Career Development

Professor Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Professors teach students and conduct research at colleges and universities. They also may perform administrative duties, such as advising students or serving on committees.

Professors teach students and conduct research at colleges and universities. They also may perform administrative duties, such as advising students or serving on committees.

Professors typically specialize in a specific subject area, such as biology or economics. In some cases, they may specialize within that subject area, such as neurobiology or financial economics.

Professors work in a variety of different settings. Some teach at two-year community colleges or technical schools, while others teach at four-year universities. Professors who work at four-year universities may focus on teaching undergraduates or graduate students. They may conduct research with other professors or teach a range of courses for undergraduate and graduate students.

Professor Job Duties

Typical responsibilities of a professor include the following:

  • Teaching courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • Preparing class lectures and lesson plans, ensuring that all material presented meets curriculum guidelines and is aligned with academic standards
  • Developing new content or course materials as needed to support the objectives of department curricula or to meet the requirements of accreditation boards
  • Grading students’ work, including exams, papers, and projects
  • Participating in departmental, school, and university committees and task forces to help develop policies and procedures for academics and student life
  • Conducting academic research and publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals
  • Providing advice to students regarding their coursework or offering academic counseling as needed

Professor Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for professors is $85,000. The highest earners earn over $200,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work at colleges and universities.

Job opportunities for professors are expected to grow faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the prevalence of colleges and universities in the United States. As these institutions expand and offer more courses and programs, they will need more professors to meet the demand.

Professor Job Requirements

Requirements for being a professor are as follows:

Education: Professors typically need a doctoral degree in their field of study. While earning their Ph.D., they should have completed coursework in their area of specialization. They should also have completed a dissertation where they demonstrate their ability to conduct research.

Training: Most professors complete fieldwork within their field of study, which allows them to gain practical experience. This training gives them the skills they need to teach their students. They can also participate in professional development training to help them improve their teaching methods and skills.

Certifications & Licenses: Professors are not usually required to hold a license, but some states may require professors to hold a license to teach at the college level. These licenses are administered by the state’s education board.

Professor Skills

Being a professor requires the following skills:

Communication skills: Professors must be able to explain concepts clearly in order for students to understand them.

Writing skills: Professors must be able to write effectively, whether it is for research or class assignments.

Knowledge of subject matter: A professor must have a strong knowledge of his or her field of study. This is particularly important if he or she teaches at the college level.

Time management skills: Professors must manage their time wisely because they are constantly under pressure from deadlines and a busy schedule.

Patience: As a teacher, you will have to deal with different types of personalities and levels of motivation among your students. You need patience in order to handle this diversity.

Analytical skills: Professors must be able to analyze and evaluate information from many sources.

Professor Work Environment

Most professors work in clean, well-lit offices or labs. Their jobs are rarely physically strenuous since they usually spend the day sitting at desks and teaching students. They also hold office hours when students can speak with them about classwork and other issues. Professors may have to travel extensively during sabbaticals to conduct research or present papers at conferences.

While many professors enjoy the freedom of setting their own hours, others find it difficult to balance job demands with family needs. Some courses require professors to hold evening and weekend classes.

Professor Career Advancement

Some professors may opt to focus on research and teaching, but others may choose to move into administrative roles. If you choose to become a dean, you’ll be responsible for overseeing several departments and helping to implement new programs and initiatives.

An even higher position would be to become a vice president of the university. You’ll oversee several deans and will be responsible for strategic planning and coordination with other universities.

You’ll need to possess effective communication skills to advance, as you’ll be responsible for presenting to large groups of people, serving on committees, and speaking with parents and students about their concerns.

Professor Trends

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

Increasing Importance of Online Learning

Online learning is a growing trend in higher education as it can save universities money, reduce costs for students and allow more people to access an education.

In fact, some have argued that online courses are just as effective as traditional classroom-based courses—and the idea of being able to learn from the comfort of your own home without having to take time off work or find childcare may be more appealing than ever. 

Collaborative Learning

Many professors are using collaborative learning strategies in their classrooms to increase student engagement and performance.

Students working together on projects can increase retention rates, and it is particularly effective in STEM fields where group work often involves complex concepts that may be difficult for one person to understand alone. 

Increasingly Interactive Teaching

In recent years, technology has become a powerful tool for educators to make their classes more interactive and engaging.

One example of this is the use of podcasts, which can help students hear a variety of voices and viewpoints on a topic they are studying in class.

Online chats and webinars can also be used to engage students with experts from around the world, or even other students who may have had different experiences with a particular concept. 

How to Become a Professor

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you’re thinking about a career as a professor, you should think about the subjects that interest you most. Some professors enjoy teaching and sharing their knowledge with students; others enjoy researching and writing papers; still, others prefer to conduct fieldwork and work with community groups.

As a professor, you will be expected to develop and teach classes that meet the needs of your students. You may be asked to hold office hours or lead group projects; in many cases, your job responsibilities extend beyond the classroom.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for professors are often focused on their teaching abilities. It’s important to emphasize how you have demonstrated your past experience in the classroom. For example, you may want to describe any techniques, activities, or projects that you have created for students to use in future classes.

It’s useful to include details about how you have contributed to the overall development of the program or department that you work for. You can also include any academic achievements such as publications, conference presentations, and other forms of research collaborations. Include any awards and honors that highlight your contributions within the department and in academia as a whole.

3. Applying for Jobs

Networking and reaching out to professors and other faculty in your field is the best way to find a job as a professor. Many universities and colleges have regular career fairs and networking events, so be sure to attend them. Additionally, you should start submitting articles and publishing papers; this will allow you to network with other faculty members who might be able to help you find work. Many professors begin their careers by being hired as an adjunct professor first.

4. Ace the Interview

In a job interview for a professorship, you’ll probably be asked questions about your teaching philosophy and approach, especially if you’re interviewing at the university level.

If the position is a tenured position, you may also be asked questions about your research and scholarly interests. You also may be asked about your service activities with the department and the university as a whole, as well as any leadership roles you’ve held on campus.

It’s important to do some research on the college or university where you’ll be interviewing so that you can talk about why this particular school is a good fit for you. You should also review academic journals and literature on current topics of interest in your field. This will help give you a solid base of knowledge that will make it easier to respond knowledgeably during the conversation with your interviewer.

Finally, always be prepared to discuss your experience working with students from diverse cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds. This is one of the most important skills a college professor can have—the ability to engage with students from varying backgrounds and make them feel comfortable in your classroom.


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