Education is the Key to Success in Life

Perhaps like me, many of the individuals whom you have idolized were involved in higher education and this is the reason you want to learn how to become a college professor. I feel the pursuit of this type of noble career in leadership allows you to be an individual capable of contributing to the betterment of society. In this post, you will learn how to become a college professor.

We will examine the following:

  • Overview
  • Job Duties
  • Working conditions
  • Necessary education and requirements
  • Step-by-step guide on how to become a college professor
  • Classification of ranks
  • Characteristics of successful professor
  • Salary
  • Job Outlook

Overview of a Career as a Professor

Professors are considered leaders in their field. Professors teach in higher education typically in university and college settings. For these two reasons alone it is worthwhile considering how to become a college professor.

Their instruction hours depend on the university and college but may include evenings and weekends. Generally, these instruction hours allow professors to receive summers off as students choose to take summer breaks. Another factor that could impact when and where a professor teaches is whether their school offers an online program.

However, there’s more:

5 Core Job Duties of a Professor

Beyond instructing courses, professors are responsible for the following:

1. Mentoring students
2. Curriculum development and formation of lesson plans
3. Create assignments
4. Grade homework, essays, tests, and quizzes
5. Serve on committees

Dependent on the university/college
5. Conduct research
6. Submit research for publication

What’s more:

Classroom and Office: Where Do You Belong

College professors typically work in either a classroom or office. Classroom time usually focuses on instruction while office time is for class preparations, research, and advisement. Classroom time on average is around 9-12 hours consisting of 3-4 classes meeting 2-3 times per week. The number of students in a classroom varies but may include a couple hundred students or fewer than 25.

Think about it:

It All Starts with Education

Teaching at any Institute of higher learning demands that an individual possesses a master’s degree at a bare minimum. With a master’s degree, a person can serve as an instructor at a community college or technical university. According to our guide on how to become a college professor, gaining employment as a professor at a university or college requires a terminal degree, either a doctorate or PhD. Having earned a doctorate, an individual is more likely to be eligible for full-time, tenured position.
To receive a doctorate, an individual would first earn a bachelors degree as well as a master’s degree. Having attended school in most cases for six years to this point, they would need to enroll in a college that offers a doctorate in the field of interest. This degree is not always easy to come by and can be laborious. A doctoral candidate would need to do individual research that would culminate in a study that adds to the body of knowledge and is unique.

What’s the bottom line?

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Become a College Professor

1. Dare to dream

A professor needs to be well versed in their field. The first step is to choose a topic of interest and start taking courses in an area that evokes passion. As you can imagine, there are a number of subjects one can teach. In high school, there were only a few core classes. However, this is college, everything needs to be taught at some point or another so dare to dream.
If you want to identify possible subjects of interest, the best thing you can do, is to grab a couple course books from different schools. Read the course descriptions to match university needs with your interests.

2. 4 years of the good life

In many cases earning a bachelor’s degree is a four-year journey or longer. Earning this credential is the first rung of the ladder.
While working towards this achievement one needs to find a relative amount of success through their grade-point average as this may well decide whether you are accepted to graduate school. During this time, it would also be wise to foster working relationships with your professors.
Applications for graduate school typically include reference letters. Your professors may be able to assist by supplying the reference you seek.

3. 2 years and life experience

Some graduate programs require you to have a couple of years worth of work experience prior to enrollment. Graduate school is different in that many of the courses are student led with professors serving as facilitators. Having work experience allows you to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful manner.
As previously stated, you need a master’s degree if you have the desire to teach at a technical college or community college. However, those individuals who possess their doctoral degree receive preferential treatment even in these educational settings.

4. Use your education to find employment in academia

While working towards your master’s degree, be on the lookout for teaching assistant positions. Serving as a teacher’s assistant provides you with the opportunity to get your feet wet and have a taste for teaching in an academic setting. These types of positions are usually found only in brick and mortar universities where professors are heavily involved in conducting research or administrative duties. As a teacher’s assistant, you will learn to prepare for classes, lead discussions, and grade assignments.
I have yet to see a teaching assistant position in an online university. In this case, another option to get classroom experience is contacting your local school district to see if there is a need for substitute teachers. Although this option may not entail teaching a subject of your choosing, it offers one the experience in interacting with learners in an educational capacity.
Anything you can do to have experience as a teacher the better off you will be. Ideally, this experience is also related to your field of study. Experience in a related field will continue your development and increase your breadth of knowledge.

5. If it were easy, everyone would do it

After receiving your master’s degree, the second rung on the ladder, you will need to enroll for a doctoral program.
There are two important things to consider at this stage. First, it would be beneficial to earn your doctoral degree at  another university than the one where you received your master’s degree even if both are offered. Choosing a separate university or college is important because it will give you a distinct experience than the one you already possess. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to network with other experts in your field.
Second, if you have the desire to teach at a specific university or college, examine the background of current professors.

6. The day has come

Congratulations if you have made it this far! This is the third rung of the ladder. It is now time to apply for available positions. The pinnacle of being a professor is earning a tenure position. However, you should be aware that these positions are difficult to obtain. To increase your likelihood of obtaining this type of position you want to be a highly published researcher.
Having earned a professorship, staying current in your field will remain important. In order to stay current you should continue to read journal articles and attend conferences. Articles allow you to stay abreast of changing information. While attending conferences allows you to network with others who share your passion.

Working your way to the top:

Classification of Ranks

On the road to becoming a full-fledged professor one will generally progress through the ranks. Each rank has different responsibilities.

An instructor possesses a master’s degree or above. As an instructor, your primary responsibility is the instruction of students.

Assistant Professor
An assistant professor has a terminal degree in most cases. Assistant professors focus on teaching but are also involved in academic affairs through by participating in departmental meetings.

Associate Professor
Associate professors are similar to assistant professors. However, the two are in different in that the associate professor has developed a national reputation by conducting work outside the walls of the university or college.

Professors typically advance through the ranks. As associate professors have gained recognition in their field at a national level, professors begin to get international attention for their contributions to their area of study.

What skills do popular professors possess?

Characteristics of Successful Professors

Some professors are more popular than others. As professors are leaders in their field, it is not surprising that the characteristics of well-known professors are also similar to the characteristics of successful leaders.


1. Passion for their work
2. Can motivate and inspire students
3. Enjoy working and interacting with others
4. Knowledgeable
5. Effective communicators
6. Challenge themselves and others


Is it all worth it?

College Professor Salary

The average salary in 2012 for a teacher in higher education was $68,970 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest ten percent of instructors earned in excess of $142,270 while the bottom ten percent earned less than $35,670. The following fields are the top five most well paid areas in teaching higher education:
$99,950 for law teachers, postsecondary
$92,670 for engineering teachers, postsecondary
$87,950 for economics teachers, postsecondary
$82,180 for atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary
$81,930 for forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary
Remember, the salary is only one component of the value you receive from all your effort. It is important to include the intrinsic value you will receive from making a difference in the lives of your students. Interacting with students leaves you with the opportunity to add to your legacy. Furthermore, working as a professor is an opportunity to receive local, national, and international accolades for your contributions to the field.

The best part is:

Job Outlook

There is a positive job outlook for professors. The anticipated job growth in this area is 19 percent, which is at a rate higher than other areas. The employment change from 2012-2022 will supplant 236,400 additional jobs. The job outlook depends on the enrollment rate which is also set to increase. The area of greatest job growth is for individuals on a part-time or adjunct basis.

As I said before,


In our guide on how to become a college professor, you have learned about the job, educational requirements, and the step-by-step process to gaining employment in the field. Additionally, you learned about the classification of ranks, what it takes to be successful as a teacher in higher education, salary, and future job outlook. These elements combined will help you learn how to become a college professor.