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What Does a Residential Advisor Do?

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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 July 2014
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A residential advisor, or RA, is a staff member at a residential facility and carries out a variety of duties, depending on the type of residence. RAs are most commonly found in college residence halls, fraternity or sorority houses, and private boarding schools. A residential advisor can also work in a rehabilitation facility, such as a children's home or a substance abuse and mental health center, where he or she is sometimes called a resident assistant. There, he or she might work directly with the residents as well as with other staff members and family members when necessary. RA duties often vary, and they can range from managing the day-to-day operations of a residence to dealing with specific types of crises.

In a university or college setting, a residential advisor is usually a current student as well. There might be several RAs in a large college residence hall, and they are typically assigned to one or two floors each. In contrast, a smaller residence, such as a fraternity house or boarding school dormitory, might have one RA for the whole building.

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Regardless of the location, most residential advisors have similar duties. A RA is often responsible for maintaining the premises, for instance. He or she might accomplish this by coordinating cleaning routines with the housekeeping staff and scheduling repairs with outside contractors. He or she might handle incoming and outgoing mail and deliveries as well. Often, RA requirements also include ensuring the security of the building and the safety of its residents.

Additional residential advisor duties might include assigning students to rooms and enforcing housing policies. He or she might explain the rules of the residence and take any required disciplinary action when rules are broken. RAs regularly communicate with the residents as well, sometimes providing advice regarding issues with academics, student social life, community involvement, or dealing with emotions. They might also refer students to support services, and they are often asked to mediate conflicts between residents. In some cases, they might be required to handle medical emergencies and should be prepared to administer first aid.

In rehabilitation programs and similar facilities, a residential advisor often offers unique services to patients. In these environments, the RA typically plays a more direct role in the residents' lives. He or she might provide more individualized attention to the residents, overseeing their daily routines or supervising them more closely than in an academic setting. Some other common residential advisor responsibilities might include transporting residents to appointments and chaperoning trips.

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