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Become A College Instructor

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Working As A College Instructor

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Make Decisions

  • $69,570

    Average Salary

What Does A College Instructor 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 A College Instructor

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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College Instructor jobs

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College Instructor Career Paths

College Instructor
Mathematics Instructor Adjunct Faculty Chairperson
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Faculty Chairperson
Chief Executive Officer
8 Yearsyrs
Program Manager General Manager
Chief Operating Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Editor Project Manager Program Manager
Chief Technology Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Senior Project Manager Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Adjunct Professor Senior Project Manager
Director Of Construction
13 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Project Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Human Resources
10 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Information
10 Yearsyrs
Program Director Trainer Training Manager
Director, Learning And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Math Teacher Assistant Principal
Elementary School Principal
12 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Information Technology Manager Director Of Information
Executive Director, Information Technology
9 Yearsyrs
Program Director Educator Assistant Principal
High School Principal
12 Yearsyrs
Editor Technical Writer Business Analyst
Information Technology Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Math Teacher Instructor Program Manager
Operations Director
9 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Construction Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Educator Program Coordinator
Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Education Director
School Director
7 Yearsyrs
Mathematics Instructor Assistant Principal
School Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Program Manager
Senior Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Educator Case Manager Program Manager
Senior Project Manager
12 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
College Professor 4.7 years
College Instructor 4.0 years
Professor 3.6 years
Adjunct Faculty 3.5 years
Faculty 3.4 years
Associate Faculty 3.4 years
Adjunct Professor 3.2 years
Adjunct Instructor 3.1 years
Lead Instructor 3.0 years
Online Instructor 3.0 years
Adjunct Lecturer 2.8 years
Instructor 2.8 years
Course Instructor 2.2 years
Top Employers Before
Teacher 16.5%
Instructor 12.9%
Internship 6.2%
Manager 3.9%
Consultant 3.8%
Director 3.8%
Counselor 3.1%
Tutor 3.1%
Artist 2.9%
Owner 2.7%
Top Employers After
Instructor 13.9%
Teacher 12.9%
Consultant 4.8%
Educator 4.4%
Director 4.2%
Tutor 3.6%
Owner 3.2%
Internship 3.2%
Manager 3.1%

College Instructor Demographics

Gender

Female

53.3%

Male

44.3%

Unknown

2.4%
Ethnicity

White

78.8%

Hispanic or Latino

10.3%

Asian

7.9%

Unknown

2.4%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.3%

French

12.9%

Chinese

7.9%

German

5.8%

Mandarin

5.0%

Russian

4.3%

Japanese

3.6%

Arabic

3.6%

Filipino

2.2%

Tagalog

2.2%

Italian

2.2%

Korean

1.4%

Vietnamese

1.4%

Greek

1.4%

Carrier

1.4%

Persian

1.4%

Turkish

0.7%

Gujarati

0.7%

Hindi

0.7%

Bulgarian

0.7%
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College Instructor Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

17.8%

Walden University

8.9%

Wayne State University

6.5%

Michigan State University

6.1%

Capella University

5.3%

Saint Louis University-

4.5%

Webster University

4.5%

Liberty University

4.5%

New Mexico State University

4.5%

Syracuse University

4.0%

Nova Southeastern University

3.6%

University of South Dakota

3.6%

Washington State University

3.6%

University of South Florida

3.2%

University of North Texas

3.2%

Texas A&M University

3.2%

Northern Arizona University

3.2%

Florida International University

3.2%

University of Iowa

3.2%

Northern Illinois University

3.2%
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Majors

Business

15.4%

Education

11.7%

Elementary Education

7.3%

English

7.0%

Nursing

6.2%

Educational Leadership

6.2%

Psychology

4.7%

Management

4.2%

School Counseling

3.8%

Criminal Justice

3.7%

Counseling Psychology

3.5%

Mathematics

3.5%

Communication

3.3%

Law

3.0%

Social Work

2.9%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.9%

Computer Science

2.8%

Special Education

2.7%

Curriculum And Instruction

2.6%

Sociology

2.5%
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Degrees

Masters

47.1%

Bachelors

20.9%

Other

12.0%

Doctorate

11.6%

Associate

3.9%

Certificate

3.4%

Diploma

0.8%

License

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real College Instructor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
College Instructor (Music) Mira Costa Community College District Oceanside, CA Aug 21, 2015 $111,966
College Instructor (Music) Mira Costa Community College District Oceanside, CA Aug 20, 2012 $98,724
College Instructor Ringling College of Art and Design Sarasota, FL May 01, 2015 $59,679
College Instructor Lewis & Clark College Portland, OR Jan 01, 2011 $58,000
College Instructor Lewis & Clark College Portland, OR May 08, 2012 $58,000
College Instructor, Mathematics Pacific Islands University Oct 23, 2015 $57,810
College Instructor/Econometrics Pacific Islands University Apr 25, 2013 $57,810
College Instructor Ringling College of Art and Design Sarasota, FL May 01, 2012 $57,222
College Instructor Temple College Temple, TX Jun 01, 2010 $48,837
College Instructor of Computer Science New Mexico State University Carlsbad, NM Jan 01, 2010 $47,202
College Instructor Columbia College Fairfax, VA Nov 01, 2011 $36,689

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Top Skills for A College Instructor

ClassroomManagementCurriculumDevelopmentLessonPlansMathematicsOnlineCoursesPsychologyMethodsInformationTechnologyTopicsHistoryAlgebraLanguageProceduresPrinciplesSociologyEthicsTheoryCourseMaterialsPowerpointLiterature

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Top College Instructor Skills

  1. Classroom Management
  2. Curriculum Development
  3. Lesson Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed courses for classroom management, presentation skills, and data analysis skills.
  • Mentored new instructors and assisted with curriculum development.
  • Developed lesson plans for each course taught: Wire Sculpting, Decoupage, 3-D Art, and Color and Design.
  • Instructed mathematics and computer classes (20-30 students) Created and planned lessons to best demonstrate course content at a college level
  • Recruited students for ITT-Tech in Kentucky and Southern Indiana Taught General Education online courses.

Top College Instructor Employers

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College Instructor Videos

When do you call your college professor, Professor?

True Life: I'm a College Professor

University Professor, Career Video from drkit.org

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