Career Development

Dean Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Universities and colleges are complex institutions that require the vision of a leader in order to be successful. Enter the dean, who is tasked with overseeing all things academic—from hiring faculty and overseeing curriculum development to managing the biggest university-wide events like commencement ceremonies.

Universities and colleges are complex institutions that require the vision of a leader in order to be successful. Enter the dean, who is tasked with overseeing all things academic—from hiring faculty and overseeing curriculum development to managing the biggest university-wide events like commencement ceremonies.

Deans often need to manage multiple people at once, maintain good relationships with everyone involved in the school’s operations, act as liaisons between students, faculty members, and administrative staff, and serve as mediators when disputes arise.

The dean position is usually held by a tenured professor at a university. Deans often hold advanced degrees in their field of study. Some deans may serve as professors while they are working as deans.

Dean Job Duties

Typical job duties of a dean include the following:

  • Providing leadership and guidance to faculty, staff, departments, students, parents, administrators and alumni
  • Scheduling classes for faculty members and supporting their research endeavors
  • Working with the university’s development office to expand school endowments and attract donors for new construction or programs
  • Creating and maintaining a cooperative relationship between administrative staff, department heads, students, and faculty
  • Preparing annual reports on student enrollment numbers, tuition rates, graduation rates, degree completion times, graduation rates, financial aid information
  • Developing and updating policies and procedures for the school—with input from faculty members, department chairs, and other administrators
  • Promoting the academic program of the institution by representing it to donors, alumni, prospective students and their parents, government officials, and businesses in the area
  • Serving as a liaison between faculty members and administrative departments such as human resources, finance, student affairs/registration, facilities management

Dean Salary & Outlook

The median salary for a dean is $99,266 per year. The highest-earning deans earn well over $183,000 per year.

The employment of deans is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade as demand for higher education continues to rise.

Dean Job Requirements

The requirements for a dean are as follows:

Education: Most deans have a master’s degree in a relevant field. Examples include business administration, education, psychology, or public administration. In order to obtain a master’s degree, they must have first completed a bachelor’s degree program.

Training: A dean generally gets on-the-job training by working as an administrator or faculty member for several years. They can also take online courses to further their knowledge of administration.

Certifications & Licenses: A dean is generally not required to hold any certifications. Some employers may require the dean to hold a state-issued license in the education field.

Dean Skills

In addition to specific education and faculty experience, a dean requires the following skills:

Decision-making skills: A dean must have good judgment in order to make the right decisions about the best way to run a school. These decisions are related to strategic, operational, and academic concerns.

Strategic thinking skills: A good dean is a planner who can envision and implement strategies to maintain and improve the university or college.

Communication skills: Deans must communicate effectively with all levels of the school community, from students to professors. They need to have excellent interpersonal skills.

Leadership skills: Being a dean is a leadership position. You’ll need to lead by example and make decisions based on what’s best for the college or university as a whole. 

Management skills: Deans oversee large groups of people and must be able to manage them effectively. They may also oversee the budget and day-to-day operations of their university or college.

Public speaking skills: The dean must be able to address students, faculty, staff, and parents at events and gatherings.

Dean Work Environment

Deans typically work in offices and classrooms at colleges and universities. Their days consist of teaching classes, meeting with students or colleagues, and attending meetings. They may also have to handle administrative tasks such as writing reports and conducting research. Deans often work long hours, especially when preparing for fall and spring semester classes. They must be able to work well with faculty and students as well as other administrators.

Dean Trends

Here are three trends influencing how deans work. Deans will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Emphasis on Online Learning

Many academic institutions are moving towards a greater emphasis on online learning in order to increase accessibility and reduce costs. For example, in 2014, there were over 1 million students enrolled in online courses offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone.

In addition, with so many platforms available for learning today—from mobile apps to video lectures and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)—it is easier than ever for individuals to engage with professors and peers without ever setting foot on campus.

Increased Focus on Collaborative Education

To encourage more interaction between students and professors, many universities are moving towards “collaborative education” strategies.

Collaborative education is characterized by group work and cooperative learning strategies that are intended to foster student-professor interaction. This strategy also encourages students to form bonds with their peers, which can lead to increased school spirit, social skills, and confidence for the future.

Increased Importance of Student Experience

A new trend is on the rise for universities, focusing on the experience of students rather than just their knowledge.

Many universities are looking to redefine what it means to be a successful student in order to attract more applicants and increase retention rates.

Universities such as Arizona State University have redesigned programs so that students take courses with online tools rather than traditional textbooks and classrooms, making studying easier and more convenient for many. 

How to Become a Dean

1. Planning Your Career Path

When considering a career as a dean, it is important to consider the type of institution that you want to work for. For example, a dean at a small liberal arts college may have very different responsibilities than a dean at a large state university.

For those who are still in school, it’s important to make sure that your coursework aligns with the job you want. Consider taking some classes in management or leadership; these courses will provide you with essential skills for overseeing staff members and handling sensitive situations like student grievances. 

You may also want to gain entry level experience working at another college as a staff member or professor before making the leap to an administrative role; this will help you build your network and give you a better idea of what to expect when working in higher education.

2. Writing a Resume

When writing a resume for dean positions, keep in mind that your qualifications and skills must go above and beyond what you would expect from a teacher. It’s important to highlight the extent of your knowledge of the subject area you have been selected to lead.

Highlight your leadership abilities by describing how you were able to lead projects with teams, developed new goals or strategies, or motivated others to work towards specific goals. You can also talk about any awards or accolades you received for your outstanding performance. Include details of any continuing education courses that you’ve taken to improve your skillset in higher education administration.

3. Applying for Jobs

In order to obtain a job as a dean, it’s important to think about what skills and talents you have that would be valuable to a university. Most colleges are looking for people who have relevant degrees, previous experience working in the higher education industry, and plenty of skills in budgeting, fundraising, and marketing.

One of the best ways to start looking for jobs is by identifying the colleges that interest you most. For each one, do some research into their hiring processes. A college’s website will usually include information on their application process, so take some time to read through all of the details so you can tailor your resume and cover letter to the position.

4. Ace the Interview

For a dean position, you will likely come across a wide range of interviewer questions. Be prepared to discuss your educational philosophy and teaching methods, as well as how you plan to engage students and encourage them to do their best work. Be sure to mention your experience organizing groups of different sizes and types.

Interviewers will also want to know if you have experience working with diverse populations. Be prepared to discuss what affinity groups exist on campus and how you would approach working with them. 

To prepare for your interview, make sure you research the institution and write down any questions you have about the school or college. This will help you highlight your interest in the school during the interview and give you the chance to demonstrate how you can contribute to its goals and future success.


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