Teach Others and Be a Leader in Your Field

If you thrive in academia, excel in your field and love to teach, a career as a professor could be exciting and fulfilling. Professors, who educate the next generation of professionals in many different fields, normally hold terminal degrees in their field, along with a good bit of experience. Flexible office hours, full benefits and lengthy breaks during the summer as well as throughout the school year make this profession a good fit for raising children.

Job Description

Professors teach adults in institutions of higher learning, such as colleges, universities and community colleges. They are specialists in their field who teach classes, mentor students, write and publish professional findings, as well as help to facilitate special services such as research projects, trips abroad or extracurricular activities. Professors also hold regular office hours during which they meet with students, and they attend faculty and departmental meetings. They work as part of a team with other professors and school administrators.

Education Requirements

Professors are generally expected to hold a terminal degree in their field, which is usually a doctoral degree, but in some fields or educational environments, a master's-level degree may suffice. Many professors are also expected to have work experience in their field, especially professors of law, medicine, art or education. To prepare for a position as a professor, expect to spend four years earning your bachelor's degree, another two years earning your master's degree, followed by several years working toward a doctoral degree, along with a few more years working in the field. Competition for positions can be extremely steep, so a stellar academic record and top-notch connections in the field are to your benefit.

The median salary for professors is $75,430, which means that half of all professors earn more than this, while the other half earns less. The top 10 percent earns more than $168,270, while the bottom 10 percent earns less than $38,290. Field of study greatly influences pay in academia, with the highest pay occurring in the fields of law, medicine, engineering and economics. Tenured positions generally come with full benefits and a flexible schedule that makes family life easier.

About the Industry

Roughly 39 percent of professors work for private colleges, universities and professional schools. Another 37 percent are employed by state colleges and universities. The remainder are employed by public junior colleges at the local or state level. Most professors work in classrooms and in an office where they meet with students. College campuses can be large, so professors often must walk to their classes. Many professors work part-time or at more than one institution, while full-time and tenured faculty teach at one institution.

Years of Experience

Years of experience, field of study, employer budget and tenure status greatly influence pay. Aim to secure tenured positions within well-respected universities to reach the higher end of the pay scale. One prediction of income increasing over time looks like this:

  • Entry Level: $39,937‒$102,178
  • Mid-Career: $44,040‒$120,576
  • Experienced: $54,015‒$152,996
  • Late Career: $62,803‒$183,261

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for professors are expected to increase by 15 percent over the next decade, which is much faster than in other industries. The number of people attending colleges and universities is increasing, and online education options make it more accessible than ever. While all opportunities are increasing, positions for professors in the health care field are expected to increase by 26 percent over the next decade.

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