How to Become an Admissions DirectorHow to Become an Admissions DirectorHow to Become an Admissions Director

Universities and colleges are complex organizations in need of qualified and knowledgeable education professionals who can adapt to the many changes these institutions face year after year. Admissions directors are responsible for leading a team of admissions officers in recruiting and enrolling students who are talented and driven to graduate.

An admissions director meets with a college student, pointing to a computer screen

There are specific requirements necessary to become an admissions director, and while this overview highlights the typical steps needed for attaining this position, there may be additional training, education, certification, or experience required, depending upon the employer, organization, or nature of the position.

What Does an Admissions Director Do?

Admissions directors are responsible for supervising the application and enrollment processes for prospective students at universities, colleges, and other postsecondary institutions. Their responsibilities are far more detailed than simply reading through college applications. They play an intricate part in promoting and marketing their schools and carefully choosing prospective students they believe align with the values and goals of their institutions.

One of the primary duties of the admissions director is to determine the number of new students the school will be able to enroll in the coming year. The director bases this admissions number on the current state of the student body, including the number of students who are expected to graduate, transfer, or leave for other reasons.

The admissions director must also define the target students for each admission period. Target students are often students admissions directors believe will be most likely to earn a diploma. There are other considerations that they keep in mind when deciding which types of students will be the target of recruitment efforts, such as out-of-state, transfer, and international students; minority students; veterans and active-duty military; students with merit scholarships; and those paying full tuition.

The admissions director works with the school’s marketing department to develop and implement marketing strategies for reaching prospective students. Keeping in mind the core values and beliefs of their schools, admissions directors strive to create engaging branding to attract and recruit their target students. Much of their advertising consists of direct mail, email, and school website content.

As part of their marketing efforts, admissions directors may reach out locally to high schools and communities to promote their schools and programs. To do this, they may meet in person with potential students and their families; give tours of their campuses; and foster relationships with local businesses and institutions, such as libraries, government agencies, and hospitals, as they may be instrumental in attracting future students. Admissions directors may also take advantage of online marketing opportunities by targeting potential students’ digital footprints and online searches.

Admissions directors manage the application process with the admissions team. They oversee and coordinate application examinations and interviews with prospective students. They evaluate the completed applications and make the final decision in admitting students. This position also administers or participates in the administration of scholarships, financial aid, grants, and work study programs.

Steps to Become an Admissions Director

If you have an interest in pursuing an influential administrative role at a college or university, exploring how to become an admissions director could be the first step toward a gratifying career. A combination of the right education and experience can lead to success in higher education leadership.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Colleges and universities require candidates seeking admissions director roles to have at least a bachelor’s degree, although most institutions require advanced degrees. Undergraduate areas of study might include business, accounting, marketing, social sciences, and a broad range of other disciplines.

Step 2: Earn an Advanced Degree in Education

Aspiring admissions directors typically must hold at least a master’s degree in education or a related field to qualify for employment at most universities and colleges. Earning a more advanced degree, such as an online Doctor of Education, may assist professionals in developing a deeper understanding of the critical issues that impact universities and colleges. It may also help them build the exceptional leadership skills they need to manage the admissions of a major institution.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Becoming an admissions director may also require experience in an administrative role at a postsecondary institution. Education professionals may begin the path to this career in an entry-level role, either as part of the admissions department or in another area of academic administration. This experience may help professionals gain knowledge of the specific strategies admissions directors use to market their schools, recruit new students, and reach the goals set for their institutions.

Step 4: Acquire Key Skills

Admissions directors need a strong set of leadership, marketing, and communication skills to be successful in their field. As the head of the admissions department, they must be able to motivate their team members, set goals and assign duties, and develop and implement complex strategies for reaching their objectives. A thorough understanding of marketing techniques is required for creating branding and advertising campaigns. They must then communicate the brand image to prospective students in an attractive way so that students choose to apply to their schools.

There are many marketing opportunities for universities and colleges online. Some institutions are even using big data to track the preferences and habits of potential students. This means that technical, internet, and social media skills are becoming requisite for admissions directors. Since admissions directors meet with students and their parents to give tours and promote their institutions, they also need strong interpersonal skills.

Admissions Director Salaries

Admissions directors who work at colleges and universities earn an average annual salary of $67,164, according to a February 2019 report from PayScale. Admissions director salaries can vary based on the professional’s level of education and experience, as well as the particular position and institution.

Employment Outlook for Admissions Directors

As students continue to apply to colleges and universities in the U.S., and as the use of social media, big data, and technology becomes more prevalent in  recruitment efforts, more qualified admissions directors will be needed to handle the influx of applications and the complex marketing strategies of institutions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, education administrators employed in postsecondary education institutions are projected to see a 10 percent growth in job opportunities from 2016 to 2026.

Learn More About Careers in Higher Ed

What admissions directors do is essential to the continued success and profitability of their academic institutions. With increased enrollment and advances in recruitment technology, this position holds many interesting possibilities for professionals who are up to the challenge. Learn more about Maryville University’s online Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership and discover the opportunities for education professionals with the skills to lead their universities to success.


The Atlantic, “How Colleges Use Big Data to Target the Students They Want”

Inside Higher Ed, “The 2017 Survey of Admissions Directors: Pressure All Around”

Maryville University, Careers in Higher Education

Maryville University, Online Doctor of Education – Higher Education Leadership

National Association for College Admission Counseling, “Career Paths for Admission Officers: A Survey Report”

PayScale, Admissions Director (College/University) Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators

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