How Do I Become a College Chancellor?

Gregory Hanson
Gregory Hanson
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Any candidate seeking to become a college chancellor must have a very strong resume, as this position is one of great power and responsibility. Most college chancellors are highly educated, typically holding a Ph.D. or equivalent terminal degree. A great deal of relevant experience, most often in university administration, is also required. Personal characteristics are also important, and a successful candidate for this position must have excellent management abilities and communication skills as well as an ability to foster and maintain useful personal connections.

Educational attainment is essential for anyone looking to become a college chancellor. Chancellors directly contribute to discussions on the overall academic direction to be pursued by a university. Strong academic credentials are essential for this aspect of their work. A terminal degree is almost always required, and a strong history of academic achievement and peer recognition is also very helpful. In some cases, other relevant experience may substitute for formal educational training, but these cases involve rare and exceptional individuals.

The position of college chancellor is a very senior one, with many responsibilities. Experience in college administration is therefore crucial preparation to become a college chancellor, and colleges typically prefer candidates with a career history of increasing administrative responsibility. Classroom experience is also generally helpful. Training and experience in specific fields relevant to a given college can also be helpful. Schools with a history of working closely with the armed forces, for example, may prefer candidates who have experience working with the military or in military contracting.

Some colleges have additional layers of administration and employ assistant chancellors who report to the chancellor proper. These positions typically focus on one or more aspect of the work usually done by a chancellor. As such, someone seeking to become a college chancellor might gain extremely valuable experience by working in such a position.

This position involves a great deal of personal responsibility, and schools carefully evaluate the personal characteristics of candidates trying to become a college chancellor. The ability to work effectively under pressure is very important for chancellors. Leadership and negotiation skills are helpful, as chancellors often handle labor and contract issues.

College chancellors also serve as a prominent public face of a college. For example, they often take responsibility for maintaining relationships with major donors and political leaders. An established network of such personal connections is a useful asset for a candidate attempting to become a college chancellor.

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