Career Development

What Does an Assistant Professor Do?

Find out what an assistant professor does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an assistant professor.

Assistant professors are entry-level academics who have recently completed their doctoral or master’s degree. They typically teach undergraduate courses and conduct research in their field of study.

Assistant professors may also be involved in other activities, such as developing curriculum, mentoring students, conducting research, publishing papers, etc. Their duties vary by institution but they all share a common goal: to advance the knowledge base of their discipline through teaching, research, and service.

Assistant Professor Job Duties

Assistant professors typically have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Teaching students using classroom lectures, labs, simulations, or other teaching methods
  • Conducting research and publishing findings in peer-reviewed journals
  • Participating in departmental activities such as advising student clubs or serving on departmental committees
  • Participating in academic activities such as attending conferences and publishing papers
  • Teaching classes such as upper-level undergraduate courses in the major subject area, lower-level undergraduate courses in the major subject area, graduate-level courses in the major subject area, or introductory-level courses in the major subject area for non-major students
  • Overseeing the progress of students’ academic careers by helping them choose courses that will meet graduation requirements and advising them on academic, career, and personal issues
  • Participating in school activities such as attending student events and working with student groups or organizations
  • Maintaining accurate records of grades and other academic data such as attendance records or student transcripts
  • Providing feedback to students regarding their performance in class or in other activities such as applying for internships or preparing papers or reports

Assistant Professor Salary & Outlook

Assistant professors’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of institution they work for.

  • Median Annual Salary: $82,500 ($39.66/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $163,000 ($78.37/hour)

The employment of assistant professors is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for these workers will stem from continued demand for social and behavioral science research. However, the growth in the number of social and behavioral scientists will be limited by the availability of these workers from other fields, such as psychology and sociology.

Related: Assistant Professor Interview Questions and Answers

Assistant Professor Job Requirements

Assistant professors typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most assistant professors have a doctorate in their field. The most common fields of study for assistant professors are biology, chemistry, computer science, economics, education, engineering, English, history, mathematics, nursing, physics, psychology and public health.

Training & Experience: Assistant professors typically receive training through their education and experience. They may also receive on-the-job training from their current or previous employer. This training may include learning about the institution’s policies and procedures, the software and technology they use and the students they teach.

Assistant professors may also receive training from their advisor or supervisor. They may learn about the research methods and techniques they use and the best practices for teaching and grading students.

Certifications & Licenses: Unlike some other jobs, there is no industry-specific certification program required to become a financial assistant professor. Instead, candidates can pursue general certifications that demonstrate their abilities in critical areas like leadership and finance.

Assistant Professor Skills

Assistant professors need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is another important skill for an assistant professor. They often teach large classes of students and need to be able to convey information effectively. They also often work with other faculty members and administrators to develop curriculum and other educational materials.

Time management: Time management is another skill that can be beneficial for an assistant professor to have. This is because they may have a variety of responsibilities, including teaching, grading papers and preparing lectures. Having good time management skills can help them manage their time well so they can complete all of their tasks.

Organization: As an assistant professor, you may be responsible for creating and maintaining a course curriculum, grading assignments and maintaining student records. Having strong organizational skills can help you manage your workload and responsibilities.

Teamwork: As an assistant professor, you may work with other faculty members and administrators to plan and execute lessons and other aspects of your job. Your ability to work with others can help you develop positive relationships with your colleagues and improve your overall experience in the workplace.

Research: As an assistant professor, you may be expected to conduct research and publish your findings. This can be a large part of your job, so it’s important to be able to show that you have the skills and knowledge to conduct research and produce quality results.

Assistant Professor Work Environment

Assistant professors typically work in academic institutions, such as colleges and universities. They typically have an office and a teaching schedule, but they also spend a great deal of time preparing lectures and course materials, conducting research, and writing papers and books. They may also be required to travel to conferences and other academic institutions to give lectures or presentations. In addition, assistant professors typically spend time advising and mentoring students. The work can be demanding and challenging, but it is also very rewarding. Assistant professors typically have a great deal of autonomy and control over their work, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

Assistant Professor Trends

Here are three trends influencing how assistant professors work. Assistant professors will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Interdisciplinary Education

The need for more interdisciplinary education is a trend that is quickly gaining traction in academia. This is because it allows students to learn about different subjects and how they interact with each other.

As assistant professors, you can capitalize on this trend by developing courses that combine different disciplines. This will allow you to reach a wider audience of students and give them a better understanding of the world around them.

More Focus on Research

As research becomes more important in academia, assistant professors will need to focus on conducting their own research. This will require them to develop strong research skills and build relationships with other researchers.

In order to be successful, assistant professors will need to find ways to collaborate with other researchers and work together on projects. They will also need to be able to manage their time effectively so that they can balance research with teaching and other responsibilities.

Greater Emphasis on Diversity

Diversity has become an increasingly important topic in higher education, as institutions are placing greater emphasis on recruiting a diverse student body.

Assistant professors can play a key role in helping to promote diversity in their departments by encouraging colleagues to consider candidates from underrepresented groups. They can also help to create a welcoming environment for all students, regardless of their background.

How to Become an Assistant Professor

A career as an assistant professor can be a great way to get started in academia. It’s a chance to gain experience teaching and conducting research, and to build relationships with other faculty members. Assistant professors often have the opportunity to move up the ranks to become full professors if they perform well in their roles.

To become an assistant professor, you typically need a PhD degree in your field of study. You may also need to have published some articles or books in your area of expertise. Many universities require assistant professors to have a strong record of teaching excellence and research productivity.

Advancement Prospects

The academic world is one in which people are constantly moving up the ladder. An assistant professor who is good at his or her job will be looked upon favorably by the department and will be in line for promotions as they come up. The next step up the ladder is usually associate professor, and then full professor. In order to be promoted, assistant professors must first go through a process of peer review, in which their colleagues evaluate their work. If they are found to be doing a good job, they will be promoted.

There are also opportunities for assistant professors to move into administrative positions, such as department head or dean of a school. These positions usually require more experience and are often filled by associate or full professors.

Assistant Professor Job Description Example

The Department of [subject] at [university] is seeking to hire an assistant professor specializing in [area of expertise]. The successful candidate will have a Ph.D. in [subject] or a related field, and will be expected to teach [courses] at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to teaching, the successful candidate will be expected to maintain an active program of research, and to participate in departmental and university service.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Teach courses in area of expertise at the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • Develop and teach new courses in line with student and departmental needs
  • Maintain an active program of research and publication, in accordance with university guidelines
  • Serve on departmental, college, and university committees as needed or requested
  • Advise and mentor students, providing guidance on course selection, degree planning, and career options
  • Work collaboratively with colleagues to develop and deliver high-quality programs
  • Participate in professional development activities to keep abreast of latest developments in field
  • Foster a culture of excellence within the department and contribute to a positive working environment
  • Manage budgets and resources effectively, in line with university policies
  • Undertake administrative tasks as required, such as maintaining accurate records and preparing reports
  • Engage in outreach activities to promote the department and university
  • Perform other duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Ph.D. or terminal degree in relevant field
  • Expertise in area of specialization
  • Commitment to teaching excellence at the undergraduate and/or graduate level
  • Evidence of scholarly activity and potential for on-going research productivity
  • Ability to work collaboratively with colleagues
  • Excellent communication skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Experience working with a diverse student body
  • Demonstrated commitment to professional development
  • Experience in curriculum development
  • Experience in program assessment
  • Record of successful external funding


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