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Become A Science Professor

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Working As A Science Professor

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Make Decisions

  • $77,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Science 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.


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 Science 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.


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.


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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Science Professor Career Paths

Science Professor
Professor Consultant Project Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Professor Consultant Adjunct Professor
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Professor Consultant Principal
Education Director
7 Yearsyrs
Science Teacher Instructor Instructional Designer
Senior Instructional Designer
9 Yearsyrs
Science Teacher Instructor Lecturer
Senior Lecturer
7 Yearsyrs
Science Teacher Instructor Adjunct Professor
Department Chairperson
7 Yearsyrs
Associate Professor Adjunct Professor Assistant Principal
Athletic Director
5 Yearsyrs
Associate Professor Adjunct Instructor Assistant Principal
Vice Principal
8 Yearsyrs
Associate Professor Adjunct Instructor Attorney
Adjunct Professor Of Law
10 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Project Manager Assistant Director
Director Of Training
7 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Supervisor Training Manager
Director, Learning And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Principal Education Director
Campus Director
7 Yearsyrs
Company Commander Officer Chairperson
Academic Affairs Dean
12 Yearsyrs
Company Commander Training Officer Adjunct Instructor
Associate Dean
11 Yearsyrs
Company Commander Senior Training Specialist Director, Learning And Development
Chief Learning Officer
13 Yearsyrs
Deputy Commander Science Department Chairperson Education Consultant
Student Dean
7 Yearsyrs
Deputy Commander Science Department Chairperson Department Chairperson
Academic Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Faculty Associate Dean
Academic Dean
10 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Faculty Department Chairperson
Assistant Dean
8 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Research Associate Senior Research Analyst
Director Of Institutional Research
10 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
College Professor 4.7 years
Science Professor 4.0 years
Professor 3.9 years
Adjunct Professor 3.3 years
Top Careers Before Science Professor
Professor 8.9%
Director 3.8%
Instructor 3.8%
Consultant 3.2%
Faculty 2.9%
Top Careers After Science Professor
Professor 14.4%
Director 6.4%
Consultant 5.9%
Teacher 4.3%
Volunteer 4.3%
Lecturer 3.2%

Do you work as a Science Professor?

Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
The University of South Dakota
Highest Paying City
Cypress, CA
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
3.5 years
How much does a Science Professor make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Science Professor in the United States is $77,632 per year or $37 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $41,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $143,000.

Real Science Professor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Professor Ofsociomedical Sciences Columbia University New York, NY Jul 01, 2013 $300,000
Professor of Sociomedical Sciences Columbia University New York, NY Jul 01, 2013 $300,000
Assoc. Professor/Chair, Dept. of Interdisciplinary Sciences International Technological University San Jose, CA Feb 01, 2015 $98,000
Assoc. Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Bradenton, FL May 07, 2015 $97,318 -
Assoc. Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Bradenton, FL Dec 20, 2014 $97,318 -
Health Sciences Ass't Clin. Professor University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, CA Oct 16, 2007 $90,000
Assisant Professor of Statistics and Actuarial Science University of Iowa Iowa City, IA Feb 16, 2016 $86,000
Professor, Actuarial Science University of St. Thomas Saint Paul, MN Aug 22, 2016 $78,000
Dairy Science Professor South Dakota State University Brookings, SD Apr 24, 2012 $75,000
Professor In Science and Technology Union PuertorriqueÑA de Los Adventistas Del Septim Mayagez, PR Jan 15, 2014 $72,962
Health Sciences Professor University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD Aug 31, 2011 $70,000
Foundation Science Professor Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI Aug 07, 2013 $56,694
Consumer Sciences Professor South Dakota State University Brookings, SD Aug 23, 2012 $55,000
Sport Science Professor California University of Management and Sciences Anaheim, CA Jan 20, 2011 $50,320
Sport Science Professor California University of Management and Sciences Anaheim, CA Aug 15, 2011 $50,320

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Top Skills for A Science Professor

  1. Academic Programs
  2. Cadets
  3. Rotc
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Coordinated extensively with military installations and National Guard and reserve units to recruit green-to-gold scholarship and reserve component cadets.
  • Planned all ROTC Battalion activities and coordinated all logistical support with the University and other outside organizations.
  • Educate students in the areas of biology and physical science by implementing everyday life events and experiences.
  • Provided instruction and mentoring in various science courses including Environment and Ecology, Anatomy, and Chemistry.
  • Facilitate online environmental science course to students of broad educational backgrounds.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Science Professors

  1. Oregon
  2. District of Columbia
  3. California
  4. Alaska
  5. Arizona
  6. New Jersey
  7. Iowa
  8. Hawaii
  9. New York
  10. Michigan
  • (128 jobs)
  • (65 jobs)
  • (402 jobs)
  • (31 jobs)
  • (103 jobs)
  • (356 jobs)
  • (49 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (597 jobs)
  • (205 jobs)

Science Professor Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken








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Science Professor Education


Webster University


U.S. Army Command and General Staff College


U.S. Army War College


University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez


Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico


Grand Canyon University


University of Louisville


Texas A&M University


Kansas State University


Walden University


Central State University


University of Washington


Missouri University of Science and Technology


Western Oregon University


Pennsylvania State University


Naval Postgraduate School


Johns Hopkins University


Florida International University


Michigan State University


University of Georgia

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Educational Leadership




Elementary Education






International Relations








Human Resources Management


Public Health


Liberal Arts




Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology


Public Administration

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