Financial aid counselors — sometimes called financial aid officers — assist students and their families in navigating the labyrinth of financial aid programs, scholarships and grants available for entering college students. They help determine eligibility for particular programs, such as Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. Aid may come in the form of outright scholarships or grant awards, or through loan programs. Financial aid counselors help people find the best-suited programs and help them complete the proper paperwork.
Education & Training
No formal degree, certification or license is required to become a financial aid counselor or officer, but many counselors do have college degrees, usually associate degrees or bachelor’s degrees. Experience in the student aid process is extremely helpful, and many college graduates have such experience. Many financial aid counselors begin their careers in lesser positions within a school’s financial aid office, acquiring knowledge and experience before moving into a financial adviser position. The acquisition of a college degree while performing financial aid counselor duties can increase success rates when searching for similar jobs at other institutions.
National Salary Averages
At the time of publication, Salary.com reports a median national salary of $37,499 for financial aid counselors at institutions of higher education. The 25th to 75 percentile salary range is $33,102 to $42,884, with a bottom 10th percentile salary of $29,100 and an upper-end figure of $47,786. CB Salary reports a much higher average figure of $51,369. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes financial aid counselors within its data for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors, placing the median salary for these professionals at $53,380, with an average hourly wage of $26.91.
The median salary for financial aid counselors in Los Angeles is $41,174, with a middle 50th percentile range of $36,346 to $47,086 a year, according to Salary.com. In New York City, the median salary is $44,511, with a low-end 10th percentile salary of $34,541 and a top 10th percentile figure of $56,723. The middle 50th percentile salary range is $39,292 to $50,903. In Macon, Georgia, the median salary is $35,324, with a middle 50th percentile range of $31,182 to $40,396 a year. The bottom 10th percentile salary is $27,412 and the top 10th percentile figure is $45,015. A financial aid advisor III at Texas A & M University makes a low-end salary of $42,024, a high-end salary of $50,000 and a median salary of $47,255.
The type of college or university at which a financial aid counselor works affects salary level. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, counselors at schools offering doctorates make a median wage of $38,521 a year, those at master’s-awarding schools earn $36,952 annually, baccalaureate colleges pay $34,724 per year and community and junior colleges pay a median salary of $39,746. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, for educational, vocational and school counselors at the colleges, universities and vocational schools, the median salary is $43,980, trailing education counselors at elementary and high schools — $57,800 — and those at junior colleges, who make a median salary of $50,440.
Financial Aid Director
Financial aid directors obviously make much more than counselors, being administrators and usually possessing bachelor’s or master’s degrees. According to Salary.com, financial aid directors earn a median salary of $74,787, with a middle 50th percentile salary range of $61,467 to $89,834. Associate financial aid directors make a median salary of $54,362, with a bottom 10th percentile salary of $37,775 and a top-end wage of $73,935 a year.