Director of Career Services: Salary and Job Description

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Director of Career Services

In 2021, the educational technology firm Chegg Inc. surveyed undergraduate students worldwide. Survey results found that, for 54% of students, the primary motivations for pursuing higher education were to:

  • Satisfy career requirements
  • Boost earning potential
  • Expand job prospects

The strong connection between higher education and career goals makes the career services department at a community college, four-year college, or university a critical component in the lives of students and alumni.

Of the possible jobs that require education degrees, director of career services is a position that appeals to individuals with an interest in overseeing programs such as on-campus job placement or alumni networking. Leaders in these positions can have a significant effect on student outcomes and the direction of school policy.

Professionals who are interested in careers in higher education administration may find career services to be a rewarding employment path. Individuals considering enrolling in an online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program with an eye toward working in career services can benefit from learning more about director of career services salary information and job responsibilities.

Director of Career Services Job Description

A director of career services makes connections among people at multiple levels of education. In general, the career services department is responsible for ensuring positive work outcomes for students and alumni. This means securing job placements for graduates, creating internship and work experience programs on campus, organizing alumni networks, and assuming other relevant duties.

Overseeing a Career Services Office

In summarizing the director of career services job description, employment information resource PayScale reports that working as a director of career services involves overseeing a school’s career services office, as well as the employees in that office. To lead a career services department, a candidate should be a skilled multitasker and a strong and decisive employee manager. College and university career services are complex departments with numerous staff and diverse tasks. A good director will keep projects on track while signing off on the budget and taking responsibility for reaching job placement benchmarks.

Interpersonal skills are essential for directors of career services. Colleges and universities need to have strong relationships with companies in their communities that may become key employers of alumni or partners for internship programs. It’s up to the career services department to nurture those connections and keep them active. Further, the leader of the career services team will be tasked with organizing job fairs and ongoing placement programs. A professional who knows how to keep such processes on track is well suited to the director of career services role.

Expanding Opportunities

Directors of career services look for opportunities to get more students, alumni, and employers involved in the placement process. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) specifies that expanding the user base of employment programs is a fundamental part of career services leadership.

As part of their networking, directors of career services reach out to corporate and alumni partners on national and international levels. Making these connections and strengthening the resulting bonds can improve an institution’s job placement rates. Career placement statistics can, in turn, enhance a school’s reputation.

In addition to communicating with alumni networks and employers, career services directors should form productive internal connections with educators and other administrative departments such as student affairs. As NACE asserts, the career services department depends on close contact with department chairs and deans to ensure that its services meet the institution’s needs.

The scope of work that a director of career services performs will likely depend on the size of the college or university. Larger schools with enrollments in the tens of thousands will offer relatively higher salaries for directors of career services, but the individuals in those positions also should expect to oversee more complex alumni networks, corporate partnerships, and internal programs. In larger career services departments, directors will need to delegate more tasks. At smaller institutions, the director of career services may take a direct hand in a larger portion of the department’s programs and services.

Developing Services to Meet Specific Needs

Students may seek career services at many points in their academic career, which means a director of career services needs to be able to develop a range of services and opportunities. Some examples include the following.

  • Employment services. Undergraduates can take advantage of career workshops and skill training sessions organized by the career services department. On-campus job fairs and recruiting events involving corporate representatives may provide students with direct access to top companies in their area. Job listings and resume referral services allow both current students and alumni to perform self-directed job searches with help from the career services department.
  • Opportunities to gain experience. Internships and placements for undergraduates seeking to accumulate credits, build their resumes, or create pathways for future employment can be compelling reasons to choose a particular college or university. By organizing these programs, the director of career services plays a direct part in positively influencing the college experience. Especially strong programs in specific industries could even attract students to career opportunities they may not have otherwise considered.
  • Services for alumni. Alumni may still rely on the career services department while advancing in their careers. Along with providing advice and opportunities for current undergraduates, the department can allow graduates to take advantage of institution-specific job listings and network with fellow alumni. Relationships between students and the career services department can last a lifetime.

How to Become a Director

Career services directors may take different directions in pursuing their positions, but knowing how to become a director is the first step on any career path. Entry-level higher education administrators may join career services departments in positions responsible for the day-to-day operation of recruitment and skill-building programs. People who build their experience and credentials at one institution may also apply for director positions at another school. This enables professionals to assume new responsibilities and gain experience in a new environment.

The two primary measures of readiness for a career services director position are education and job experience. Due to the increasing prevalence of online doctoral programs, potential candidates can build both types of expertise simultaneously, studying part-time while working in higher education administration on a full-time schedule.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for director of career services jobs will vary based on the size and nature of the particular school. Some smaller institutions that offer relatively lower compensation for directors of career services may be willing to hire candidates with an undergraduate diploma. PayScale lists a bachelor’s degree as the accepted industry minimum for career services leadership. However, seeking out such a high-level role at a larger college or university will most likely call for a master’s degree, as NACE indicates. On top of these baseline qualifications, prospective career services leaders can bolster their credentials by earning a doctorate.

Expertise and Experience

In today’s competitive hiring environment, it’s important for candidates seeking top roles in higher education administration to have resumes representing the depth of their commitment to the field and its best practices. Factors such as learner preferences, the role of technology, and relationships between universities and government are always changing.

Applicants who have recently earned an advanced degree in education will be familiar with the latest concepts and will be more effective and influential in positions such as director of career services. Online programs allow professionals already working at colleges or universities to add to their credentials and can help them stand out as applicants for a director role.

Career Services Director Salary

In reviewing career services director salary information, it’s important to remember that hiring patterns for administrative roles tend to differ depending on the school. For example, the number of roles open at public institutions can fluctuate based on the state’s annual educational budget. Both public and private colleges and universities tend to see increased demand for administrators when enrollment rises, as larger teams are required to keep the quality of services high for a larger student body.

Salaries for Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual wage of $97,500 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects that jobs in postsecondary education administration will rise 8% between 2020 and 2030. The BLS further notes that administrator positions will grow as more individuals pursue postsecondary education to achieve their career goals.

A 2020 report in Forbes noted that enrollment growth is directly related to how much schools emphasize career services within their strategic planning activities. Therefore, schools that wish to increase enrollment have an incentive to invest in a strong career services department. This can be an important factor influencing the job prospects for professionals who are interested in working in career services.

Salaries for Directors of Career Services

The median annual salary for a director of career services was approximately $62,000 as of March 2022, according to PayScale. PayScale data indicates that salaries range between $45,000 and $89,000, depending on factors such as location and tenure.

According to PayScale, top skills affecting salary potential include leadership, strategic planning, and people management. Leaders in career services need to be able to coordinate the development of student and alumni skills and career potential, while directing the department’s teams and keeping their institutions’ strategies on track.

Developing Skills Through Work Experience as a Career Services Director

Many colleges and universities operate large career services departments, with roles ranging from entry-level to leadership. Professionals who aspire to be departmental directors can start their journeys in career services by performing simpler, day-to-day tasks or accumulating related experience. The path to directorship may progress through mid-level leadership roles such as assistant director of career services at schools that are large enough to have well-staffed departments.

Work History

Becoming a director of career services requires many years of experience in a similar role, whether in higher education administration, human resources, or both. A resume showing extensive experience in recruitment and people management will demonstrate that a candidate is capable of taking on such an important job.

NACE specifies that candidates applying for jobs leading career services departments at large, private universities should have 10 or more years of experience working in higher education, corporate recruitment, or a combination of both. The minimum required experience varies based on the type of school. Medium-sized private colleges and large public institutions, for instance, may consider applicants with five or more years of professional experience for director of career services positions.


When contemplating the combination of skills that makes a good director of career services, professionals should consider the specific knowledge they’ll need to complete day-to-day tasks. Professionals also should focus on the interpersonal skills that will aid them in making connections with everyone from corporate leaders to the heads of other departments.

All types of communication are vital and relevant in the career services space. Directors of departments must be adept at opening productive dialogues with executives, while showing empathy and support to students who use their services. Coordinating efforts with other administrative teams and reporting to university presidents and board members are also fundamental parts of keeping career services functions operating at peak effectiveness.

As head of the career services department, a professional should combine more general interpersonal skills with the ability to lead, direct, and motivate team members. At larger colleges and universities, where career services director salaries are relatively higher, this competency is especially important, with more employees reporting directly to the department leader and a greater number of projects active at any given time.

What Do Ed.D. Courses Teach about Career Services?

Through doctor of education programs, students can gain knowledge that will serve them well in fulfilling the responsibilities associated with a director of career services role. The information below highlights examples of courses in these programs.

Boards and Educational Governance

Strong relationships among the board, faculty, administration, student body, and surrounding community are essential to achieving a school’s educational mission. Through courses that focus on boards and governance, students can learn about issues such as accountability, educational standards, and policy development.

Ethical and Political Foundations of Educational Policy

This course focuses on creating and revising educational policies in line with political priorities and community needs. The central tenet of the course is ensuring equity of services and opportunity across all student and alumni populations.

National Trends in Assessment, Data Analysis, and Accountability

Accountability and continuous improvement in educational settings rely on accurate and comprehensive data. In career services, this may include data on placement rates and student outcomes. This course is designed to ensure that participants are equipped with knowledge of the latest trends in assessing and analyzing relevant data.

Leadership in Higher Education and Community College

All leaders in higher education settings should be aware of one another’s roles and responsibilities, as well as the best practices associated with ensuring excellence. This course uses specific cases to examine what leaders can and should accomplish for their institutions.

Student and Academic Affairs

Effectively managing the relationship between college and university administration and students is a complex challenge. This course deals with the related ethical challenges facing schools today, as well as ways to address such challenges.

The Contemporary Learner

Students’ priorities, outlooks, and expectations have changed over time. The experience of studying for a college degree today reflects the globally connected world in which learners have matured. This course enables aspiring career services directors to become more effective in operating relevant programs.

Financial Affairs in Higher Education

The departmental budget is one of the areas for which career services directors have direct responsibility. The processes behind college and university funding have complexities that are unique to the educational field. Participants in an Ed.D. program can gain in-depth knowledge of these specialized processes through courses on higher education finance.

Enrolling in an Online Ed.D. Program to Pursue a Role in Career Services

Working in career services can be fulfilling and lead to a host of challenges and opportunities. The salaries of directors of career services at larger schools also can be an incentive to pursue the occupation. If you want to move into a leadership role such as director of career services, explore Bradley University’s online Doctor of Education degree program.

Designed to lead to a rewarding career in higher education administration, the program enables students to acquire the knowledge, skills, and expertise necessary for success in the dynamic educational system.

Take the first step toward your pursuit of excellence in educational administration today.


Recommended Readings

5 Elements to Succeed in Education Leadership

Career Opportunities for a Doctor of Education Degree

Education Policy Jobs, Career and Salary Information


Chegg, Inc., Global Student Survey

Forbes, “Career Services Will Define the Next Big Boom in College Enrollment”

National Association of Colleges and Employers, Career Services Director Job Descriptions

PayScale, Average Director, Career Services Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators