Dream Job --> Dream Career
December 30, 2008 9:31 PM   Subscribe

I have a really cool job: I help low-income/minority students get into college.
(It's perfect for me because I'm passionate about educational access and I get to work with young people one-on-one, but I'm not tied down to a classroom.)
Right now, my job is short-term, a la Teach for America, but I'd like to stay in the educational field and turn this job into a long-term career.

My question is two fold: How do I go about finding jobs like this and what sort of educational credentials/degrees do I need to qualify for these jobs?

To clarify, I'm looking for jobs and organizations (like GearUp, Upward Bound, TRIO, State/Federal Department of Education, for example) that would allow me to work for or on behalf of disadvantaged youth in a non-teaching position.

I have a bachelor's in a field unrelated to education, but I was thinking about getting a master's in higher education administration. Is this on the right track?

I've considered guidance counseling too, but in some states, you must be a certified teacher before you can become a counselor, and I have no desire to become a teacher.

Any words of wisdom?
posted by chara to Education (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, a masters in higher education administration or student service administration or education policy would potentially be the right track for you. Master's degrees are important when looking for a job in higher education. There's a (not comprehensive) list of student affairs degrees here

Some other places to check for jobs that you might not have thought of (and that might not require an advanced degree)
-Youth-based community non-profits
-Job training organizations
-Huge student loan organizations (sometimes have philanthropy arm that do free counseling)

These kinds of jobs come up in random places and lots of colleges have them. Be sure to check with big universities and community or technical colleges. Also, to put yourself in the best position to get one of these jobs, do as much as you can to get a variety of different experiences with disadvantaged students. Become a tutor if you can, and if you ever have an opportunity to teach or present something, jump on it. Good luck, its a fun and rewarding path!
posted by mjcon at 10:50 PM on December 30, 2008

Hey chara, I was in the field for a couple of years and it's great you are doing what you are doing. I worked with a small university program and taught but had some good friends in TRIO. I think that's a great place to start because of how it comprises so many different programs. The first thing you may want to do if you haven't already is to request some informational interviews with your university TRIO office. Ask for an appointment with the head admins and anyone with a title that resembles what you may like to do. This advice was offered to me when I asked a question like yours and it's a truly valuable way to get a sense of the requirements and day-to-day realities specific to the jobs you're interested in, as well as to cultivate contacts. It's a strangely small world so having positive contacts already on your side is a tremendous advantage.

My personal take is that if you decide to go for your Masters you should consider doing it as part of a PhD program. I knew several people working for TRIO on that path (and would be happy to put you in touch with someone who still works for the McNair program if you'd like an introduction). Masters in the educational field are so relatively common that if you want to work for a large or prominent university or just maximize your opportunities, a PhD will really help you. It's a big commitment but if you've already got the field experience and the passion there's no reason not to consider it.

It's really a life-changing field and I truly wish you the best with whatever you decide to do in it.
posted by melissa may at 12:34 AM on December 31, 2008

I administrated a TRIO program as well as several other first-generation/low-income higher ed programs. It's an extremely rewarding and interesting field with a lot of opportunity for professional development.

Great advice above--a masters to doctorate or PhD program in higher education administration or similar is an important step, however, there are many levels of service in TRIO programs, especially, and with your experience you would be a good candidate for something like an educational planner position or tutor/mentor with something like Upward Bound. This is just to say that you can work in this area while going to school if going back to school full-time is not appealing to you.

Smaller colleges and community colleges are where a lot of folks in this field start--especially in rural and challenged urban areas where the application pools might not be as deep. The TRIO world is particularly tight-knit, and there are many folks there who started in support staff positions or intern positions at smaller schools and worked their way into increasingly administrative roles (most TRIO positions are grant-funded and last 3-5 years and it is typical to step your way up the ladder this way. You may have to move around a bit for the first part of your career). Do take melissa may's advice and schedule time to talk to administrators and staff of these kinds of programs at local colleges, and keep in mind that many colleges have non-federal programs like these that they are running themselves that are always looking for enthusiastic people to join their team.

The kind of job descriptions you want to look for at this point in your career are educational planner, advisor, program assistant/director, student services support staff, student mentor, and counseling support. Job descriptions with these key words will get you started on the right track as far as narrowing down where you're at and where you'd like to get to.

Please feel free to email me (in my profile) for more specific questions, people I could connect you with, or anything else. Congratulations, it's an awesome field.
posted by rumposinc at 5:44 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might also want to consider looking directly at universities that serve predominantly lower income areas. Might I put in a plug for UTEP, which takes poor Hispanic kids and veterans from nearby Ft. Bliss and helps them become engineers and nurses/med students by the boatload???
posted by txvtchick at 8:58 AM on December 31, 2008

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