Career Development

What Does an Assistant Professor Do?

Find out what an Assistant Professor does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as an Assistant Professor.

An Assistant Professor stands at the crossroads of teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities within a higher education institution. This role involves imparting knowledge to students through a variety of instructional methods, contributing to the academic community through scholarly research, and participating in the governance and committee work of their departments and universities. By fostering an environment of learning and intellectual growth, Assistant Professors play an integral role in shaping the academic and professional futures of their students, while also advancing the body of knowledge in their field of expertise through research and publication. Their contributions are essential in maintaining the academic standards and reputation of the institutions they serve, ensuring a dynamic and enriching educational experience for all.

Assistant Professor Job Duties

  • Teach undergraduate and graduate courses in their field of expertise, including preparing syllabi, delivering lectures, and grading assignments.
  • Supervise and mentor graduate students, guiding them in their research projects and theses.
  • Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, and advise on hiring and promotions.
  • Engage in scholarly research activities leading to publication in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Review academic materials such as journal articles, grant proposals, and textbooks, providing expertise and feedback.
  • Participate in departmental outreach activities, such as hosting guest lectures or community education programs.
  • Develop and update curriculum for courses and programs within their department.
  • Advise undergraduate students on academic and career goals, including course selection and post-graduate plans.

Assistant Professor Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing an Assistant Professor’s salary include academic discipline, with STEM fields often commanding higher salaries. Experience, including years teaching and research accomplishments, significantly impacts earnings. Institutional type, such as research universities versus liberal arts colleges, and the availability of external funding in one’s field also play crucial roles.

  • Median Annual Salary: $86,625 ($41.65/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.

This growth is driven by increasing university enrollments and the need to replace retiring faculty. Demand varies by field, with STEM and healthcare disciplines seeing higher growth. However, budget constraints in higher education may limit expansion, balancing out the overall growth rate for Assistant Professors.

Assistant Professor Job Requirements

Education: An Assistant Professor typically holds a Doctoral Degree in their field of expertise, often preceded by a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in related subjects. Majors vary widely depending on the academic discipline, ranging from sciences to humanities. Coursework emphasizes deep specialization, research methodologies, and academic writing. Advanced studies, including dissertation work, are crucial, showcasing the ability to contribute original research to the field.

Experience: Assistant Professors typically enter the role with a diverse range of experiences. Many come directly from academic or research positions, bringing fresh insights and theoretical knowledge. Others have spent significant time in industry, contributing practical expertise and real-world applications to their teaching. On-the-job training, including mentorship by senior faculty and participation in teaching workshops, is common. Experience in curriculum development, student supervision, and academic publishing is highly valued, as is involvement in professional organizations related to their field.

Certifications & Licenses: Assistant Professor positions typically do not require specific certifications or licenses, except in fields like Nursing, Engineering, or Law, where relevant professional licensure (e.g., RN, PE, Bar Admission) may be necessary.

Assistant Professor Skills

Curriculum Development: Developing engaging, relevant course content that aligns with departmental goals and academic standards is crucial. Assistant Professors must balance student needs and abilities with the evolving demands of their discipline, ensuring learning outcomes are met through innovative and inclusive teaching methods.

Research Methodology: Designing, implementing, and analyzing academic studies is paramount for assistant professors, ensuring their research significantly contributes to their field. This skill set enhances teaching with current, evidence-based knowledge and elevates scholarly profiles through publications and grants.

Academic Publishing: Producing and disseminating original research through peer-reviewed journals enhances the body of knowledge in their field and academic profile, aiding in tenure pursuits. Success in this area requires meticulous research methodology, clear writing, and strategic journal selection and understanding of the peer review process.

Student Advising: Providing effective guidance through academic pathways and career options tailored to individual student needs and aspirations is critical. It involves a comprehensive knowledge of curriculum, awareness of industry trends, and fostering a supportive environment for student growth and success.

Grant Writing: Articulating research goals, methodologies, and potential impacts in proposals is crucial for securing funding. Assistant Professors must navigate the requirements of various funding bodies to ensure their projects are financially supported.

Lecture Preparation: Developing engaging and informative content for students involves a thorough understanding of the subject matter and the ability to anticipate and address student questions and learning barriers. This includes selecting relevant materials and examples and integrating multimedia resources and interactive teaching methods to enhance learning outcomes.

Assistant Professor Work Environment

Assistant Professors often find themselves in a dynamic work environment that blends traditional academic settings with modern technological tools. Their workspace typically includes a personal office within the university, equipped with computers and access to online academic databases, essential for research and teaching preparation.

The nature of their work allows for a degree of flexibility in work hours, often beyond the standard nine-to-five, to accommodate teaching schedules, student consultations, and research demands. This role requires a balance between solitary tasks, like research and grading, and interactive ones, such as lecturing and participating in department meetings, fostering a varied interaction level with students and colleagues.

Universities usually promote a culture of continuous learning and professional development, offering opportunities for Assistant Professors to advance their skills and academic qualifications. The work environment is generally supportive of work-life balance, with policies in place to ensure accessibility and the well-being of staff. Dress codes tend to be more relaxed, reflecting the diverse university culture.

Advancement Prospects

Assistant Professors can advance to Associate Professor and eventually to Full Professor positions, primarily through demonstrating excellence in research, teaching, and service. Achieving tenure is a critical step, which involves a rigorous review of these contributions.

Publishing in high-impact journals, securing research grants, and contributing to the academic community through conference presentations and peer review are essential for advancement. Excellence in teaching, evidenced by positive student evaluations and innovative curriculum development, also plays a significant role.

Service to the university, such as committee participation and leadership roles within the department, further supports a case for promotion. Each of these elements is scrutinized during the promotion process, making a balanced and sustained effort across all areas vital for career progression.


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