Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



Degree Granting Department

Leadership, Counseling, Adult, Career, Higher ED

Major Professor

Thomas E. Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Donald A. Dellow, Ed.D.

Committee Member

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William H. Young III, Ed.D.


competence, higher education, new professionals, professional competencies, student affairs


This study was designed to determine the extent to which new student affairs professionals feel competent for the work and to identify the experiences that foster such competence in them. The study also revealed discrepancies in the perceived levels and sources of competence between professionals who have completed either one or three years of full-time employment in student affairs. While some quantitative studies have addressed competence in student affairs professionals, the literature lacks in-depth information regarding the acquisition of competence of new professionals. This basic qualitative study offers rich information about competence development from the professionals themselves.

Participants graduated from five master's-level student affairs preparation programs housed at large public institutions in Florida. They generally felt competent at the mid-range (intermediate) in the ten areas published by the American College Personnel Administrators - College Student Educators International (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA). Primary sources of competence were full-time experience in student affairs, graduate preparation programs, and professional development. Those who obtained their degrees more recently reported higher levels of competence than those who have been in the field longer. Other interesting themes relating to competence development emerged, as well.