How to Become a Professor? Do all College Professors need to obtain a degree in education? The general answer to this question is No. Not every field has this specific requirement when it comes to teaching.
Most Colleges and Universities prefer a PhD degree before a candidate is considered for the role of a Professor. However, some fields also employ candidates with a Master’s degree to the role they teach.
Here is a detailed analysis of what it takes to be a college professor, the responsibilities and duties as well as the outlook for a job in this field.
Step 1: Choose a Field of Education
Aspiring college professors can select from a number of fields available, wherever they have an inclination to learn and specialize. Mathematics, English, Engineering, Medicine, Law, Music, Dentistry are some of the fields which can be chosen as your preferred field for study in the future.
Remember that whichever field you choose must be out of passion and willpower to brave it out in the face of intense competition.
Step 2: Complete your Bachelor’s Degree
After choosing a field you are passionate about, the next step is to enroll yourself into a Bachelor’s degree program at a University. Acing your bachelor’s degree program is a necessity in most cases as future enrolment to a graduate school is based on the scores and GPA obtained in your bachelor’s course.
Apart from a good GPA, an analysis of how professors interact with students in the undergraduate community can help you get valuable insights into what is expected from you in the future.
Step 3: Get admitted to a Graduate School
For most Universities, college professors need at least a master’s degree to be considered for an opportunity to teach at the University. In many cases, a PhD or equivalent doctoral degree is also a necessity.
For getting admitted to a prestigious graduate school, there is stringent competition and few seats with a large number of applicants. If you clear the bar of getting admitted to a school of your choice, you can expect to learn a lot about your chosen field.
A strong academic relationship with your professors will also help you co-author many papers in the field and get industry-wide exposure.
If you choose to pursue a doctoral degree, you can specialize in the discipline of your choice. Alongside this, the publication of papers and thesis is of special importance for candidates who want to become College Professors.
Students with a record of a successful string of publications are more competitive when it comes to applying for teaching positions at universities and colleges.
One more consideration that can help you with your teaching career is learning how to teach online. Many reputed universities are offering full-time courses to students online. Showcasing your online teaching skills could be the differentiator when it comes to highlighting your versatile nature for a teaching application.
Step 4: Participate in Teaching Assistantships or Internships
During your whole career, you must be ready to participate in any employment opportunities or assistantships with your professor. This will help you gain experience and put your teaching career on a fast track.
Post-Doctoral experience is also a way to increase knowledge and publish papers for the next two to three years after your Ph.D. A post-doctoral experience teaching subjects of your field will help a great deal when it comes to landing a full-time position at any University.
Professor Salaries and Growth Outlook
In relation to the data published by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the median salary of a professor across all levels is around $76,000 a year.
The highest and lowest salaries vary to a large extent on the basis of seniority, experience, and your teaching field. This is not to discredit any particular area of learning but it is simply a result of supply and demand for teaching professionals of that field and its commercial applications.
For example, a law professor might earn a median annual salary of $165,000 while an English professor with a certain level of experience typically makes around $88,000 a year.
When it comes to the growth outlook, the future of college professors is bright. Given the increasing number of students all over the world opting for college education and the growing importance of education to secure well-paying jobs, the number of seats and a consequent number of professors is likely to shoot up significantly every year.
The US Bureau of labor statistics believes that growth between 2016 and 2026 for professors will be around 15%. This is faster than the average of all other professions put together, which is phenomenal. Perhaps, this vindicates your decision to pursue a career in academia.
Given the rosy picture depicted above, growth in this profession will not be singular. There will be certain fields where demand for professors will far outstrip the supply, leading to increased compensation levels.
For others, the demand and supply equilibrium will remain balanced, resulting in muted salary growth with limited opportunities.
Responsibilities of a University Professor
In addition to teaching courses in their respective areas of interest, college professors have a fiduciary duty to guide and mentor students in that field.
Professors need to synthesize a plan of action when it comes to lessons and curriculum, perform scheduling of assignments and syllabus, grading of work, and evaluation of every student across all courses.
Apart from the work of teaching, universities need professors to publish their original research in their area of expertise and be a part of academic committees formed to pursue the teaching agenda at the University.
A flexible schedule helps professors to conduct research in their area of expertise during summer while performing regular teaching duties during the academic year.
Other important qualities of a University professor include being open-minded, fair, cooperative, and kind to students. Respecting every student and their potential for excellence without any prejudice can go a long way to make a more effective and influential professor in any university.