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College Professor

Education and Training: Master’s degree required, PhD preferred
Average Salary: $79,439 per year
Job Outlook: Good

College professors teach college and university students as well as contribute scholarly knowledge to their field. They are hired for their expertise and are employed at public and private two-year colleges and four-year universities.

As teachers, they give lectures, teach in hands-on laboratories, give assignments, evaluate students, grade papers and exams, and advise students. As scholars, they perform original research, write scholarly papers and articles, get their writings published in academic journals and participate in relevant conferences. However, the time ratio professors are expected to dedicate to teaching and research duties varies by institution.
In addition to their teaching and scholarly duties, college professors often serve on committees related to academics or governance concerning policies, curricula and hiring.

Education and Training Requirements

Aspiring college professors need a master’s degree to work in a college, although employers prefer candidates with a doctoral degree. A doctoral degree is required to work in a university.

Doctoral degrees take an average of six years of full-time study to complete, including a dissertation and oral defense. However, not any PhD is accepted; the degree must directly pertain to the department and academic division of the job vacancy. For example, a PhD holder in medieval history would be eligible to become a professor in a college’s history department and a PhD in Spanish would be eligible to become a Spanish professor in a university’s foreign languages department.

Getting the Job

Those with master’s degrees or PhD degrees can apply for job vacancies directly with colleges and universities. However, the hiring decisions are often made by hiring committees, who look for excellent academic credentials, subject matter expertise, references and previous teaching experience, for example as a graduate teaching assistant.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The employment outlook for college professors is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects an increase in the number of available college professor positions due to the coming of age of a small baby boom.

College professors typically seek tenure, or a permanent professor position at a university, aiming to move through the ranks of instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and finally the rank of professor. However, tenure is becoming increasingly difficult. The number of tenure positions has fallen in recent years as universities now prefer the flexibility of limited-time contracts and the lower-ranked instructors.
Once a professor has achieved tenure, he or she can further advance as a department chair, college dean or university president.

Working Conditions and Environment

College professors have fairly flexible hours. They are required to teach a certain number of classes, typically during the work week; keep a specific number of office hours each week and attend committee meetings as needed. Otherwise, professors can schedule their own hours for performing research, grading papers and preparing for classes. In addition, college professors get many holidays off and only a light work load, or none at all, during the summer.
College professors work indoors in classrooms, their offices, meeting rooms, libraries and research facilities. They may stand for long periods while teaching in the classroom, but otherwise they remain seated while at work.

Salary and Benefits

College professors earn an average of $79,439 per year. However, those at four-year universities earn more than those at two-year colleges. At the same time, tenured college professors earn considerably more than non-tenured college professors. Averages range from $52,436 for college professors at the lowest rank to $108,749 for college professors at the highest rank.

College professors get medical benefits, dental benefits and enjoy scheduled vacations.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
555 New Jersey Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 879-4400

Association of American Colleges and Universities
1818 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 387-3760

Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration
CONAHEC – University of Arizona
220 W. 6th Street
University Services Annex Bldg. 300A, Room 108
Tucson, Arizona 85701
(520) 621-7761

National Education Association
1201 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-3290
(202) 833-4000

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training