Qualifications of a Student Advisor

Student advisers offer much-needed academic guidance to youths.
Student advisers offer much-needed academic guidance to youths. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Student advisers, also known as academic advisers or education advisers (and sometimes spelled "advisors"), work closely with students at the high school and college level, helping individuals plan for their academic and professional future. Young adults face many challenges at this stage and need all the help they can get. Student advisers meet with their advisees to help them choose courses, develop good study habits, apply to schools, choose their major and handle academic issues. Student advisers must meet the education and background requirements for the job.

Formal Education

Most student advising positions require at least a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. Those interested in this career should major in a related subject such as counseling, psychology or education. Many student advisers are also teachers and possess a master’s degree in education or similar credential. Candidates should make sure to take classes in human growth and development, counseling, testing, statistics, group dynamics and psychology. College advising positions often require a Ph.D.

Skills and Personal Qualities

The job of a student adviser can be quite challenging, and candidates need to develop the right skills and personal qualities for the job. Outstanding communications skills, both oral and written, are essential, as student advisers spend so much of their time talking to students and writing evaluations on their progress. They must be able to relate to students of all different types of personalities and backgrounds, as well as their parents and teachers. These individuals should understand the challenges facing today’s youth and be sympathetic to the kinds of problems they may be dealing with in their social and academic life. Student advisers usually work with multiple students at a given time, so excellent organizational and planning skills are required.


Many student advisers choose to specialize in a specific area of advising, which can greatly improve employment opportunities. Areas of expertise include college admissions, learning disabilities, financial aid, student life and behavioral problems. Advisers may choose to work exclusively with young women or work with just the guys. Once a student adviser candidates chooses a specialty, he should focus his academic coursework and work experience on this area in order to build the necessary credentials.


Many schools, school districts and states require student advisers to become certified before they can work as full-time employees. Certification usually requires minimum educational credentials, relevant job experience and successful completion of a competency examination. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) offers useful information about certification, including which states require certification and how to obtain it (see Resources).

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