How to Become a College Professor (Postsecondary Teacher)

How to become a College Professor

The Basics of Becoming a College Professor

Are you investigating how to become a College Professor aka a Postsecondary Teacher? Then you certainly should know the basics of the career. The main job of a Professor is to educate students beyond the high school level. This includes undergraduate, graduate and certificate students. They will also typically teach in a specific subject area.

A Professor will develop a course syllabus, plan lessons, and assess student’s progress. They prepare lectures, conduct and publish research, and assist students including fieldwork, internships and research work. It is also important for a Professor to keep abreast of developments in the field by reading current literature, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences.

Most Professors who work at four-year colleges and universities are required to have a Ph.D. in their subject area, though some will hire someone with a Master’s. Some two-year colleges and technical schools will hire Professors with a master’s degree, though in this area there are usually more applicants than positions. [ii]

What Are Challenges to Becoming a College Professor?

Perhaps the biggest challenge for me, as a public relations veteran transitioning into academia, was establishing myself as a capable, experienced, knowledgeable rookie teacher.I found myself in a new world with (as far as I could tell) no “how-to” books on college-level teaching. I quickly learned that I had to ask others to accept the fact that I was a novice at this trade. I would have to rely on those who did have the experience and the knowledge to help me get started.

Ask the questions. Admit the lack of knowledge. Accept the assistance of your new colleagues. After all…they, too, have walked in your shoes.
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Kirk Hazlett - Associate College Professor
- Professor Kirk Hazlett, Associate Professor at Curry College

Advice for Aspiring College Professors

Colleges and universities desire professors who have excelled academically and sometimes professionally in their respective areas of expertise.Click To Tweet!click to tweet

An aspiring college professor who has accomplished consistent top grades in their area of specialization has cleared the veritable first hurdle. The only other hurdle is believing that you can positively impact the lives of your students. And indeed you can.Click To Tweet!click to tweet

Your resume should highlight all of your academic accomplishments, including your degrees and grade point averages. Highlight all teaching experience and related experience in the specific subject matter that you are applying for.Click To Tweet!click to tweet

 - Cassandra Hollis, Adjunct College Professor
- Cassandra Hollis, Adjunct College Professor of Communication at Shorter University

A College Professor's Salary Potential

average college professor salary
[ABOVE] National Average College Professor Salary[iii]

Top States with the Highest Salary Averages[iv]

States Lowest 10th% Salary Highest 90th% Salary
Connecticut $42,910 $98,610
Alaska $40,340 $92,840
Delaware $40,110 $86,290
Oklahoma $39,900 $92,520
California $39,520 $110,350
 

How Do Your Skills Stack Up?
 

College Professor day to day life

As reported by O*NET, these types of tasks are conducted every day – would you feel comfortable performing these tasks as part of the day to day life of a Professor? [i]

 

What Will You Learn with a Higher Education Degree?

A degree in higher education will likely cover coursework such as the following:

  • Curricula in Higher Education
  • Higher Education Administration
  • College Teaching
  • Foundations of Academic Advising
  • Designing Institutional Research Studies

A higher education degree may appeal to those who hope to teach at the college level or perform other duties in higher education. Coursework typically explores higher education curriculum, research, assessment, and other critical areas of the education field. Candidates may also explore topics in higher education management, like administration, student affairs, enrollment, faculty management, and more. Whether you’re interested in a future teaching career path, or you’re hoping to pursue opportunities in human resources of administration, you may discover professional knowledge that helps you reach your goals.

Colleges with Famous Faculty

IvyWise compiled a list of Colleges that have had some very notable faculty members, here's a sample of that list:

  • New York University has had a number famous faculty members, including: Spike Lee and James franco, both of whom taught a graduate film class, Jonathan Safran Foer who was a professor in the Creative Writing Program, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was once an adjunct law professor there.
  • Stanform University has had a long list of influential faculty, including: 22 Nobel Laureates, 5 Pulitzer Price Winners and 27 McArthur Fellows. One of the most famous professors there was Former Secretary of State,Condolezza Rice.
  • University of Chicago has also had some very notable faculty members, including President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia all of whom taught at the Law school as well as acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert who was a lecturer on film for 37 years.

FAQs About How to Become a College Professor

What is the average College Professor salary?

Do Professors need to be certified?

What job titles are similar or the same as a College Professor?

What are common types of software I would have to learn as a Professor?

 

Sources: [i] www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1081.00 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/oes/current/oes251199.htm | [iv] www.earnmydegree.com/sites/all/files/public/Top 5 Salary States-CollegeProfessor.pdf | Job information sourced from onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1081.00