The path to becoming a Chief Admissions Officer -- and beyond

September 11, 2019
  • Admissions Operations Review
  • Admissions
  • SEM Conference
Over the last three years, AACRAO Research has published updated career profiles of three of the most common professions of our members -- Registrars (2018), Chief Enrollment Management Officers (CEMO) (2017), and Chief Admissions Officers (CAO) (2019).
Admissions Directors: High turnover
One of the most noteworthy findings in the 2019 study of CAOs, according to AACRAO Research Director Wendy Kilgore, PhD, is that admissions directorships tend to be a transient position.
“Unlike registrars, but similar to CEMOs, the data indicates that admissions directors don’t appear to stay in the position for very long,” Kilgore said. In addition, there is no apparent age group when most assume a CAO position.  That is, entry into the position occurs at many different points.
Anticipated demand
The transient nature of this position means there is a lot of opportunity for young professionals to grow into this role. 
“We anticipate over 2,000 CAO openings in the next three years,” Kilgore said. “Many people are trying to move out of these roles and do other things, such as move into CEMO positions.”
For those interested in stepping into these vacated roles, Kilgore said, AACRAO’s Core Competencies (for all higher education administrators) and Professional Proficiencies (specifically for Admissions professionals) clearly outline and define the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed as a CAO. 
To explore more about the responsibilities and characteristics of the position, check out the career profile, which was based on 435 reports from current CAOs.
Moving beyond CAO
According to the report, current CAOs interested in moving up are learning what kind of experience is needed to take that next step, Kilgore said.
“It’s important to have a broad experience outside of admission, to have knowledge in areas beyond recruitment and admissions operations,” she noted. (The report linked above also discusses career aspirations.)
Get deeper insight
You can hear the perspectives of experienced admissions officers, including their paths, lessons, and observations of the field -- as well as participate in an active Q&A -- in the session “So you want to be a Chief Admissions Officer…?” at this fall’s AACRAO SEM Conference. Kilgore and co-presenters Michele Sandlin (AACRAO Consulting), James Miller (University of Washington), and Tracey Jamison (University System of Maryland) will explore the details and implications of the Career Profile and much more.
Learn more about AACRAO SEM 2019, coming up this November in Dallas.
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