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How Much do Student Affairs Counselors Earn?

Student affairs counselors serve a number of roles on college campuses, ranging from reviewing admissions applications, weighing in on academic appeals, and performing routine career counseling and academic advising duties. In many situations, these professionals are required to have earned the right to practice counseling within their respective state. Although salaries for these professionals may vary based on university and individual roles that they perform, there are some generalities that can be reviewed to determine the average salary of student affairs counselors.

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Salary Information for Student Affairs Counselors

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary of Licensed Professional Counselors working in universities and community colleges was $49,150 annually. This is similar to the average salary of $46,050 reported by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics for mental health counselors. The National Academic Advising Association also reports average annual salaries of $43,546 for full-time academic advisors and counselors. With that information at hand, it can be extrapolated that an average salary range for counselors working within a student affairs or academic setting can expect to earn between $40,000 – $50,000 on average, depending on their particular area of employment, budget at a given university, and years of experiences that they bring to the table.

Career and Growth Potential

Counselors and advisors in student affairs may extend their earning and career potential as they grow and hone their skills. Focusing on specialty areas, such as health professions counseling, graduate school counseling, or specialty retention programs within your university may warrant a higher pay grade than a traditional counselor within a student affairs setting. Furthermore, as you grow in skill and ability, you may be in a position to advance your career by applying for assistant, associate, or even director of counseling positions. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, administrators of advising and counseling centers on college campuses earned an average of $74,370 annually in 2016.

Training and Educational Considerations

While licensing requirements for counselors vary state to state, the most common requirement to practice as a counselor, both in a mental health setting and within colleges or universities, includes the completion of a 60-hour master's program in counseling, academic advising, social work, or another related area of study. Check with your state's Board of Medical Examiners or Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners for information pertinent to your state of residence. While pursuing your graduate training, be sure to express interest to your faculty advisor about your interest in working as a counselor in a higher education setting — it will be important to set up internship and graduate work-study opportunities that align with your interests to gain relevant work experience to assist in securing employment in this area after graduation. If you are interested in advancing your career, speak with your supervisor regarding increasing your responsibilities on the job which may include assisting with the review of academic appeals and admissions applications, supervising and training new staff, and other administrative duties as assigned by your supervisor.

Working as a counselor in the student affairs setting can be a rewarding career choice for anyone with a love of education and a passion for assisting others. While the salary ranges can vary from setting to setting, there is a lot of room for growth as you gain experience and hone your skills in this area.