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Voices of the Global Community


Cindy Iten, Advising Administration Commission Chair 
Albert Matheny,  Professional Development Committee Chair

CindyIten.jpgAlbertMatheny.jpgDoes your institution have a mechanism to reward advisors for their breadth and depth of knowledge and their adeptness in assisting students through complicated academic situations? Or, in order to advance, are advisors forced to take their talents to administrative posts? If your institution falls into the second category, then you are in the majority. However, some campuses have recognized that academic advising has “come of age” as a profession and is deserving of career ladders which encourage advisors to develop areas of expertise.

NACADA’s commitment to professional development is central to the advancement of career-building within the ranks of academic advising. Currently, there is no systematic understanding of, or advocacy for, career ladders for academic advisors across the range of educational institutions. To begin that discussion, several universities have developed career ladders for advising professionals and advisors within these programs have shared information from their institutions.

The University of Iowa has a large, centralized professional advising center with a caseload of 9,000 students where all advisors, regardless of their experience, were at the same pay grade. AsPat Folsom, Assistant Provost for Enrollment Services and Director of the Academic Advising Center, says, “I wanted to add an Advisor II position that would recognize the expertise advisors gain after 4-5 years on the job. While the position would carry responsibilities beyond advising, I didn’t want to force terrific advisors to become administrators in order to move up.”

“The promotion track for professional academic advisors has been in place for many decades,” reportsMark Taylor, Director of Advising in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, where all advisors are hired as “Assistant Academic Advisors.” Advisors may move up to “Associate Academic Advisor” with years of experience in the position and a clear demonstration of meeting established criteria in the areas of excellence in direct academic advising, liaison and program development with other departments, and professional development and service. For promotion to “Senior Academic Advisor,” the advisor must have five years experience advising in the college and a total minimum of seven years advising experience along with “demonstrated effectiveness with a more expansive portfolio of responsibilities and further development of a broad skill set that includes leadership, reliability, autonomy, collaboration, flexibility, and adaptability.” Taylor adds that if leadership and professional development are criteria for promotion, we must remember to provide significant opportunities for these activities. At the University of Minnesota, advancement from “Assistant” to “Associate” and from “Associate” to “Senior” carries a $2500 salary increase.

Barbra Wallace, Director of the Undergraduate Academic Advising Center, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of California-Riverside, points to a collaborative effort at the request of both advisors and administrators in the recent establishment of career ladders. “Many advisors said they were unhappy with their lack of career progress and many of their supervisors or faculty indicated they were worried that good advisors had to leave advising to promote,” said Wallace. A task force worked from late 2004 until the first advisor was hired under the new classifications in March 2007. Their three levels are distinguished using minimum educational qualifications, professional development accomplishments, and responsibility levels. Wallace adds, “advisors now report that they have more support in their new positions, and the campus provides more resources for advisors since their positions have recently received a great deal of attention. The advisors also better understand the expectations and philosophy of advising and their role as professionals. Students comment that they better understand the advising structure and like the ‘one-stop-shop’ for all their academic advising concerns. They feel we are more responsive to their concerns and can see we have an entire team assisting them, with different talents and different levels of authority to act.”

Career ladders at the University of Louisville were ready for implementation in early 2008, but the program is currently on hold due to uncertainty with state budget cuts.Janet Spence, Executive Director, Undergraduate Advising Practice, University of Louisville, describes their three-level career ladder which “includes requirements for level of education, advising experience, and completion of the University of Louisville Master Advisor Certification program. In addition, the rank program recognizes and gives credit to advisors serving on and leading university-wide advising committees, research and publishing related to advising, and participation in on-going professional development.” At U of L, each advisor prepares a portfolio for review by the Advisor Rank Committee which makes promotion recommendations through the Associate Provost.

At the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Academic Advising Center at the University of Florida, beginning advisors are hired as “Assistant In Advising,” which are non-tenure-accruing, 12-month faculty lines. If they remain for five years and excel at advising, service to the campus community, and professional development (generally through involvement in NACADA), then they can be promoted to “Associate In Advising,” much like faculty. Another five years of excellence in all three areas leads to promotion to “Senior Associate In Advising.” Each promotion comes with a 9% raise in addition to any merit or across-the-board raises. Promotion requires the development of a portfolio demonstrating excellence in all three areas, and the portfolio includes a personal promotion statement, letters from outside UF and inside UF, as well as a Director's letter that ties everything together. The process parallels the teaching faculty’s promotion process, and advisors are judged by the Promotion and Tenure Committee of the College, the Dean, and ultimately the UF-wide Academic Personnel Board under the supervision of the Provost. This career ladder has been in place for roughly a dozen years (the third tier was added about five years ago), and has been very successful in rewarding deserving advisors. It has also encouraged many to stay in advising rather than leave for better pay elsewhere.

This article describes a few of the career ladder programs currently in existence. We hope that it spurs the development of a matrix of career ladders that are institutionally appropriate and compatible with the career paths for both faculty and professional academic advisors. In order to accomplish this goal, the Advising Administration Commission and the Professional Development Committee will work together, first, to survey a broad range of institutions to determine the nature of existing career ladders in academic advising. Based upon what is found, the end goal will be to develop model career ladders for each type of educational institution, e.g., large and small 2-year and 4-year public institutions, large and small private colleges and universities, and for faculty and professional academic advisors. The intent is to first document “best practices” in a variety of academic settings and then to refine and modify these to fit a variety of personnel contexts.

 If you receive a NACADA sponsored survey on this topic, please take time to thoughtfully complete it. It will make a difference as we proceed into this new, and critical, area for the professional development for academic advisors.

Cindy Iten
Director of Advising
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Kentucky
[email protected]

Albert Matheny
Director, Academic Advising Center
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
University of Florida
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Iten, C., & Matheny, A. (2008, September). Promoting academic advisors: Using a career ladder to foster professional development at your institution. Academic Advising Today, 31(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.