How to Become a College Dean: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


A college dean is a leader and manager at a college or institution of higher learning. Some deans run college faculties—such as law schools, business schools, or colleges of arts and sciences—while others work in administrative departments like student services or admissions. Deans administer programs, manage their school’s budget, and make recommendations on hiring, promotion, and tenure—critical areas for any educational institution. Deans are usually professors, so they’re experts in their own academic fields, as well as executives with the capacity to make tough decisions.


Annual salaries for college deans will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for postsecondary education administrators (including college deans) working in the U.S. was $100,600 per year. For those in colleges, universities and professional schools, the average salary was $105,000. And deans are relatively senior administrative positions, so they might well make more.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for college deans, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as a College Dean

California is the number one employer for postsecondary administrators nationwide. 13,160 administrators, many of whom are college deans, employed statewide. They make an average salary of $104,170. New York has the second most opportunities, with 9,560 employed in the area, earning an average yearly salary of $113,400.

The top 5 city areas that are employing postsecondary education administrators, including college deans, are:

  • New York-White Plains Metropolitan Area (5,780)
  • Boston-Cambridge Metropolitan Area (5,190)
  • Chicago-Joliet Metropolitan Area (5,070)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach Metropolitan Area (3,680)
  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria Metropolitan Area (3,040)

Employment and Salary Information for College Deans

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a college dean. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Why Become A College Dean?

It takes hard work and many years to become a dean, but the effort can be well worth it. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • The field is growing. The projected growth rate for college deans is 15% over the next decade—slightly faster than the average rate of jobs nationwide. Education in general is a growth industry.
  • Help people achieve their dreams. An educational institution helps people achieve the careers and goals they’re pursuing. Helping an institution run smoothly helps to make that happen.
  • Pays very well. The average pay for all college administrators is six figures—and deans are some of the most senior college administrators.
  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but deans are important people with important jobs.
  • Make big decisions. Who gets hired—and who doesn’t—is vital to a school’s reputation and future. Deans play a huge part in making a school a place where impressive academics want to work.

College Dean: What You Need To Know

Not many people become academics, and still fewer become college deans. Deans are academics, managers, and executive decision-makers all rolled into one. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Strong Academic Credentials
  • Strong Academic Expertise
  • Demonstrated Leadership and Executive Abilities
  • Organizational Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about careers, degrees, and courses relating to college deans from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Careers as a College Dean

Deans are generally chosen from experienced college faculty. Generally, that means a strong candidate will have a PhD in their chosen area, and have worked as a professor on a faculty for a number of years. There may be instances where an employer will consider someone who has received a Master’s degree.

Since the position requires those who have strong leadership and executive abilities, it’s also important to acquire administrative, organizational, and interpersonal skills while attending college or serving in a faculty position, so as to stand out from among other qualified candidates.