Professor

An individual seeking to become a college professor is seeking a popular and competitive career in education. Teaching at a community college or four-year college or university, professors prepare daily lesson plans for classes from 90 minutes to three hours in length, present the material, and help students understand the subject matter.

Professors often do research and publish their findings in articles and books. Professors can teach classes of up to several hundred students in a large lecture hall, conduct small seminars, or supervise laboratories. They also mentor students on an individual basis.


Most professors earn a Ph.D. or other doctorate, which requires six years in addition to the bachelor’s degree, although studio art and creative writing faculty often hold the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree. Community colleges will hire instructors with master’s degrees. Four basic ranks include full professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and instructors. Adjunct and part-time positions are common in smaller schools.

The university you attend and the professors you study under can help when applying for college teaching jobs. Some universities offer teaching or research fellowships in which tuition and fees are waived and a stipend paid for teaching undergraduate classes or working in a lab.

To become a professor, attend the best graduate program you can get into and try to publish before leaving grad school.

The median salary for a college professor is $73,000 a year. College professors also receive benefits, including low tuition rates for family members and a lot of time off and freedom.

Students who want to teach at the college level should maintain good grades in high school and participate in extracurricular activities to ensure entry into college; they should also maintain a high GPA in college to secure admission to a graduate program. In addition, it is important to do well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Adjunct professors don’t hold permanent positions at the school, don’t have research responsibilities, and are paid lower salaries than tenured and other non-adjunct professors.

Successful college professors can advance their careers by doing research, relocating to more lucrative positions at other colleges, and writing textbooks and other books.

The outlook for college professors in the U.S. is positive. The U. S. Department of Labor estimates an increase in job openings by 2014.

Once you’ve been accepted into a graduate program, you’ll need to choose a sub-specialty that shows some job potential and a faculty adviser who is a leader in his or her field. Once you’ve made these choices, you’ll join a tight-knit academic circle of professors and fellow graduate students, who will train, educate, and commiserate with you during your grad school career, as well as serve as a valuable professional network once you begin teaching.

Your graduate coursework will consist of increasingly specialized and more seminar-style classes, culminating in a dissertation, an original work of research or scholarship that explores and attempts to answer unique scholarly questions, perhaps questions more specific to the subject you wish to teach. (In some programs, you might also complete a master’s degree along the way.) Conceive and carry out the project with guidance and support from a dissertation committee made up of your adviser and two or three other handpicked faculty members.

Depending on the field of study, most Ph.D. candidates finish their dissertations within a year or two and then must present and defend the work before their committee or the department faculty before being awarded the degree. Publishing could be crucial to finding teaching jobs. Post-doctoral work is particularly important in the sciences.