process. They are also sometimes called college admissions counselors or admissions officers.

What does an admissions counselor do?

An admissions counselor serves as a connection between a university or college and prospective students. Some of the specific responsibilities associated with this role include:

  • Developing informational and marketing materials, such as brochures

  • Reviewing and evaluating college applications

  • Conducting interviews with applicants

  • Organizing campus tours, classroom visits or informational meetings for prospective students

  • Coordinating recruiting and promotional events

  • Collaborate with colleagues, such as the financial aid department, to manage enrollment processes

  • Maintaining awareness of relevant educational legislation updates

  • Traveling to high schools or college fairs for recruitment purposes

  • Create and conduct presentations to promote enrollment efforts

Average salary of an admissions counselor

The national average salary of an admissions counselor is $2,859 per month in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes admissions counselors under the category of postsecondary education administrators. It projects the growth rate of these roles through 2029 is 4%, which aligns with the average rate for all professions.

How to become an admissions counselor

If you are interested in becoming an admissions counselor, you can follow the steps below to pursue this career:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Most admissions counselor positions require candidates who have bachelor's degrees. This position does not require participation in a specific field of study, but try to choose a major relevant to its responsibilities. For example, you may pursue a bachelor's degree in educational studies, communications, psychology, sociology or business. As an admissions counselor, you interact with and promote your school to prospective students and other interested parties regularly. These majors can help you build the effective interpersonal, communication and marketing skills needed to promote the school.

2. Perform an internship

While you obtain your bachelor's degree, look for relevant internship opportunities. For example, you can try to find positions within your school's admissions office. Such opportunities can build your network, which may help you find employment post-graduation. An internship can also give you real-world experience and skills to prepare you for the role, such as communicating with students and performing administrative duties.

Some admissions counselor jobs also require candidates to have customer service experience. As a student, you may consider looking for a part-time job in places like retail stores or restaurants to gain such experience. These roles can provide the skills needed to interact successfully with prospective students, such as effective communication, empathy, patience and decision-making.

Related: 15 Customer Service Jobs That Pay Well

3. Seek employment

After graduating, you can begin pursuing a full-time admissions counselor job. If you held an internship at your alma mater's admissions office, learn if they have any openings. This office may be an optimal place to start your search, as you already have relevant experience and an existing relationship with its employees. Otherwise, you can look for entry-level opportunities in the admissions offices of other educational institutions. Once you gain experience working as an admissions counselor, you may find opportunities for more advanced positions such as an assistant or associate director of admissions.

Related: The New Graduate's Guide to Job Search

4. Join professional organizations

Once you find employment as an admissions officer or in an admissions office, you can join professional organizations for development purposes. These organizations typically provide resources, such as training opportunities and research, to help their members learn best practices surrounding their profession and develop relevant skills. You can also use professional organizations to network with industry peers and learn about potential career opportunities. Examples of relevant professional organizations include the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Related: Q&A: What Is a Professional Organization?

What skills do admissions counselors need for success?

The following list represents some of the skills that can help you perform successfully as an admissions counselor:

  • Communication skills: Admissions counselors spend significant time talking to prospective students about their school and its offerings. As part of effective communication, you need listening skills to understand these students' needs and interests to assess how they align with the school. Because you meet many different people, these skills can help you develop relationships and maintain a friendly demeanor.

  • Sales skills: Admissions counselors' primary responsibility is to recruit potential students. As a result, you need the ability to sell your educational institution and its benefits to students and their parents. You may need to develop pitches or marketing materials based on students' needs, such as the degree programs available or job placement resources. For this reason, many employers seek admissions candidates who have existing customer service experience.

  • Organizational skills: Admissions counselors have a responsibility to review and manage applications. Because you may receive many, you need to keep these records organized to ensure accuracy and efficiency in enrollment processes. This role also requires visiting other places and events, so you need to plan and coordinate your travel plans and event appearances effectively.

  • Professionalism skills: Admissions counselors serve as a representative of their educational institution. When attending events or making presentations, you must behave professionally to leave a positive impression on prospective students. This skill can include demonstrating respect toward everyone you meet, using appropriate language and acting ethically.

  • Technical skills: While employers' preferred software will vary, many require knowledge about word processing and spreadsheet software to create documents, presentations or marketing materials related to school enrollment. Employers may also require proficiency in specific student information systems to track and manage applications and student records.

Related: 12 Important Professional Qualities to Develop

Other requirements for becoming an admissions counselor

Because there is no specific field of student required to become an admissions counselor, you may consider pursuing certification. You can research which higher education institutions offer certificate programs in the area of college admissions counseling. These programs typically last one to one-and-a-half years and teach you the specific knowledge and technical skills needed to work in college admissions. Having this certification can help differentiate you from other candidates and demonstrates that you have received relevant training around admissions best practices.

Some employers prefer or require admissions counselor candidates who have a master's degree. They often do not specify a particular area of study, but you should try to choose relevant degrees such as college counseling, sociology or business. A master's degree can also help demonstrate a higher level of experience and knowledge in the profession. These qualifications may lead you to more advanced roles, such as the vice president or dean of admissions. When working in these roles, you hold responsibility for managing the admissions process and setting enrollment standards or guidelines at an educational institution.

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