Career paths in International Education are as varied and convoluted as the options for studying abroad, which for many, is what got them interested in the field in the first place. The best way to find the right job is to work backwards. You need to find the “X” on the map before you can determine a path to get there.
“X” Marks the Spot
A popular way to separate career paths in International Education is what is known as the “Knowledge Communities” that have been established by NAFSA. They provide a common meeting ground for the different areas and aspects of each. Many jobs within International Education are overlooked. People hear the word “international” and think only of glamorous positions across the sea, but there is much, much more. Some work with students coming to the U.S., others develop marketing plans for programs, and some lead research.
How To Go Backwards … In A Good Way
Familiarizing yourself with these different categories will allow you to see what they each entail and ultimately your “X.” The “X” in this case is that perfect position and people that have held it. This way you can see what they did to get there and even reach out to them for mentorship. Once you have established where your treasure lies, you can find articles, job openings, webinars, and everything else that can help you reach the biggest treasure of all – hearing the words, “You’re hired!”
1. Education Abroad
These positions are directly related to higher ed institutions. People are based in study abroad offices, international relation offices, and they are typically master networkers and communicators.
Examples of Positions: University Relation Officers, Study Abroad Advisors, Outreach and Marketing, and Road Warriors.
What They Do: Many positions deal with the success and development of programs. They might manage a sales team and will work closely with many different program providers. As a Study Abroad Advisor you will help students decide which program is right for them and work out logistics such as living arrangements and transferring credits. One particularly interesting position is the traveling representative often referred to as a “Road Warrior.” These people spend an amazing amount of time on the road especially in the spring and fall during study abroad fair season. They represent their organization by tabling at fairs, talking to students, meeting with study abroad offices, and dispersing materials.
2. International Education Leadership
This knowledge community and set of positions overlaps a lot with the above category, but is more of a specialized, upper tier version. These positions typically come later after you have years of experience under your belt and have created some sort of niche of knowledge.
Examples of Positions: Academic Director, Director for International Education, and Assistant Director of International Student services.
What They Do: The are the “big picture” people. They create and advance strategic plans for entire universities or organizations. They have many responsibilities that are similar to an office manager in terms of overseeing the staff and bureaucratic aspects of an office. They need to have an extremely wide range of knowledge on everything from SEVIS laws (the database that tracks and manages international students studying in the U.S.) to human resources and budgeting.
3. International Enrollment Management
Are you known for excellent attention to detail? Are you the person who crosses every “t” and dots every “i”? If so this is the area for you. The is the silent giant of International Education. The requirements for studying and living abroad are fluid and detailed. To be an expert is a bit allusive since a main component of positions is constantly learning and staying up on any changes.
Examples of Positions: Recruiters, Admissions, Enrollment Managers, SEVIS Administrators.
What They Do: These positions make sure everything goes through and actually happens. They are the people that know exactly what paperwork is needed, who needs it, and when. They may be a little behind the scenes, but their knowledge is extensive and ever changing.
4. International Student and Scholar Services
This area is the mirror of knowledge community #1: Education Abroad. They too are based out of higher education institutions and work directly with students, but it is all the students coming here to the United States, rather than those trying to leave.
Examples of Positions: International student advisors, Scholar and research advisors, Academic Directors, Counselors, International Student Programming.
What They Do: These positions prepare international students for the admissions process and help them be successful abroad. These positions focus around the idea of support. They may help students take initial tests that are needed (ACTs, English Proficiency, etc.), or help students understand the curriculum and expectations at their new university. They will work closely with international students from before the arrive to after they go home.
5. Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship
This might be the most straightforward of them all in terms of understanding what the community involves, but it is also very broad. This area typically focuses on research and facilitating the transfer of knowledge whether it’s from a teacher to a student, a student to research director, or a researcher to another researcher.
Examples of Positions: Program Leaders, Cross-Cultural Counselors, Researchers, Intercultural Trainers, and Teachers.
What They Do? This community focuses on the education and research behind it all. They may work as teachers, developing curriculum, or in research. They often times provide the backbone for policies and updates in the field. They even help us all get along in terms of cross-cultural training and understanding.
What Does It All Mean?
Some of the borders between these knowledge communities can seem unclear and the types of positions overlap, but knowing the basic foundation between each is vital. They are the basis for exploration and provide easy ways to get involved. Making it to your “X” may take years or it could be right around the corner, but you should start the journey right away.
Annie is originally from Nebraska and graduated with a BA in Mass Media Communications and a minor in Graphic Design from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She spent her last semester abroad in Lima, Perú fueled by a desire to learn Spanish and experience the culture of South America. She has dreamed of traveling for as long as she can remember, saving by putting dollar bills in a shoebox as a child. After graduation, she worked as a newspaper reporter and in bilingual customer service before finding her ideal position as a Content Manager with GoAbroad.