How Do I Become a University Chancellor?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

University chancellors act as chief executives of an individual campus or university system and need a broad set of skills in addition to experience in the educational field. The path to this career can be highly variable, as the selection process is not consistent between educational institutions and neither are the requirements for the job. Generally, a person who wants to become a university chancellor should plan on getting a PhD in education or a related field, along with acquiring business skills, possibly through a master's in business administration (MBA) program.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Universities select chancellors in a number of ways. Some hold elections where members of a board or organization decide who should become a university chancellor. Candidates for the election may nominate themselves and usually need to maintain campaigns to win votes. Other universities use a search and hiring committee to identify candidates and hire them, or may openly advertise the position and select from among the applicants.

As a chief executive officer, the university chancellor needs business and fund-raising skills. While day-to-day operations are the responsibility of other university officers, a person who wants to become a university chancellor does need to know how to read and formulate budgets and financial reports. He also needs experience in the education field; many chancellors are former professors, while others may have more administrative experience through other positions in the chancellor's office.

Personal integrity and a good record in the community can also be important. A person who wants to become a university chancellor will be the public face of the university in interactions with the community. Public outreach can include everything from resolving conflicts between town and gown to working on community education programs. Universities tend to prefer candidates with excellent recommendations and a record of community service and active involvement in their communities. A very well qualified candidate may be a poor choice if she appears reclusive or brusque, so it is important to cultivate people skills.

A candidate who wants to become a university chancellor may want to consider jobs not just in education, but also in the business world. Some universities hire from outside the educational community to get executives with broader perspectives and experiences. Some are former chief executive officers for large corporations who may seek or be offered chancellorships in association with their interest in education and community service. For people who are not working in education, it can be advisable to keep track of events in college and university systems through conferences, magazines, and other publications.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have a PhD degree in Earth Science, and doing research at a University. However, one of my relatives from overseas wants me to take in charge of building a medical-related college in Australia.

Where should I start? Should I go get another PHD of education and MBA according this Article?

Thanks in advance.

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