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What is an Education Administrator Salary in Higher Education?

August 12, 2016

University Services MAEL

There’s good news for anyone interested in a career in higher education administration: above-average job growth and lucrative salaries are the norm for this profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of postsecondary administrators is expected to grow by 9% through 2024. The BLS also indicates that the average higher education administration salary is $88,390 per year.1 Your actual earning potential varies widely, as do the many career opportunities for those who earn a master’s degree in educational leadership.

To determine the higher education salary waiting for you in your future career, you have to determine where your interests and aptitudes will guide you. Keep reading to discover the various careers within higher education administration and the salary you can expect to earn in those positions.

Higher Education Executives

C-suite executive positions are the pinnacle of higher education administration careers. These types of positions require strong leadership skills and an appreciation for the student-instructor relationship. College and university executives must have the ability to communicate and negotiate with a range of populations, including students, alumni, professors, community members, and government officials. The duties of a higher education executive may include:

  • Creating a strategic vision for the school
  • Fundraising
  • Developing budgets
  • Expanding the school’s academic programs
  • Coordinating all academic and athletic programs within the school
  • Serving as the school’s chief ambassador

Executive positions are very demanding and come with a great deal of responsibility, which is partly why they are among the highest paying careers in education administration. According to the 2014-2015 Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey conducted by The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), the median base salary for CEOs at a single institution range from $187,595 to $450,000.2

Becoming the chief executive officer at an institute of higher learning not only requires a master’s degree or higher, but also experience and expertise specific to this challenging field.

Are you ready to reach your full potential in your career?

Pursue your degree in M.A. in Educational Leadership at the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota online to advance your career.

College Deans

A college or university often puts a dean in charge of each individual academic school. For example, most sizeable postsecondary schools will have a Dean of Arts and Sciences, a Dean of Engineering, a Dean of Education, etc. A college dean is the administrator charged with overseeing the faculty and students within his or her school. Their duties may include:

  • Addressing student complaints
  • Hiring, dismissing, and coaching faculty members
  • Developing academic programs
  • Managing college budgets and requesting additional funds
  • Overseeing public relations and marketing for the college

According to approximately 500 individual salary reports on Payscale.com, the average pay for an academic dean in the United States is $92,438 per year. Entry-level college and university dean salaries average $78,000.3

Financial Aid Directors

From a student’s viewpoint, one of the most important offices on campus is the financial aid office. Financial aid directors hold the ultimate responsibility of making sure college and university students receive the aid they need. This person is also responsible for verifying the institution follows all financial- aid program requirements and guidelines.

The duties of a financial aid director may include:

  • Helping students through the financial aid application process
  • Hiring, training, and evaluating staff working in the financial aid department
  • Overseeing financial aid processes, including certification, disbursement, and refunds
  • Ensuring compliance with state and federal aid regulations

According to more than 400 individual salary reports on Payscale.com, the median salary for a financial aid director is $60,064.4

Advance Your Higher Education Administration Career

The online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is a stepping stone for a variety of higher education administration careers. For more information about earning your M.A. in Educational Leadership online, contact an enrollment counselor at 877-308-9954.

Check out the “How Educators Use Technology and Data to Guide Teaching and Learning” free eBook.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 6). Postsecondary education administrators : Occupational outlook handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm.
  2. 2019-20 CUPA-HR salary data. HigherEdJobs. (2015, March 2). https://www.higheredjobs.com/salary/.
  3. Average academic dean salary. PayScale. (n.d.-a). https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Academic_Dean/Salary.
  4. Average financial aid director salary. PayScale. (n.d.-b). https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Financial_Aid_Director/Salary.