- If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Become a University Professor
Teaching at a university is a rewarding career, but with a declining number of available positions, becoming a college professor isn't easy. More than 70 percent of all college faculty currently teach off the tenure track, meaning their future at the university is not stable. For many adjunct professors, getting an advanced degree is a path into poverty; more than 33,000 Ph.D. holders are currently on public assistance. Think very carefully before embarking on a path to become a professor.
If however you want to become a university professor, you will need to be highly dedicated to your chosen field of academics, as this competitive and lucrative field is reserved for those who can demonstrate academic achievement at all levels.
Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a university professor.
Education Needed to Become a University Professor
Universities typically require their professors to have doctoral degrees in their field, which generally takes students 6 years of full time study upon the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. Some universities, or faculties within some universities may make exceptions to this, as they may hire those who have a master’s degree or hire doctoral degree candidates. This is more common among associate and assistant level professors.
University professors who teach in professional faculties, such as law, may not be required to have a doctoral level education. Instead, schools may seek professors who have experience or certification in the field they wish to teach.
Students hoping to become university professors must be able to demonstrate academic excellence at every level of study; high school, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral. Some universities require prospective professors to have made significant contributions to their field if they are to be considered for employment.
Take an internship
An internship will give you valuable professional experience and will allow you to learn outside the space of a classroom. It will also help you to build a professional network outside of academia. Talk to your university's career center for tips on finding a rewarding internship.
Gaining University Professor Work Experience as a Student
If you want to become a university professor, a great way to gain relevant career experience is by working as a graduate teaching assistant while you are a graduate student. Typically students working as graduate teaching assistants do so in the school in which they are enrolled as a graduate student.
Gaining relevant career experience is crucial as academic positions are highly competitive, and many universities prefer to hire professors who have teaching experience.
Skills Needed to Become a University Professor
In order to become effective in a career as a university professor and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills are typically acquired as a result of years of study in a chosen field of study, as well as work experience as a student teaching assistant.
• High level of knowledge in area of instruction and/or research • Excellent verbal communication skills, both for lecturing and communicating with colleagues • Excellent writing skills, for publishing research and analysis • Excellent organizational and time management skills • An aptitude for research • Able to effectively evaluate student progress