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Become An Assistant Professor

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Working As An Assistant Professor

  • Getting Information
  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Make Decisions

  • $80,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Assistant Professor Do

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Duties

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills
  • Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards
  • Plan lessons and assignments
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Conduct research and experiments to advance knowledge in their field
  • Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees
  • Publish original research and analysis in books and academic journals
  • Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, or advise on hiring and promotions within their department

Postsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors or faculty, specialize in a variety of subjects and fields. Some teach academic subjects, such as English or philosophy. Others focus on career-related subjects, such as law, nursing, or culinary arts.

At colleges and universities, professors are organized into departments that specialize in a subject, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, spend most of their time teaching students.

Professors may teach large classes of several hundred students (often with the help of graduate teaching assistants), smaller classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors need to keep up with developments in their field by reading scholarly articles, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences. A tenured professor must do original research, such as experiments, document analysis, or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use websites to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors communicate with students by email and by phone and might never meet their students in person.

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How To Become An Assistant Professor

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Most commonly, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. In career and technical schools, work experience may be important for getting a postsecondary teaching job.

Education

Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. They spend time completing a master’s degree and then writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, in some fields, there are more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Postsecondary teachers who teach career and technical education courses, such as culinary arts or cosmetology, may not be required to have graduate-level education. At a minimum they must hold the degree of the program in which they are teaching. For example, the teacher must hold an associate’s degree if they teach a program that is at the associate’s degree level. In addition, work experience or certification may be just as important as education for getting a postsecondary teaching job at a career or technical school.

Other Experience

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve working for 2 to 3 years as a research associate or in a similar position, often at a college or university.

Some postsecondary teachers gain teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants—students who are enrolled in a graduate program and teach classes in the institution in which they are enrolled.

Some postsecondary teachers, especially adjunct professors, have another job in addition to teaching.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Postsecondary teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration, may need to have—or they may benefit from having—the same credential. For example, a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license or a postsecondary education teacher might need a teaching license.

Advancement

A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time faculty.

Some tenured professors advance to administrative positions, such as dean or president. For information on deans and other administrative positions, see the profile on postsecondary education administrators. For more information about college and university presidents, see the profile on top executives.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. To challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need good critical-thinking skills.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to be able to present information in a way that students will understand. They need to adapt to the different learning styles of their students and teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good communication skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.

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Assistant Professor jobs

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Assistant Professor Career Paths

Average Length of Employment
Senior Lecturer 5.4 years
Clinical Professor 5.2 years
College Professor 4.7 years
Faculty Member 4.1 years
Nursing Professor 3.8 years
Professor 3.6 years
Science Professor 3.5 years
Adjunct Faculty 3.5 years
Faculty 3.4 years
Associate Faculty 3.4 years
Adjunct Professor 3.2 years
Lecturer 2.8 years
Assistant Lecturer 2.5 years
Visiting Professor 2.2 years
Teaching Fellow 1.7 years
Top Employers Before
Instructor 12.5%
Lecturer 6.3%
Fellow 5.9%
Internship 5.4%
Teacher 4.1%
Consultant 3.3%
Director 3.3%
Faculty 2.7%
Top Employers After
Director 7.0%
Professor 7.0%
Consultant 6.0%
Instructor 5.9%
Faculty 4.0%
Lecturer 3.0%
Internship 3.0%
Fellow 2.9%
Teacher 2.7%

Assistant Professor Demographics

Gender

Male

49.8%

Female

43.3%

Unknown

7.0%
Ethnicity

White

67.6%

Asian

17.0%

Hispanic or Latino

9.7%

Unknown

4.7%

Black or African American

1.0%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

34.3%

French

15.2%

Chinese

7.2%

Russian

6.3%

German

5.7%

Arabic

5.1%

Italian

3.9%

Portuguese

3.6%

Mandarin

3.4%

Japanese

3.1%

Korean

2.8%

Hindi

1.8%

Urdu

1.2%

Ukrainian

1.1%

Persian

1.1%

Dari

1.0%

Polish

0.9%

Cantonese

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Carrier

0.7%
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Assistant Professor Education

Schools

University of Florida

6.6%

University of Phoenix

6.4%

Michigan State University

6.2%

Ohio State University

5.7%

Walden University

5.6%

University of Texas at Austin

5.3%

Capella University

5.2%

Texas A&M University

5.1%

Florida State University

5.1%

University of Iowa

5.0%

New York University

5.0%

University of Georgia

4.7%

Nova Southeastern University

4.6%

Purdue University

4.5%

Johns Hopkins University

4.4%

University of Arizona

4.3%

Pennsylvania State University

4.3%

Wayne State University

4.2%

University of California - Los Angeles

4.0%

Columbia University

3.9%
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Majors

Nursing

11.8%

Business

10.6%

Medicine

6.5%

Education

6.4%

Chemistry

5.9%

Computer Science

5.2%

Pharmacy

4.6%

Biology

4.5%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

4.4%

Educational Leadership

4.4%

English

4.2%

Electrical Engineering

3.8%

Law

3.8%

Elementary Education

3.6%

Psychology

3.6%

Management

3.5%

Mathematics

3.4%

Communication

3.4%

Clinical Psychology

3.3%

Physiology And Anatomy

3.1%
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Degrees

Doctorate

41.4%

Masters

29.3%

Other

14.2%

Bachelors

10.9%

Certificate

2.7%

Associate

1.1%

Diploma

0.3%

License

0.1%
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Assistant Professor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Assistant Professor of Radiology University of Kentucky Lexington, KY Jan 11, 2016 $420,000
Assistant Professor of Radiology University of Kentucky Georgetown, KY Jan 11, 2016 $420,000
Assistant Professor Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR Jun 30, 2015 $417,837
Clinical Assistant Professor The University of Iowa Iowa City, IA Jan 08, 2016 $401,351
Clinical Assistant Professor University of Florida Gainesville, FL Jan 12, 2016 $400,000
Assistant Professor In Residence University of California, Davis Sacramento, CA Jan 08, 2016 $400,000
Assistant Professor Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX Aug 08, 2016 $400,000
Assistant Professor The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Houston, TX Jan 09, 2016 $400,000
Clinical Assistant Professor University of Pittsburgh Physicians Erie, PA Jan 11, 2016 $400,000
Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock, AR Mar 19, 2015 $400,000
Assistant Professor The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston The Woodlands, TX Nov 01, 2015 $395,833
Assistant Professor Clark University Southborough, MA Jul 01, 2015 $117,650
Assistant Professor Clark University Worcester, MA Jul 01, 2015 $117,650
Assistant Professor Purdue University West Lafayette, IN Jul 25, 2016 $117,510
Assistant Professor Purdue University West Lafayette, IN Dec 05, 2016 $117,510
Clinical Assistant Professor Purdue University West Lafayette, IN Apr 03, 2016 $117,510
Assistant Professor University of Houston System Houston, TX Jul 01, 2015 $117,500
Assistant Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC Jun 01, 2016 $117,500
Assistant Professor The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX Jan 07, 2016 $117,500
Assistant Professor University of Minnesota Duluth, MN Aug 26, 2016 $85,496
Assistant Professor The University of Georgia Athens, GA Jan 04, 2016 $85,473
Assistant Professor Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL Aug 22, 2016 $85,471
Assistant Professor George Mason University Fairfax, VA Jul 31, 2016 $85,470
Assistant Professor, Mechanical & Materials Engineering Washington State University Pullman, WA Dec 07, 2016 $85,469
Assistant Professor Washington State University Pullman, WA Jan 01, 2016 $85,469
Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Washington State University Pullman, WA Aug 06, 2016 $85,469

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Top Skills for An Assistant Professor

UndergraduateCoursesClassesCurriculumDevelopmentLabLaboratoryResearchMethodsOnlineCoursesMolecularBiologyAcademicAdvisorLanguageOrganicChemistryMedicineCoursesTaughtInformationTechnologyHistoryMathematicsTheoryPsychologyTopicsStatistics

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Top Assistant Professor Skills

  1. Undergraduate Courses
  2. Classes
  3. Curriculum Development
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Managed research laboratory, lead field studies, and taught undergraduate courses.
  • Teach beginning and intermediate Spanish classes, and history of Latin America SPA 115 in the classroom and online.
  • Assisted the faculty with administrative tasks and curriculum development.
  • Provide educational sessions for our community outreach program - the Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network.
  • Graded examinations, homework & laboratory assignments.

Top Assistant Professor Employers

Assistant Professor Videos

Day in the Life of a FAMU Professor

True Life: I'm a College Professor

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