Chief Academic Officer Job Description and SalaryChief Academic Officer Job Description and SalaryChief Academic Officer Job Description and Salary

Every year, universities and colleges provide students educational opportunities that allow them to develop knowledge, cultivate skills, and grow as people. At the same time, these schools have to devise strategies to operate efficiently to continue offering these opportunities. This dual role underscores the importance of effective leadership at academic institutions.

Strong leaders can help a school or university navigate the educational and noneducational hurdles that can interfere with these goals, such as decreasing student enrollment, bias in the recruitment process and on-campus experience, and financial insolvency.

The chief academic officer oversees a school’s or university’s educational program, including working to recruit students and provide the best academic experience possible, while meeting long-term financial goals. The role can offer tremendous satisfaction and a competitive salary, but it also requires a refined skill set. Individuals pursuing the role of chief academic officer can benefit from earning an advanced degree such as a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Higher Education Leadership.

A chief academic officer meets with a student.

Chief academic officer job description

Those in chief academic officer roles develop curricula, set academic standards, and work with faculty to ensure these standards are met. They also help design ways to engage students in and out of the classroom. Additionally, they ensure that their academic strategies comply with federal and state regulations. The scope of these duties may differ depending on whether those in chief academic officer roles work in universities, junior colleges, or primary and secondary education. In a local school district, for example, they may develop strategies that improve educational equity and graduation rates.

In addition to overseeing an institution’s academics, a chief academic officer may be involved in financial and administrative roles. These duties can include setting budgets, establishing long-term performance goals, and developing talent.

A chief academic officer’s duties center on providing students with an optimal experience. They can not only impact students already on campus but also help attract future students. Ultimately, their work can help a school or university provide a high-quality, equitable, valuable learning experience, ready to help shape the minds of students eager to follow their career dreams.

Chief academic officer salary

According to, the median annual salary for chief academic officers was approximately $136,000 as of June 2021. The salary can increase with experience: reports that those with 10 to 19 years of experience earned a median annual salary of approximately $145,000 during the same period.

Another factor that can influence salary is education level. Those with a terminal degree, such as a doctorate degree in education, may earn more than someone with a master’s. Location and setting can also play a role: Those who work in large institutions or in cities with a high cost of living may receive higher salaries than those in smaller institutions or in locations with a lower cost of living.

The skills of a chief academic officer

An effective chief academic officer needs to possess strong leadership skills. These skills help an individual provide decisive guidance to faculty and other academic department leaders. This guidance can ultimately lead to an institution’s ability to help students succeed.

Strong analytical skills are also fundamental. Chief academic officers need to monitor how cultural and socioeconomic changes may impact the academic process and develop effective student recruitment and retainment strategies in response.

Other essential skills include strong math skills, as academic officers often play a role in finance and budgeting. Interpersonal and communication skills are crucial to their close work with faculty and staff. Attention to detail is another valuable skill.

Aspiring chief academic officers can develop these competencies through advanced education. While a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for the role, a terminal degree, such as an EdD, can help students gain a higher level of expertise and make them more appealing to employers.

Lead others to a bright future

Effective academic leadership helps students achieve their dreams and can help an institution deliver a consistent, well-rounded college experience. Chief academic officers play a key role in meeting both of those goals and can be instrumental in shaping the next generation’s minds every year.

Maryville University’s online EdD in Higher Education Leadership program can help prepare you to be an academic leader who makes a difference. Courses on fundamental education concepts and theories, such as organized leadership and building the college experience, offer you the opportunity to build the expertise to lead others at the highest level and have a profound impact on students’ lives. Learn how Maryville can help prepare you to make a difference in the world of academics.

Recommended Reading

Empowering Women in Higher Education Leadership

Expanding Educational Horizons: Why Get a Graduate in Education?

Provost vs. Dean: Differentiating Two Key Higher Education Roles


American Association of School Association, “Chief Academic Officers”

Inside Higher Ed, “Confronting Racism in Admissions”

Inside Higher Ed, “Needed: Leadership Training for Faculty and Academic Staff”

Investopedia, “Solvency”, “Average Chief Academic Officer Salary”

Savannah Exploratory Charter Academy, “Chief Academic Officer for Savannah Exploratory Charter Academy”

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.