Academic Advising Resources


Who Advises?

Implications for practice based upon answers to the 2011 National Survey of Academic Advising

Casey Self

As higher education institutions focus on increased retention and graduation rates, the current economic climate adds pressure to college students who need to complete degrees quickly—perhaps even faster than commonly accomplished through 2- and 4-year plans.  Therefore, college and university administrators continuously consider various impacts of student support systems, including analysis on the personnel who provide academic advising. Many factors influence the choice of individuals who provide academic advising at each campus, such as the mission of the institution, size of campus, public or private status, student demographics, and staff budgets.

Results from the 2011 NACADA National Survey confirm that full-time professional and faculty advisors continue to be the most frequently utilized advising personnel, and well over one half of respondents indicated the use of both at their institutions. Evidence shows that adjunct (part-time) advisors, peer and graduate students, and support staff provide academic advising; however, not in high numbers.  Small and private campuses report employing more faculty advisors than large, public institutions where more professional advisors are hired.

According to 63% of respondents, personnel in a variety of campus positions, including those whose primary role is neither teaching nor advising, provide academic advising assistance.  Some institutions may be promoting an all-hands-on-deck approach as budgets tighten and the emphasis on raising retention and graduation rates increases.  Those at institutions that actively promote academic advising as part of the teaching and learning mission and overall student success efforts, and not simply as a part of course registration, may take this all-in approach more frequently than those who espouse other views of advising.

The issue of mandated academic advising, including questions about whether advising should be required for all students or only specific cohorts, creates a common discussion point at all institutions.  The strategy of ensuring compliance usually involves limiting student access to required processes or procedures, including registration for future semesters, until they meet with an advisor.   Survey data indicate that more faculty advisors work in all-encompassing mandatory advising systems than do professional advisors; however, more professional advisors work with students specifically selected for mandatory advising.   This finding may suggest that small, private institutions implement a more rigorously mandated advising policy for all students, and large schools may promote it for specific student groups.  As seen overall, multiple individuals in various roles appear to play a part in assisting with mandatory advising. 

Implications of Advisor Types

Faculty Advisors

Since the birth of higher education, faculty members have provided academic advising for students (Beatty, 1991/2009; Cook, 2009; Thelin & Hirschy, 2009).  In addition to providing classroom instruction and research, faculty members continue to play a major role in academic advising for students, and for their contributions to be effective, leadership must consider their teaching load, advising case numbers, and typical responsibilities, as based on historical and contractual obligations, and individual interest or desire to advise undergraduates. Teaching and research expectations for the faculty may be overwhelming, especially for the promotion and tenure process.  If not included in the overall process of evaluation nor as a consideration for promotion and tenure, advising responsibilities will not be a high priority for faculty members.

Those on the faculty with the time and support to understand their discipline and institution-wide curricula as well as serve as strong referral agents to key on-campus resources make effective academic advisors. They must commit to keeping up with the technology utilized to enhance the overall academic-advising experience.  Many small and private institutions have successfully maintained the role of faculty advising by offering relevant support and training.

Professional Academic Advisors  

According to the 2011 NACADA National Survey, large institutions utilize professional academic advising to replace or supplement faculty advising models. Professional advisors devote the majority of their workday to meeting directly with students to address academic curriculum requirements, college policies and procedures, and general student development and success issues.  Looking at data from The Findings from ACT’s Sixth National Survey (Habley, 2004) and the current survey, one sees a trend of institutions increasingly using professional advisors to meet student needs.

Administrators in charge of advising should ask themselves, “Who will be more proactive and intentional in addressing student issues and challenges?” For a variety of reasons, the answer may be “professional advisors.”   When institution priorities change, professional advisors may adapt quicker than faculty members to address transitional issues.  Professional advisors may also be best prepared to handle questions about the institution-wide curriculum as well as maintain updated knowledge about student resources across campus.  In addition, professional advisors typically handle academic discussions with parents and family members.

Faculty members may be better than professional advisors at addressing specific career-related questions from students and offering insight on specific course content related to an academic program. However, with increasing attention on career advising and the number of liaisons with academic departments and campus career services, professional advisors should be able to address students’ career-related questions.

Peer, Graduate Student, and Paraprofessional Advisors

 According to survey data, more peer, graduate student, and paraprofessional advisors work at large institutions than at small ones.   Typically considered effective as a supplement to professional or faculty advisor programs, staff roles vary among campuses. In general, with procedures not protected by the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act (Department of Education, n.d.), students offer efficient and cost-effective assistance, and in my experience, advisees typically express strong satisfaction with peer advising support.

Peer and graduate student advising support must be developed through strong training programs and monitored carefully through consistent supervision. Regardless of the scope of their responsibilities, student employees represent the advising unit just as much as full-time employees, so care must be taken to ensure accountability and accuracy.

Part-Time Advisors

Although not universally utilized, part-time faculty and professional advisors tend to work in large and 2-year institutions.  Where hired (respondents from some types of institutions reported that they only hired full-time advisors), part-time advisors typically offer assistance during peak periods such as summer orientation or course registration, but others maintain general advising efforts.

Challenges with employing part-time advisors, especially those hired for the busy seasons, include training. Also part-time advisors may be unable to promote the relationship between the advisor-advisee, which may create dissatisfaction, especially for students who prefer working with the same academic advisor throughout all the phases of their education.

Multiple Role Advisors        

Many individuals whose primary roles are neither faculty members nor advisors fulfill academic advising roles. While the reasons for employing nonprofessional or nonfaculty advisors vary across institutions, administrators creating and evaluating campus advising programs need to recognize their value.  The use of diverse individuals to assist students with academic success initiatives may constitute a positive strategy if these facilitators receive the proper support and training.  A collaborative approach across campus must still be coordinated and monitored to ensure students attain the assistance needed to be successful. 

Use of Technology

Strong academic advising programs in the 21st century must include the support of technological resources accessible to both advisors and students.   College students should expect technology to be a part of the resources and services they will receive.   Academic advisors must utilize current technology to support and enhance individual relationship with students.   Common technology resources include student information systems, degree audit programs, online learning environments, and student-accessible web portals to institutional resources (see Chapter 15).  

Academic Advising Training and Professional Development

Regardless of the persons who provide academic advising at any institution, the success or failure of efforts depends upon a strong training and professional development program.   According to Habley (1986), anyone assisting students with academic curricula, course registration, relationship building, and general or specific student success services must receive continuous support in the form of training and development. Habley specifically identified the following key aspects that characterize successful training and development initiatives:  informational (knowledge of curricula, policies, procedures, resources, etc.); relational (listening skills, communication competencies, knowledge of generational issues, etc.); and conceptual (mission, articulated goals, common general understanding of the academic advising process, etc.).  More recently, McClellan (2007) suggested that technology and personal components receive critical attention as components of successful advising.

Faculty members, professional advisors, undergraduate or graduate students, paraprofessionals, and any other individual who fulfills advising and student success goals must understand their responsibility to the institution.  Therefore, individuals responsible for training and development programs must have the authority and the resources to ensure consistency and accountability for anyone who serves in an academic advising role. 


Academic advising is a critical component for supporting student success on college campuses.  Each institution must determine who advises, and how effective these advisors might be, for meeting specific goals and outcomes at that institution.   Data provided in this survey may be a considerable help in determining the best course of action for each institution.  Administrators contemplating advising personnel decisions may wish to consider the following questions:

  1. Does the institutional mission or vision indicate who should provide advising at the institution?
  2. Do faculty members have time for an academic advising load?  Do they want to provide advising in addition to their other faculty responsibilities?
  3. What benefits and challenges characterize the current advising model?
  4.  If changes are desired, what type of academic advisor would best meet the specific needs for identified student populations?  Who desires these changes and why?
  5. Should academic advising be centralized or decentralized?   Should each academic unit employ its own academic advisors?
  6. Do peer or graduate student advisors have a role at the institution?
  7. Who provides academic advising for exploratory/undeclared students?  Are the specific needs of exploratory/undeclared students being met in the current model?
  8. Have students been asked:
  • “Do you know your academic advisor?”
  • “How has academic advising affected your academic success?”
  • “What have you learned from your academic advisor since beginning college?”
  • “What makes a person a good academic advisor?”

Access data tables from this survey



Beatty, J. D. (2009). 1991: The National Academic Advising Association: A brief narrative history. NACADA Journal, 29(1), 68–77. (Original work published in 1991)

Cook, S. (2009). Important events in the develop­ment of academic advising in the United States. NACADA Journal, 29(2), 18–40.

Davis, K. J. (2003). Advisor training and development workshops. In Advisor training: Exemplary practices in the development of advisor skills. (Monograph No. 9) (pp. 13–16). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Habley, W. R. (1986). Advisor training: Whatever happened to instructional design? ACT workshop presentation. Iowa City, IA: ACT.

Habley, W.R. (2004). The status of academic advising: Findings from the ACT Sixth National Survey (Monograph No. 10). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

King, M. C. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In V. N. Gordon & W. R. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 289–297). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McClellan, J. L. (2007). Content components for advisor training: Revisited. Retrieved from

Thelin, J. R., & Hirschy, A. S. (2009). College students and the curriculum: The fantastic voyage of higher education, 1636 to the present. NACADA Journal, 29(2), 9–17.

U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act. Retrieved from

Cite this resource using APA style as:

Self, C. (2013). Implications of advising personnel of undergraduates 2011 National Survey.  Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web Site:

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