Sunday, January 18, 2009

Higher education

I am often asked how I ended up in Human Resources at a college. It isn't normally a business or industry that pops to mind when considering career options, unless you are teaching. But colleges, universities, and online graduate programs are run by robust and busy administrative offices - just like a business - it is very similar to business in many ways, and yet so very different.

Calendar We have a variety of calendars. Our primary calendar is based on the academic year, when school is in session and faculty are teaching. Our fiscal year is July to June and our benefits year is January to December. It's a lot of calendars!

Governance Actual governance structures vary from place to place. Ours is faculty governed by a number of committees who make and approve policy, financial and hiring decisions.

Work In the business offices, the work is very comparable to the business world. We have many of the same infrastructure offices including payroll, finance, Human Resources, IT with a busy helpdesk and a physical plant with grounds, buildings and HVAC.

Challenges and rewards It is a thoroughly enjoyable kind of work. Our Human Resources office handles staff hiring, benefits, compensation, classification, immigration and employee relations. Those college and universities with unions also have labor relations. It's busy - we have a lean staff to help facilitate what our customers need; we do our best. The rewards are fantastic - up to five weeks of paid time off per year, continuing education dollars, tuition waivers for family members, fantastic medical benefits, pension contributions, opportunities for committee work and teaching, full access to the wellness facility and sporting events, cultural opportunities including plays and concerts and the best, the chance to make a difference.

As the economy continues to shift, I encourage people to consider working in higher education. Salaries are competitive, benefits are fantastic. Interested in working a college or university? Positions are posted in a variety of places including Higher Ed Jobs, Academic 360 and CUPA-HR. It is an opportunity worth exploring.


Dan McCarthy said...

Maven –
Sounds great, sign me up! With two daughters in college, I need a second job. (:
Thanks for the insights on the HR side of things. It’s good to hear about someone who’s satisfied with their career.

Jackie Cameron said...

Hello HRM - I echo Dan's words. It is so good to read about someone who enjoys what they do.
I am an associate of the HR Academy of one of our Universities in Edinburgh which gives me a tiny insight to what goes on in the internal administration of an academic institution. There are some really interesting roles in their job ads too... ALthough you are writing from a US based perspective I will share this post with a couple of people I know who are looking for a new challenge.

Mark Stelzner said...

Great post Maven and really makes me want to consider a college/university career. Maybe it's time to hang up the consulting hat, hmm? Great summation of the benefits (and challenges). Thanks for posting!

Steve Boese said...

Great post, I saw the headline and I knew I had to leave a comment. Higher Ed can be a great environment for the HR professional. In the right setting, you get the chance to meet and interact with scores of creative talented people as well as helping students. Yes, even in an 'admin' role you can really be a positive force in the lives of students through volunteering and supporting their organizations. Most college admin departments employ lots of student workers as well, which can lead to mentoring and training opportunities.

HR Maven said...

Dan, thanks for visiting. It's a great benefit to pay no tuition for kids.

Jackie, thanks for visiting. It's a lot of work looking after faculty. :) And I do love it.

Mark, Hope you are having a great time in DC. It's a fantastic work environment - I highly recommend it.

Steve, thanks for posting. You are right on the mentoring component. We have terrific student workers, interns and have a great mentoring program.

Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for visiting!