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Posts tagged ‘Academia’

Higher Education Career Paths Inside and Outside the Classroom


When it comes to choosing your higher education career path, it’s all about finding the best fit for your interests and goals. Like most fields, higher education is exceedingly diverse and caters to a range of professionals with varying levels of education and expertise.

“The qualifications and requirements are quite different for administrators and professors – as well as in research institutions and teaching institutions,” acknowledges Karen Ferguson (Ph.D.), assistant dean of the NCU’s School of Education. “The best advice I can give is to take the time to reflect on what type of higher education professional you want to be. Then research the minimum qualifications.”

We’ve compiled some common higher education career paths to highlight the versatility of a higher education career, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you are a teacher with dean-sized dreams, want to transition into academia, or feel like you’d be a good fit for a position in research or administration, higher education provides plenty of career options.


As the cornerstone of the education field, teaching is often the go-to path for many higher education professionals. It includes numerous options based on your level of education and teaching experience.

In some cases, a master’s degree may qualify you to teach at a community college or as an adjunct for multiple schools, both face-to-face and online. At the doctoral level, you may find opportunities at a 4-year public or private college, or depending on where you earned your degree, on the tenure track at a research university.

Teaching experience is also important in academics. If you are looking to get your foot in the teaching door, you may start off as a TA, lecturer or assistant professor. If you are experienced in one field, you may qualify as a program chair and have oversight of curriculum and other faculty.

Each school is different and has its own requirements for teachers. Be sure to do your homework beforehand to find a school that best fits your education and experience.

Curriculum Development

Academia simply does not function without quality curriculum. Higher education relies on countless subject matter experts to help develop cutting-edge curriculum that is relevant to society and employers.

This is when professional experience outside academia can be incredibly useful. For example, if you’ve spent your career as an accounting professional, you probably have a great idea of the knowledge and skills that today’s graduates need. Your career input could be invaluable in aligning the curriculum and outcomes to reflect the accounting field.


Higher education has a lot of moving parts, and institutions need employees to help manage and support all of the different areas.

Common areas in higher education administration include:

  • Admissions
  • Advising
  • Alumni Relations
  • Business & Finance
  • Career Counseling
  • Human Resources
  • Institutional Research & Planning
  • Public Relations & Communications
  • Residential Life
  • Student Affairs & Services

With all of these options in academic administration, it’s important to consider your degree choice. A degree specialization gives you the opportunity to tailor your education to a specific area of administration. There are also plenty of short-term certificate options available to help you develop your niche down the road.


Research is an area that affects both academics and administration.

Institutional Research

Before coming to NCU, Associate Director of Programmatic Research, Melissa Helvey worked in a Brain, Behavior and Cognition lab at Northwestern, took classes and taught a Statistics course.  “I have always had an interest in science and research,” says Helvey. “I like to know how things are ‘proven’ and what that information is telling us.”

For example, institutional research helps inform campus decision-making and planning through assessment. “By actively assessing student learning, we can determine if a student is learning and meeting their program learning objectives, and if not, where changes in a program need to be made,” explains Helvey.

Research Faculty

Research faculty play a vital role in university academics. While their research contributions help their colleges and universities receive valuable funding and grants, they must often split time between teaching and working on their research. Research faculty must also have a firm grasp of research methods, statistics, a strong ability to synthesize information and extensive publishing experience.

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

Tips on Effective Communication for Online Students

One of the most difficult skills for online students to perfect is communication in the virtual classroom. From emails to instructors to discussion posts and final papers, the online student communicates almost entirely in the written word.  For those weighing a few options for advancing their education, this can be an intimidating realization. Whether you’re already an online student or are pondering the possibility of becoming one, help yourself form a few great habits by browsing the tips below.

Be Professional

This may seem like a no-brainer, but making sure there are no errors, using a proper greeting and closing, and maintaining a professional tone in all communications will help you stand above your classmates. Also, remember to proofread your submissions, no matter how insignificant the assignment, discussion post, or email might be. Your instructors will appreciate the respect given, and your classmates will admire your attention to detail. Want an added bonus? Your professional habits in the classroom are sure to carry over to the workplace!

Stick to the Academics

If you’re required to participate in threaded discussions or you’re communicating via email with your instructor, remember you’re in a classroom, not a chat room. Just because you found a little extra courage by hiding in the protective technology bubble doesn’t mean anyone wants to read details of your latest family argument, how your best friend totally stabbed you in the back, or the fact that your 2-year-old is getting an F- in potty training. In other words – stick to the academics. Your audience – no matter who that may be – will appreciate it!

Avoid the Frantic “HELP!” Emails

Having trouble with an assignment that’s due in 3 days and not sure what to do? Don’t stress out on the details for the first 2 days, and then frantically email your instructor five hours before the submission deadline. As soon as you find yourself questioning your ability to complete the assignment, reach out for help! This helps you avoid the stress while giving your instructor ample time to give you the help you need to complete the assignment successfully.


You’ve taken the time to craft the perfect discussion post or email, so do yourself a favor and save it somewhere! Try creating a folder on your computer or on a flash drive for every class you take – then use it. Emailing your instructor? Copy yourself and file any response you receive in your class folder. Receive some particularly awesome (or scathing) feedback on a paper? Save it. As you move along in your academic journey, you may find the advice, feedback and general support you received from your instructors helpful in future courses.

Tips on Getting Published in Academic Journals

While many of us use academic journals as resources for information, for an elite group of scholars, they serve as a platform for showcasing research and discovery. Planning to pursue a career in academia or climb the ranks of the professional world? Getting published in an academic journal could be a catalyst for growth in whatever career you choose.

If you’re tossing around the idea of submitting an article for the first time, take a few minutes to browse the suggestions below before you hit send.

Do the Research
The ultimate goal is to make a significant contribution to your academic arena, so find the academic journal that will best play host to your ideas. If you completed research on space travel, you wouldn’t submit your article to a journal about prehistoric animals, would you? Try browsing the databases you have become so familiar with throughout your academic career to find the best fit for your work.

Be Conscious of the Requirements
Like any publication, academic journals have an expected standard for submission. Becoming well-versed on the requirements before submitting your work gives you a better chance of getting published. Many journals, such as the American Educational Research Journal – a publication available through NCU’s library – even provide a Submission Preparation Checklist to follow.

Get Feedback Before You Submit
Have someone you trust proofread and suggest changes before you submit your final work. A fresh set of eyes can provide a new perspective and suggestions for positive change. Whether it’s the spelling error you missed after staring at your computer screen for fifteen hours, or a complete overhaul of the first paragraph, change can be good!

Don’t Get Frustrated With Rejection
For every article you see in an academic journal, there were probably thousands that were submitted for review. Don’t take it personally if you’re rejected a few times. Use the opportunity to refine your work or do a little more research to find a more appropriate platform for your ideas.


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