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Academic supervisors, more commonly known as academic advisors in the United States, help students navigate the challenges of academic life and may also assist students in planning for the future. The job is a diverse one, though, and duties vary greatly depending on the needs of students and whether the supervisor works in a college or in a local school system.
Becoming an Academic Supervisor
The exact requirements to be an academic supervisor vary greatly from setting to setting. However, in many cases you will need to have at least a master's degree. For example, in a college setting academic supervisors and advisers are frequently professors who are familiar with the school's rules. Professors almost always have graduate-level training and usually hold doctoral degrees. In addition, professors who serve as supervisors frequently do so in addition to their other duties -- not as a full-time job. No matter where you work, you'll need to be familiar with the school's culture and academic requirements. You'll also need strong interpersonal skills to build a rapport with students.
Navigate the Educational System
The academic demands of schools can be confusing to students and their parents, and academic supervisors are hired to help ease this confusion. For example, supervisors help students figure out which classes they need, and may also help students who are struggling with excessive absences, academic probation and other challenges. In a college setting, an academic supervisor might help a student who is on academic probation calculate the grades she needs to go off of probation. The supervisor might then advise the student about what she can do to achieve those grades, such as seek private tutoring or enroll in an after-school program.
Monitoring Student Activity
Academic supervisors don't just offer advice. They may also be charged with ensuring students follow their advice. A student who is struggling might be required to develop an academic plan in consultation with his advisor. Advisors are often the ones who check in to ensure students are doing what they are supposed to, such as attending classes or study halls. In some cases, supervisors might make recommendations to the school about whether the student should remain at school or which courses the student should be permitted to take.
Advocate for Students
Students have a variety of rights they might not know about, including the right of disabled students to obtain reasonable accommodations. Some supervisors advocate for students, either by informing them of their rights or helping students talk to third parties about their needs. For example, in the Holmdel (N.J.) Township Public Schools system, academic supervisors play a role in helping to coordinate and plan educational programs for special needs students.
Plan for the Future
Most academic supervisors help students map out their long- and short-term futures. At a high school, a supervisor might help a freshman determine which courses she needs to take to graduate on time, or which classes she should focus on to gain entry into a prestigious college. Academic advisors at the postsecondary level help students pick majors, work with them to ensure they're on track to graduate, provide assistance selecting graduate programs and help students find alternatives if they want to change majors or career plans.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.