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Lecturer vs. Assistant Professor: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in academia can be both rewarding and challenging. Two common positions at colleges and universities are that of a lecturer and an assistant professor. Though both roles involve teaching, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a lecturer and an assistant professor, and we provide additional academic professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Lecturer?

Lecturers are typically employed at colleges and universities to teach students about a particular subject area. They typically have a terminal degree in their field, such as a PhD, and are experts in their area of study. Lecturers typically develop and deliver lectures to large groups of students and lead classroom discussions. They may also develop course materials, such as syllabi, assignments and handouts. In addition to teaching, Lecturers may also conduct research and publish scholarly articles and books in their field.

What is an Assistant Professor?

Assistant Professors typically teach lower-level undergraduate courses and may also be responsible for conducting research and publishing scholarly papers and books in their field of expertise. They typically work at colleges and universities, though some may work for research institutes or government agencies. Assistant Professors typically have a Ph.D. or other terminal degree in their field and several years of post-doctoral research experience. In addition to their teaching and research duties, they may also be responsible for advising students, serving on university committees and participating in departmental activities.

Lecturer vs. Assistant Professor

Here are the main differences between a lecturer and an assistant professor.

Job Duties

One of the clearest differences between a lecturer and an assistant professor is the type of duties they perform. Lecturers typically have a limited number of tasks to complete while working at a college or university. Their primary responsibility is to teach classes, either as part of their regular job or as part of a contract that lasts for a specific period of time.

An assistant professor has many other responsibilities in addition to teaching. They often spend time conducting research, writing papers and developing course curriculums. These activities are important because they help advance a professor’s career. Assistant professors may also take on administrative roles within their department, such as serving as a mentor to students or managing staff members.

Job Requirements

Lecturers typically need to have a master’s degree or higher in their field of expertise, while assistant professors usually need a doctorate. In addition, both positions may require several years of experience working in their field before being eligible for the role. For example, an assistant professor may need to have several years of experience teaching at the college level before being considered for the position, while a lecturer may need to have several years of professional experience in their field before being eligible to teach courses.

Work Environment

Lecturers and assistant professors have different work environments. Lecturers typically work in a classroom setting, but they may also travel to other locations to give lectures or presentations. Assistant professors usually work in an office environment at their school, but they may also teach classes in classrooms.

Assistant professors often spend more time working than lecturers because of the additional responsibilities that come with being a professor. They may also need to attend meetings with students, faculty members and administrators. Lecturers may not need to meet with students as much, but they still need to prepare for each lecture and ensure that all materials are ready for class.


Both lecturers and assistant professors typically need excellent communication skills to deliver lectures and lead classroom discussions effectively. They also both benefit from having strong organizational skills to keep their lecture materials well-organized and develop a clear structure for each class session. Additionally, both positions require the ability to engage with students one-on-one, whether to provide feedback on assignments or help them understand complex concepts.

Lecturers tend to focus more on teaching undergraduate students, while assistant professors typically teach both undergraduate and graduate students. Assistant professors may also conduct research in addition to teaching, so they need to be skilled in designing experiments, analyzing data and writing research papers. Those who want to become an assistant professor typically need to have a Ph.D., while a lecturer position may only require a master’s degree.


The average salary for a lecturer is $69,343 per year, while the average salary for an assistant professor is $77,042 per year. The salary for both positions may vary depending on the type of institution at which you work, your level of experience and your location.


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