A professor is someone who instructs students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books. They work in public and private colleges and universities, professional schools, junior or community colleges, and career and vocational schools.
Professors specialize in any of a wide variety of subjects and fields. Some teach academic subjects, such as English or philosophy. Others focus on career-related subjects, such as law, nursing, or culinary arts. Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:
Teach courses in their subject area.
Work with students who are studying for a degree or a certificate or certification or are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills.
Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards.
Plan lessons and assignments.
Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses.
Assess students’ progress by grading papers, tests, and other work.
Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals.
Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field.
Conduct research and experiments to advance knowledge in their field.
Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees.
Publish original research and analysis in books and academic journals.
Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, or advise on hiring and promotions within their department.
College professors can choose from a huge variety of academic fields in which to specialize and teach since all subjects need to be taught. Mathematics, chemistry, English, and history are just a few of the subjects a student can specialize in. Students can base the choice of the field on several factors including individual preference or the likelihood of obtaining a position in a particular field.
A bachelor's degree is the first step on the long educational road to becoming a college professor. Since a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for entering graduate school, students should keep in mind what's required to graduate from a bachelor's degree program and what's required to qualify for a graduate degree program. For example, a GPA that is acceptable to graduate may not be high enough to enter graduate school. Additionally, a student can begin to get an idea of how professors work and interact with students at the undergraduate level.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, college professors need at least a master's degree, and in many cases, a doctoral degree is required. Popular or prestigious graduate schools may have stringent entrance requirements and many applicants for relatively few openings. Publication is important for individuals who want to become professors. Establishing a publication record during graduate school will make a candidate more competitive when applying for tenure-track teaching positions.
During the entire educational process, a student needs to participate in any available internships or employment opportunities that build your teaching and research experience and aid in advancing your career. This often means holding a graduate assistantship. Maintaining good academic and working relationships with schools and other professors can lead to potential job opportunities.
Students who enter an associate degree program have one of two goals: They want to earn a degree that will allow them to begin working immediately upon graduation, or they aim to build up their educational credits and then transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. Aspiring professors often choose this particular degree if they intend to work with preschool students or if they want to gain the basic knowledge necessary to begin work in the teaching field, with the potential of continuing on to a bachelor’s degree in the future.
For aspiring professors, the bachelor’s degree is the initial step to become a professor. This four-year degree not only offers students the opportunity to specialize their education in order to pursue a particular career path. Graduates of a bachelor’s degree program are prepared to enter the classroom and teach students from kindergarten to high school level. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree is also required to teach at the preschool level.
The master’s degree is the minimum requirement for a career as a professor. A master’s degree allows those who have already earned their bachelor’s degree to further their education in order to enter a specific area of teaching or administration.
Applicants to doctoral programs must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission, and some programs require students to hold a master's degree. Standardized test scores are also almost always required. While some programs only require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test, others require a specific GRE subject test as well, like the GRE Literature test. Letters of recommendation and a personal statement are among the other common requirements.