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Become A Professor

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Working As A Professor

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

  • $130,000

    Average Salary

What Does A 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 A 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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Professor Jobs

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Professor Career Paths

Professor
Writer And Editor Program Manager Education Director
Academic Dean
10 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Adjunct Instructor ESL Instructor
Academic Director
8 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Instructor Special Education Teacher
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Attorney Office Manager General Manager
Chief Operating Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Associate Attorney Senior Associate Senior Consultant
Chief Technology Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Associate Attorney Attorney Chairperson
Department Chairperson
7 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Adjunct Instructor Instructor
Director Of Instruction
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Recruiter Instructor
Education Director
7 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Adjunct Faculty Assistant Principal
Elementary School Principal
12 Yearsyrs
Math Teacher Assistant Principal
High School Principal
12 Yearsyrs
Attorney Project Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Information Technology Director
10 Yearsyrs
Law Clerk Adjunct Professor Senior Project Manager
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Analyst Quality Assurance Analyst
Quality Assurance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
12 Yearsyrs
Judge Instructor Education Director
School Director
7 Yearsyrs
Education Consultant Adjunct Faculty Assistant Principal
School Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Law Clerk Fellow Research Associate
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Project Manager Program Manager
Technical Director
7 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney Attorney Assistant Vice President
Vice President, Strategy
13 Yearsyrs
Math Teacher Science Teacher Assistant Principal
Vice Principal
9 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Professor?

Professor Demographics

Gender

Male

51.9%

Female

42.5%

Unknown

5.6%
Ethnicity

White

52.2%

Hispanic or Latino

21.4%

Asian

12.2%

Black or African American

9.6%

Unknown

4.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.4%

French

10.9%

Chinese

5.9%

Italian

4.8%

Portuguese

4.3%

German

4.1%

Mandarin

3.7%

Russian

2.9%

Japanese

2.7%

Arabic

2.4%

Korean

1.7%

Hindi

1.3%

Greek

1.0%

Hebrew

1.0%

Cantonese

0.9%

Polish

0.5%

Turkish

0.4%

Persian

0.4%

Vietnamese

0.3%

Croatian

0.3%
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Professor Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

13.9%

Capella University

7.5%

Walden University

6.9%

Nova Southeastern University

6.0%

Michigan State University

5.6%

New York University

5.1%

University of Iowa

4.9%

University of Florida

4.4%

University of California - Berkeley

4.3%

George Washington University

4.3%

Cornell University

4.3%

Florida State University

3.9%

Florida International University

3.8%

Purdue University

3.8%

Boston University

3.7%

University of Texas at Austin

3.6%

American University

3.5%

Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico

3.4%

University of Arizona

3.4%

National University

3.3%
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Majors

Law

15.9%

Business

13.6%

Education

7.2%

Biology

5.2%

Psychology

5.0%

Chemistry

4.9%

Educational Leadership

4.3%

Computer Science

4.3%

Elementary Education

4.1%

English

4.1%

Electrical Engineering

3.7%

Nursing

3.5%

Fine Arts

3.5%

Management

3.2%

Mechanical Engineering

3.2%

Criminal Justice

2.9%

Political Science

2.9%

Counseling Psychology

2.9%

Communication

2.8%

Medicine

2.7%
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Degrees

Masters

33.8%

Doctorate

28.4%

Bachelors

19.0%

Other

14.0%

Certificate

2.6%

Associate

1.8%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.1%
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Real Professor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Professor The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ Aug 15, 2016 $650,000
Professor The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Austin, TX Jan 07, 2016 $600,000
Professor University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, CA Jan 01, 2015 $575,000
Professor University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Galveston, TX Jan 08, 2016 $450,000
Professor University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Houston, TX Jan 08, 2016 $450,000
Professor LSU Health Sciences Center/New Orleans Independence, LA Jan 01, 2015 $402,040
Professor In Residence University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2015 $400,000
Professor Yale University New Haven, CT Jan 12, 2016 $400,000
Assisstant Professor West Virginia University Morgantown, WV Jun 23, 2016 $372,669
Professor Yale University New Haven, CT Jan 07, 2016 $372,000
Distinguished Professor University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA Jan 01, 2015 $203,900
Professor Washington State University Pullman, WA Aug 16, 2016 $203,133
Distinguished Professor Northeastern University Boston, MA Jan 04, 2016 $203,000
Professor Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Jan 07, 2016 $201,986
Professor Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL Jan 01, 2016 $200,850
Professor Wayne State University Detroit, MI Jan 08, 2016 $200,000
Professor George Mason University Fairfax, VA Jan 10, 2015 $200,000
Professor University of California, San Diego San Diego, CA Jan 04, 2016 $154,200
Professor Michigan State University East Lansing, MI Aug 04, 2015 $154,000
Professor and Dean Yale University New Haven, CT Aug 06, 2016 $154,000
Professor Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA Jul 01, 2015 $153,000
Professor Step IV University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA Jul 01, 2015 $153,000
Distinguished Professor University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA Jan 01, 2015 $152,914
Professor University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA Oct 01, 2016 $152,000

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Top Skills for A Professor

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  1. Classes
  2. Curriculum
  3. Undergraduate
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Teach groups of over 15 students, organize classes and provide instructions that allow students to have hands-on experience on the kitchen
  • Developed and updated curriculum, completing self-study evaluations for Nursing and HLC accreditation, etc.
  • Provided online instruction for undergraduate and graduate students for accredited universities; courses taught listed below for each educational organization
  • Narrated introductions to video portion of professional development asynchronous online courses
  • Encouraged students' social commitment creating and coordinating volunteer workshops to collaborate with non-profit entities in the community.

How Would You Rate Working As a Professor?

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Top Professor Employers

Jobs From Top Professor Employers

Professor Videos

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