Kati Markowitz, Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission Chair
Judith Goetz, Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission Member
In early 2006, the NACADA Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission achieved a milestone when it completed a comprehensive survey of its Commission membership. The results were both expected and surprising, with certain trends transcending the small confines of our very specialized group and adding further details to the state of the advising profession in general. On the broadest level, the findings show that we are overwhelmingly female, well educated, not very well paid, and rather poorly trained. Yet, we like our work.
During the period from January 23 through February 12, 2006, members of the Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission were invited to participate in an on-line survey. Three email invitations were sent out within a three-week period. Eighty-one members (20.88%) completed the survey out of a total membership in 2006 of 388. To assure confidentiality, no detailed responses are reported in cases where fewer than three members responded to the question.
In an attempt to cross check the validity of results and set them into a wider context, we compared them with the following surveys: 2004 National Association of Graduate Admission Professionals (NAGAP) Survey, 2006 NAGAP Membership Survey, and the ACT Sixth National Survey. The 2004 NAGAP Survey, the more comprehensive of the NAGAP surveys employed in comparisons, had similar participation rates to the NACADA survey: approximately 20%.
The NACADA survey’s thirty questions were divided into four broad categories: demographic information, organizational issues (both within campus settings and within the NACADA commission), professional issues, and quality of “work-life.” The following review focuses on aspects that may be of interest to the wider NACADA membership, not merely to the members of our Commission.
Females made up 80% of the survey respondents, as compared to 71% female respondents in the 2004 NAGAP Survey. Staff in public institutions made up 63% of the respondents, as opposed to only 40% of NAGAP members. These discrepancies are worth noting, especially when comparing salaries among these two groups. The median salary of NACADA members of the Advising Graduate and Professional Student Commission falls within the $40,000-$44,999 range. NAGAP members from public institutions earned an average of $55,210, while those in private institutions earned $52,555.
Information on our NACADA Commission members’ educational level closely follows the NAGAP survey: 21% earned a baccalaureate degree, 48% earned a master’s or professional degree, and 27% earned a Ph.D. or Ed.D. (Note that the ABD is included within this group). NAGAP numbers stand at 18% baccalaureate, 53% Masters or professional degree, and 23%, Ph.D., Ed.D., or ABD.
The discrepancy in earnings may, at least partially, be due to the gender and institutional differences of our members. Other reasons might include the prevalence of recruiters in professional schools, such as, medical, law, and business. These organizations usually charge professional fees and thus have greater means of compensating employees.
The NACADA survey included several questions related to the members’ student constituencies. We found that 37% of respondents advise both undergraduate and graduate students. While almost 62% of respondents indicated that they have been in the advising profession for up to ten years, the same percentage said that they have been advising graduate students for merely up to five years. About one-quarter of the respondents indicated that they have been in the advising profession over 15 years, yet only 10% said they have been advising graduate students for the same length of time. These results may point to the relative newness of using professional advisors in graduate studies and may seem to indicate some movement from undergraduate to graduate advising, or to positions that combine advising both student populations. The fact that over one third of respondents work with both graduate and undergraduate students also suggests that our findings pertain to the wider NACADA membership, not only to the graduate student advisors who make up one of the smaller NACADA commissions.
Questions pertaining to organizational issues have been divided into two groups: campus specific and NACADA specific matters. The latter set of questions relates to methods of preferred communication within the Commission membership and to specific subjects to be covered at the annual meeting. The Commission leadership has already started the process of incorporating and implementing these findings.
The campus specific questions highlight organizational issues such as availability of professional networks and organizations, as well as training and development. Only 36% respondents indicated that they had advising organizations on campus, and most of those were for undergraduate advisors, although membership was open to all. Very few respondents mentioned specific graduate student advisor organizations. One of the few organizations specifically geared toward professional advisors of graduate students, the Graduate Coordinators Network (GCN) at the University of Texas at Austin, is the result of a process combining grassroots efforts on the part of departmental graduate coordinators with active support from the Graduate Dean’s Office (for details, see www.utexas.edu/ogs/gcnet/about.html).
Accessibility to training and development opportunities on campus seems to be closely related to the availability of campus organizations and networks. Thirty-eight percent of the members indicated that they have training and development on campus. The activities mentioned included workshops, topical training on FERPA and other advising related subjects, monthly meetings with main stakeholders, such as the Registrar and Graduate Dean’s Office (pp. 42-44, Findings from the ACT Sixth National Survey, validate the findings of the NACADA Survey on types of training as well as general availability of the different training opportunities). Surprisingly, training and development seemed not to be related to availability of funds, with 72% of respondents reporting that they receive financial support for outside training and development opportunities.
Many universities have manifold divisions between colleges, departments, and various auxiliary units, and budgets are likewise divided among different constituents. The availability of funds for outside training, which by its very nature is more expensive since attendees have to pay registration fees, travel expenses, etc., may be a symptom of campus divisions. One solution may be to develop campus-wide training opportunities that would be easily accessible to a wide group of people. These could be tailored for specific needs of the campus communities, making them more cost-effective, especially if on-campus expertise is utilized.
Quality of “work-life”
As seen from the findings thus far, there would appear to be a number of areas of importance to the profession that need to be addressed and improved. Yet, 70% of respondents are very and/or somewhat satisfied with their current position, and only 15% are somewhat and/or very unsatisfied. Moreover, while 50% think that their work is highly valued by others, only 5% think that their work is highly undervalued. Altogether 86% feel that their work is somewhat and/or highly valued.
These seeming discrepancies between factual data – see compensation and the training and development issues – and perceived worth may be interesting areas for further analysis. From anecdotal data, the explanation for the level of satisfaction with work and how it is valued may relate to the nature of graduate programs: the communities are smaller and more intimate; advisors, graduate students, and faculty get to know each other better during the duration of graduate studies (for Ph.D. programs these relationships can last for over 5 years); the students are more mature and aware; and graduate students seem to articulate more clearly both their expectations and their response to received guidance and help.
As mentioned, the survey included thirty questions, with several having open-ended answers. The intent of this article, a first cut at analyzing and discussing results, was to focus on findings pertaining to the wider audience of the NACADA membership. Future plans for investigation include an in-depth analysis of the specific professional topics within the community of graduate student advisors, as well as further analysis of training and development matters.
University of California, Berkeley
Pennsylvania State University
Carlson, J. (2006). National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP) Annual Membership Report. Perspectives 18(4):10-11.
Habley, W.R. (Ed.). (2004). The Status of Academic Advising: Findings from the ACT Sixth national Survey (NACADA Monograph, No. 10). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP). 2004 Membership Survey. Retrieved from http://www.nagap.org/research/index.asp (member login required)
Cite this article using APA style as: Markowitz, K. & Goetz, J. (2007, June). Advising graduate and professional students: Who we are and how we view our professional lives. Academic Advising Today, 30(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]