How do I Become a Bursar?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2019
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A bursar is considered the equivalent of a financial administrator or business manager for an educational institution. Generally, the title is reserved for those who become a bursar with a university or undergraduate college. However, the position also exists in other types of schools, even if it’s known by another designation. Traditionally, the primary role of this position is to oversee the billing and collection of student tuition and related fees, as well as financial considerations associated with scholarships and grants. The title itself is appropriately named since it is taken from the latin, bursa, which translates to mean “purse.”

The specific duties performed by a bursar vary with each school or university, depending on the needs of its student population and the surrounding community. However, many administrators find that their role expands beyond tuition collection to strategic financial planning and resource allocation when they become a bursar. For example, some schools turn to the bursar for advisement on current and future charitable status, as well as policymaking regarding fundraising projects. Other bursars play a role in how financial resources are distributed among faculty, administration, human resources, and other internal departments. Finally, some bursars are involved in addressing environmental and safety risks that may result in an increased legal and financial liability for the school.


Generally speaking, one does not scan the classified ads of a newspaper in order to become a bursar. In fact, the position is usually placed in the hands of a recruiter, is published in the board’s meeting minutes, or posted publicly in some manner. In addition, the position is often offered to an individual as a second career following another in academics or business management. Finally, sometimes candidates with a similar background are cultivated from the private sector or from state agencies.

Whether motivated by invitation or application, there are certain basic requirements to satisfy in order to qualify to become a bursar. Successful candidates should have an extensive background in strategic financial planning or senior business management in a high-level industry, such as banking, hospital administration, or the military. Of course, preference is usually given to those who also have experience in school administration or education in general. In addition, holding a minimum of a bachelor's degree is anticipated.

In most parts of the world, including the U.S., there is little available in terms of formal training to become a bursar. In England, however, the position of bursar is held up to the highest of standards and preparation for the role is taken very seriously indeed. In fact, The Independent Schools' Bursars Association (ISBA) provides specific training for those seeking to become a bursar in the UK, as well as continued support services thereafter.


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