The Inside Scoop on Being a Residence Hall Director
Here’s what it’s like to live (and work) in a college residence hall.
If you’re looking for a career in student services, working in campus housing is a smart way to gain experience, build connections to your next job, and save money on living expenses.
The most common job in Residence Life is the position of hall director, also called a residence director, area coordinator or community coordinator. These jobs typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and post-graduate experience or a master’s degree. This full-time staff member lives in an apartment — complete with kitchen — in the residence hall and is responsible for mentoring students, enforcing campus policies, mediating roommate conflicts, developing programs for the residents and managing crises. Hall directors typically work during the day and take turns being the on-call staff member for emergencies.
Here are four reasons these entry-level positions are a great way to build a resume for a career in student services.
“When everyone else goes home at 5, these people and University Police are running campus at night,” explains Alicia Vela, director of Residence Life at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. That means hall directors may encounter situations including unauthorized parties involving alcohol or drugs; injuries; students who are upset about a low grade or breakup with a significant other; and students who are suicidal. These professionals call on their training and counseling skills every day.
Hall directors also plan educational programs and social events for their residents. And they get to know and mentor young people at an important juncture in their lives. It can be as simple as hanging out in the building’s lounge while students watch TV or play pool, and asking how their day was. “When the students are happy the hall director is there to celebrate, and when they’re sad, you’re there to help them get through whatever issue they’re dealing with,” Vela says.
Another perk of the job is that most living expenses of on-campus residence life staff are paid. In addition to living rent free, hall directors typically have a meal plan that allows them to eat in the campus dining halls, and their utility bills are covered by the college.
Vela says people typically enjoy being a hall director for two or three years before moving on to another student services position that lets them live off campus. Working on campus gives entry-level professionals a chance to learn about higher education in general, as well as identify other departments – like academic advising or student life – to focus on when positions open up.
“Residence Life is known for taking entry-level professionals, preparing them and sending them to other positions around the university,” Vela says. “Many departments seek out our employees because of the knowledge they’ve been able to receive in this position.”
The part-time weekend Master of Arts in College Student Development program, which is completed in two years, at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, prepares graduates for careers to help college students reach their full potential.
Robyn Ross is a freelance writer.
Read more articles like this from St. Edward's University.