College Professor Career Profile

If you fit the profile of a person who really enjoys learning and teaching, you might want to consider pursuing a career as a college professor.


To be a full-time, tenured college professor at a four year college or university, you will need to get a PhD in the subject area you want to teach. In order to be considered for the graduate school of your choice, you'll need a high grade point average. You will also have to score well on your Graduate Records Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LSAT), depending on what field of study you will be pursuing.

While working toward your master's degree, you should also take with your counselor about any prerequisite classes or teaching credentials you will need in order to obtain your PhD. In general, writing your dissertation will take you approximately three years and how good it is will determine whether you will be seriously considered for a position as a full-time professor. In addition, you will have to have previous teaching experience as a part-time or assistant professor before you will be accepted as a full time professor.

Job Duties/Advancement

Once you have a job as a professor, you will want to find out what the college or university's policies are regarding tenure. Usually there is a mandatory trial period of about seven years before you can receive tenure. During this trial period, you need to devote yourself to becoming an excellent teacher and to writing outstanding publications.

As a college professor you will be conducting research, writing books, supervising graduate students, giving lectures, preparing class materials, meeting with students, and teaching from 3 to 16 hours a week. The most successful college professors are motivated self-starters and creative thinkers who explore unique problems in their particular fields. If you get tenure, you will have a great deal of freedom and job security, but you will not be completely immune to being dismissed. Many institutions now conduct post-tenure reviews to make sure their professors are keeping up with their responsibilities.

Job Outlook/Salary/Hours

A college professor's job is more and more difficult to obtain since the number of openings seems to be decreasing. While 70 to 80 percent of jobs for professors are in four-year institutions, the rest work only part-time or in non-tenure track positions. As colleges and universities attempt to cut costs, they may very well reduce the number of tenured positions available.

The starting pay for professors is somewhere in the range of $35,000 to $55,000 a year. As a result, many professors engage in outside professional activities to earn additional income by consulting with companies, developing products and publishing work in magazines and newspapers.

While you will have somewhat flexible schedule, you will also work long hours since you never get to leave your work at the office. The good news is that you have quite a bit of time off from teaching during the school breaks, and some universities even give their professors time off in the form of sabbaticals during the school year in order to do research and complete books. In addition, professors often get to travel to give lectures at the university's expense. So despite the stress involved with the job with the pressure to publish and gain tenure, this career also has numerous benefits that make it attractive to people who really enjoy the world of academia.