Not a professor? Not a problem: Eight Unexpected Careers in Higher Education

 Marketing Director   October 16, 2019  Career Advice

Working in higher education isn’t just for researchers and teachers. Higher education institutions employ health care workers, event planners, marketing staff, and trade professionals; there are a whole host of jobs in the sector that you may not have considered. Higher education careers offer job security, generous benefits, and work-life satisfaction—all in a mission-driven environment that supports professional development and career ascension.

Here’s a run-down of some higher education jobs you may not have considered:

  • Trade positions

With vast amounts of buildings and services to look after, trade positions are in high demand on college and university campuses. Many higher education organizations have permanent positions for electricians, maintenance staff, plumbers, and engineers, rather than relying on contractors.

  • Logistics staff

When you’re looking for a job organizing events, colleges and universities might not be the first places that come to mind, but campuses put on an endless array of events that need planning and coordinating. Colleges and universities host alumni/ae reunions, prospective student weekends, and elegant fundraising events. Higher ed offers a regular cycle of events throughout the academic year.

  • Health and Wellness Center Staff

Many higher education institutions have wellness centers, which support the mental, physical and emotional health of students. Typical roles in this area may include Wellness Center Managers, counselors, therapists, nutritionists, and the associated administration.

  • IT Support

Every organization needs IT support, and higher education institutions are no exception. Working in IT within higher education, you’ll usually be part of a small, nimble team. As an IT expert, you’ll experience autonomy and the opportunity to lend your expertise to numerous departments.

  • Security Guard

How many people study and work at higher education institutions? Thousands, and that isn’t even counting all the visitors to campus. Campus security guards consider the safety and protection of people and property on a large scale. Security guards are a key part of the college and university ecosystem, from providing event support to responding to student emergencies. The number of security roles varies depending on campus size; small liberal arts colleges may hire only a few guards, while state universities may employ full police forces.

  • Designer

As a designer at a college or university, you may work on admissions materials, brand redesign, website development, alumni/ae association emails, or motion graphics. Careers in higher education are perfect if you prefer a steady, benefited job to freelance work.

  • Community Service Coordinator

Share your passion for giving back with students! Colleges and universities often hire staff to facilitate service learning opportunities for students, simultaneously connecting nonprofit organizations with enthusiastic volunteers and enabling students to learn more about the local community. Community Service Coordinators manage community service fairs, log students’ volunteer hours, scope out internship opportunities, and schedule “alternate” service-based spring breaks. If you’re a detail-oriented networker dedicated to the greater good, consider this career path.

  • Diversity and Inclusion Positions

Many colleges and universities rightly prioritize creating an equitable, inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. Diversity and Inclusion Officers identify and implement inclusive workforce recruitment strategies, as well as provide cultural competency trainings for faculty and staff.

If you’d prefer to work closely with students, you can apply your passion for equity to roles like Director of Multicultural Education. Consider serving as an advisor to student clubs representing students with disabilities, and Black, Latino/a/x, LGBTQ+, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Native American, or international students.


With so many diverse positions, higher education is certainly not just for academics. In fact, higher education can be a great place for almost any role. Be sure to explore HERC’s 40,000+ open positions in higher education and related institutions!

About the Author: Nikki Vivian is a Career Coach and owner of From Kids to Career, which was set up to support women who are returning to a career, or looking to move in a new direction after taking time out to raise a family. Nikki works with Mums to find their true passions and to re-build confidence that can be lost after a break from the workplace. She believes passionately that being a parent does not put you at the bottom of the pile when it comes to your career. Nikki owns CV writing company Confident CV and has 8 years’ experience working in Careers for Cardiff University.