What Does a Provost Do

What Does a Provost Do vs a Dean?

In the seemingly endless category of high-authority positions within universities, academic deans and the Provost tend to be quite popular. Although many students had a chance to at least hear about one or both of these, they seldom know the specifics of their jobs. After all, scholars seldom need to understand what an Academic Dean or the Provost does daily. However, these individuals are some of the most important figures at colleges. So, what exactly is the difference between the two roles?

What is a Provost, aka Chief Academic Officer?

The Provost or Chief Academic Officer (CAO) provides academic and administrative leadership throughout the institution. This individual also serves as the primary liaison between the faculty members and the President and is responsible for the quality of the school’s educational programs.

A Provost or Chief Academic Officer oversees faculty development and curriculum development. They are also responsible for promoting research and scholarship and are expected to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Upholding academic integrity is another important task for the Provost. The role of Senior Vice President is similar to the Provost. However, in some cases, the roles may combine. For example, at many institutions, the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost is a combined title.

What is an Academic Dean?

An Academic Dean is someone who is usually in charge of an entire department within the university. For example, the Business School Dean will most commonly be the highest-ranking figure for colleges of accounting, finance, marketing, management, and any other program that falls under the business umbrella.

They usually carry some first-hand experience as they either have a degree or teaching expertise from the same field. Also, the vast majority of deans hold graduate diplomas. It would not be a far-reaching statement to say that most of them will have a doctorate.

How Geography May Impact the Definitions

Provosts, College Deans, and Vice Presidents are top administrative roles at institutions of higher education. Before explaining what an Academic Dean and the Provost do, it is important to note how these titles vary across the United States. Although they are never really utilized interchangeably, Academic Deans could stand for anything from senior professors to chief academic advisors or officers.

Similarly, the Provost can mean anything from the president’s right-hand person to the school’s senior financial advisor. Regardless, the characteristics of each role may vary from one institution to another.

Provost vs Dean: Key Differences

Scope of Roles

The main difference between a Provost and a Dean is the scope of their roles. A university Provost is an executive officer who oversees the academic and administrative aspects of a university. They report directly to the college or university president. A College Dean typically oversees the operations of a single academic division such as a college or school.

A Provost has the authority to formulate and implement policy and to create and manage budgets. Typically, the Provost oversees faculty recruitment and development, student services, and research funding. A Dean is typically responsible for enrollment management for their college and the accreditation and certification requirements.


A College Dean is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the college or school, which includes managing faculty and staff, developing curriculum, and overseeing admissions and student services. In some universities, the Provost may be the highest-ranking academic officer and may even outrank the president or chancellor. In other institutions, the president or chancellor may be the highest-ranking academic officer.

The Dean, however, is almost always second in command in an academic unit. The Provost works with department heads, academic deans, and other faculty to ensure students receive the highest quality of education. Additionally, the Dean of each academic department or school is often a chair of the Provost’s Leadership Council. And it evaluates the deans, vice provosts, vice chancellors, and also candidates for those positions.

Exposure to Students

Besides the aforementioned discrepancies, academic deans and the Provost will have very different degrees of student exposure. Deans are going to work on issues that escalate to their level. These could be queries that professors or advisors could not resolve. So, it is not uncommon for students to have to work directly with the dean. Outside of accidental interactions on campus, on the other hand, the Provost will probably never meet with the student body directly. Their job is more focused on the school as a whole.

Professional Background

Surprisingly, the professional backgrounds of these two groups of educators are going to be quite similar. Both academic deans and the provost will usually need to have advanced degrees and relatable experience.

Scope oversees the academic and administrative aspects of a universityoversees the operations of a single academic college or school
Responsibilitiesday-to-day of the universityday-to-day of an academic college
Exposurestudents may never meetstudents have direct interaction


advanced degrees and experience

advanced degrees and experience

What is the Role of a Provost?

Unlike academic deans, there is usually only one provost per educational institution. This is because they are extremely high in the chain of the higher education system. Outside of the university’s president, there are very few professionals who rank higher than the provost. The only other rank that parallels them tends to be the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Of course, the Provost will still be under the president’s chief of staff.

Nonetheless, they are amongst three or four of the highest senior academic officers. That means that they will be above all of the academic deans as well. As far as the provost’s job goes, he or she is in charge of large projects that pertain to institutional budgeting, funding, expansions, and similar. This allows them to work directly with the school’s president and other members of the executive leadership.

Provost Job Description

A Provost is the senior academic officer of a university, college, or other educational institution. The role of a Provost is academic stewardship. They oversee the academic programs of the institution and ensure that the institution functions efficiently and effectively. The Provost is also responsible for developing, coordinating, and administering the institution’s policies, and initiatives.

The Provost works with department heads, academic deans, and other faculty to ensure students receive the highest quality of education. Hiring, training, and evaluating faculty members and other academic staff are some of the provost’s duties. Additionally, the provost is responsible for managing the institution’s budget and overseeing its strategic planning processes. The provost is expected to be an effective communicator, both internally and externally.

A Vice Provost, or Associate Provost, is a senior-level academic administrator who assists the Provost in overseeing the academic affairs of a university or college. Associate Provosts help with developing curriculum policies, faculty hiring and evaluation, and student affairs. At many universities, they also serve as a liaison between the faculty and the administration.

What is the Education Required for a Provost Position?

Both provosts and deans typically have advanced degrees in education-related fields. The education requirements for a Provost position vary depending on the organization and the individual’s area of expertise. Generally, a provost in higher education will have a doctorate, though a master’s degree may be sufficient for some positions. Provosts should also have experience in higher education administration, including in areas such as budgeting, personnel management, curricular planning and assessment, and policy development.

Top 15 Online Master’s in Education Administration

How Does the Role of the Provost Differ Across Institutions?

The role of the Provost varies from institution to institution. Generally, the Provost is the Chief Academic Officer of the university and is responsible for the entire academic enterprise. This includes overseeing the faculty, curriculum, and academic programs, as well as student services. The provost is responsible for implementing academic priorities for the university and creating the direction of the curricula,

A Provost is also responsible for faculty recruitment, promotion, and tenure decisions, and typically leads the university’s academic budgeting and planning processes. The Provost may also be responsible for overseeing the library, research, and international activities, as well as working with the President to ensure the quality of the university’s programs.

What Characteristics Does a Good Provost Have?

  • Leadership: A good provost should possess strong leadership skills, be able to motivate and inspire the faculty and staff, and have the ability to make sound decisions.
  • Vision: A good provost should have a clear and long-term vision for the institution, and be able to guide the faculty toward achieving that vision.
  • Communication: A good provost should be an effective communicator, able to communicate clearly and concisely with faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders.
  • Organizational Skills: A good provost should be well-organized and have the ability to manage multiple tasks and deadlines.
  • Academic Expertise: A good provost should understand the academic enterprise and have a deep knowledge of the institution’s academic goals, programs, and initiatives.
  • Collaboration: A good provost should foster collaboration amongst faculty, staff, and students, and create a culture of trust and respect.
  • Integrity: A good provost should demonstrate the highest standards of integrity, ethical behavior, and professional conduct.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

Most provosts hold a doctoral degree, and many states also require a license or certification. The requirements vary by state and institution. However, most require the provost to complete an accredited doctoral program and pass a certification exam. In addition, some states may require the provost to maintain a certain number of continuing education credits. The specific requirements should be determined by the institution’s governing body.

Professional Associations for Higher Education

  • Association of Chief Academic Officers (ACAO)
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW)
  • Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CASHE)
  • American Association of University Administrators (AAUA)
  • Association for Orientation, Transition, Retention in Higher Education (NODA)

What is the Employment Outlook for Provosts?

The employment outlook for provosts is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job opportunities for postsecondary administrators, including provosts, to exceed the national average and grow at a rate of 7% between 2021 and 2031. This rate of growth is faster than the average for all occupations.

Increasing demand for postsecondary education in recent years will lead to a greater need for administrators in all areas, including provosts. Furthermore, the growing complexity of higher education institutions creates a need for a growing number of experienced administrators, such as provosts, who can manage the day-to-day operations of the institution.

What is the Expected Salary for a Provost?

The expected salary for a Provost can vary depending on the institution, location, and individual experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the annual wage for postsecondary education administrators is $96,910 and ranges from $59,150 to more than $190,770. Generally, Provost salaries range from $125,000 to $250,000 per year.

Provost Professional Development

Provosts vary by institution and their professional development opportunities may therefore also vary. Some common opportunities for provosts include attending higher education conferences, participating in workshops, and taking online courses. They may also take part in reading groups and seminars, and engage in mentoring and peer coaching. Professional development opportunities may also involve working with organizations such as the American Council on Education and the Association of Chief Academic Officers.

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