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College Professor Career


What is a College Professor?


A college professor is a highly educated individual who holds a doctoral degree or a master's degree and has a wealth of knowledge in their area of expertise. They are not only responsible for instructing students but also for conducting research in their field. College professors play a crucial role in shaping the minds of future generations, which is why they are held in high regard. They are skilled communicators who are adept at explaining complex ideas in a way that students can easily comprehend. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, professors also advise students, mentor aspiring academics, publish research papers, and attend academic conferences. It takes years of hard work and dedication to become a college professor, but the rewards of helping students and advancing knowledge make it a very fulfilling career.


What Does a College Professor Do?

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of professors include: 

  • Preparing lectures: College professors are responsible for preparing lectures and other teaching materials for their classes. This includes researching the topics they will be discussing, writing lecture notes, and developing activities that students can do to learn the material. Professors also need to stay up to date on new developments in their field so that they can incorporate them into their instruction.
  • Grading assignments: Professors are expected to grade assignments, such as tests and essays, that students submit throughout the semester. Professors must read each assignment carefully and provide feedback to help students understand what they did well and what areas they need to improve in.
  • Advising students: Professors often serve as advisors to students who are majoring or minoring in their department. This includes meeting with students one-on-one to discuss course selection, career plans, research, and other academic matters. Professors may also provide recommendations for internships or research opportunities that could help a student further their studies.
  • Serving on committees: Professors are regularly asked to serve on committees at their institution. These committees typically focus on issues such as curriculum development, faculty hiring, and budgeting decisions that affect the entire college or university.
  • Attending conferences: Professors are expected to attend conferences related to their field of study or teaching discipline. At these conferences, professors have the opportunity to network with other professionals in their field and exchange ideas about new developments in research or pedagogy that could benefit their students or department back home.
  • Conducting research: Many college professors also engage in research projects related to their field of study while teaching at an institution of higher learning. This allows them to stay up to date on new developments in their field while also contributing original work that could benefit future generations of scholars and practitioners alike.
  • Publishing their work: A professor may choose to publish writings related to their research projects or teaching experiences while working in a college or university setting. These writings can take many forms, including books, journal articles, book chapters, white papers, blog posts, and more. Writing these publications is an important way for professors to share their knowledge with others both inside and outside of academia. 

Where Does a College Professor Work? 

College professors work in a variety of settings, from large research universities to small liberal arts colleges. Some may even work at community colleges or online schools. Their work environments may range from traditional classroom settings to research labs or even international fieldwork. Regardless of where they work, college professors play an integral role in higher education by shaping the minds of the next generation of leaders and contributing to the advancement of knowledge in their respective fields.


How Do I Become a College Professor?

Educational requirements for professors can vary by state and institution. If you want to teach part-time as an adjunct professor at a community college, you might only need to obtain your master’s degree. On the other hand, if you’d like to teach at a four-year university or college and follow a tenure track, you’ll likely need a Ph.D. You should gain teaching experience through assistantships, fellowships, tutoring, or other opportunities while earning your degree. Networking with professors and colleagues in your field can also be beneficial, as they may have information about job openings or can provide letters of recommendation.

Once you have your degree and significant career experience, you can begin applying to open positions at universities or other academic institutions. Keep in mind that competition for these jobs can be quite high, so it's important to be persistent and patient. 

Best Degrees for a College Professors


Educational Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a...

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a school or district leadership position, like principal, vice principal, or administrator.

  • Time: 60% of grads earned this degree within 23 months.
  • Tuition: $3,975 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 13 total courses in this program.

This program is for licensed teachers who are ready to take the next step in their education career.

Skills for your résumé included in this program:

  • School Law
  • School Financial Leadership
  • People & Talent
  • School Operations and Management
  • Leadership Ethics

Put your leadership skills to good use—in the service of America's children—with this education master's degree. 

States that do not accept this program: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.


Curriculum and Instruction – M.S.

An online master's degree for those who have educational experience and...

An online master's degree for those who have educational experience and are looking to further their careers with a graduate program focused on curriculum development and design.

  • Time: 62% of students earn this degree within 12 months.
  • Tuition: $3,975 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program.

Skills for your résumé included in this program:

  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Curriculum and Instruction Design
  • Educational Research
  • Assessment

Help schools create engaging, meaningful, and memorable learning experiences to improve learning outcomes for all students with this M.S. degree.

How Much Does a College Professor Make? 


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median annual pay for college professors is $80,840. Some of the factors that may influence how much a professor earns include:

  • Their level of education

  • Which subjects they teach 

  • Whether they are adjunct or tenured 

  • If they work at a community college or a four-year university 

  • If they work at a public or private university 

  • Years of relevant job experience 

What Is the Job Outlook for a College Professor? 


According to the BLS, the job outlook for professors and postsecondary teachers is positive. Between 2022 and 2032, the field is expected to grow by 8%. Factors driving this change include:

  • An increase in students pursuing higher education

  • State and local government budgets

  • An increased number of open positions for part-time, rather than full-time, professors 


What Skills Does a College Professor Need?

Some of the core skills you’ll need to successfully work as a professor include: 

  • Strong communication skills: A college professor needs strong communication skills to effectively convey information to their students. This includes being able to clearly explain concepts, answer questions, and engage in meaningful dialogue with students.
  • Organizational skills: Organizational skills are essential for any college professor as their role demands planning lectures, grading assignments, and managing student records. Professors must also be able to organize their own time effectively to ensure that all of their tasks are completed on time.
  • Critical thinking skills: Professors need to analyze complex topics and determine how best to present them in clear and understandable ways for their students. They must also be able to think critically when evaluating student work and providing feedback that will help the students improve their understanding of the material.
  • Adaptability: As the educational landscape is constantly changing due to advances in technology and new research findings, adaptability is key. Professors must stay up to date on these changes and adjust their teaching methods accordingly to ensure that their students have access to the most current information available.
  • Interpersonal skills: Professors will often need to interact with students both inside and outside of the classroom. Professors should have excellent interpersonal skills to foster positive relationships with students and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable asking questions or expressing opinions without fear of judgment or criticism.
  • Patience: There will always be times when some students may struggle more than others with certain concepts or assignments. Professors should remain patient while helping those students understand the material better so that everyone can succeed together in the classroom environment.
  • Passion for teaching: A passion for teaching is essential for any successful college professor as it will motivate them when they face challenging tasks or difficult decisions related to their job duties. This motivation can also help inspire enthusiasm for research, learning, and writing among students, which can lead them to greater success.

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Interested in Becoming a College Professor?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.