How Do I Become a University Dean?

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  • Written By: Barbara Bean-Mellinger
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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University deans are generally chosen from among the senior faculty of a university. The dean of a particular department is usually selected from senior faculty members within that department. A person who aspires to become a university dean typically needs to secure a position as faculty member at a university, which typically requires an advanced degree, such as a master's or PhD. Years of teaching, publishing papers in journals and getting involved in university administrative matters while working as a faculty member can help establish the solid reputation that is typically required to become a university dean.

Faculty members at colleges and universities usually have advanced degrees — at least a master’s degree and preferably a PhD. Someone who wants to become a university dean should plan to earn a bachelor’s degree with good grades to increase his chances of being accepted into a master’s degree program. He should earn his master’s degree in a field he would enjoy teaching. After earning his master’s degree, he might look for a faculty position at that time, and if he is chosen for one, stay in the job while also working toward his PhD. He may also go straight from earning his master’s degree to earning his PhD and then seek a faculty position.

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Someone who wants to become a university dean must do more than teach, however. He needs to progress within the ranks of the faculty by being involved in departmental matters, publishing writings of his own, and moving from assistant to associate to full professor. He should also seek to achieve tenure — job security that protects professors from being fired for expressing unpopular opinions or delving into unorthodox issues — and seek to be appointed to department head.

In addition, to become a university dean, a candidate should be a good administrator and be able to work well with many types of people. A university dean acts as a liaison between students and the administration as well as between the faculty and the administration, handling disagreements and facilitating smooth operations. He should also have business and financial acumen, as he will mostly likely need to manage a budget.

Sometimes a university will look for a top administrator who has demonstrated great skill running a business. Therefore, another way to become a university dean is to earn a Master in Business Administration (MBA), obtain a job in a business, and achieve consistent promotions to become a top executive at the level of vice president, president, or chief operating officer. The most common way to become a university dean, however, is through academia.

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