7 Steps to Becoming a College Professor

7 Steps to Becoming a College Professor

If you have always dreamed of becoming a college professor, then you are likely someone who is passionate about education and wishes to remain an educator throughout their career. The pathway to becoming a professor requires acquiring the right education, certificates, and marks. While the journey may take time and effort, the opportunities for growth and delivering knowledge are rewarding.

Step 1: Graduate from high school. Before you can begin your journey to becoming a professor, it is essential to first complete your high school education. Good grades and a strong academic foundation are crucial for your future studies.

Step 2: Obtain a bachelor’s degree. To progress in your academic career, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in your chosen field. This will provide you with the necessary knowledge and material to move forward on the professorial ladder.

Step 3: Choose a graduate program. Before moving on to pursuing a doctorate, you will need to choose a graduate program that aligns with your field of interest. This program will allow you to specialize and deepen your understanding of your chosen subject.

Step 4: Earn a doctorate. Acquiring a doctorate is one of the most significant steps in becoming a college professor. This requires completing coursework, passing exams, and writing a thesis that contributes to the existing body of knowledge in your field.

Step 5: Gain experience in academia. Though obtaining a doctorate is essential, it is not the only thing that hiring committees look for. To progress on the tenure-track pathway, it is crucial to gain teaching experience and publication credits in reputable academic journals.

Step 6: Network and build connections. In academia, networking is key. Attend conferences, join professional organizations, and connect with experienced professors in your field. Building relationships can open doors to new opportunities and help you climb the salary ladder.

Step 7: Apply for professorial positions. Once you have completed the necessary steps, it’s time to begin applying for professorial positions. Keep in mind that the demand for professorships is high, so be prepared to face competition. Highlight your qualifications and experience in your applications and interviews.

By following these steps, you can begin your journey toward becoming a college professor. Remember that it takes time and dedication, but the rewards are well worth it. The world of academia offers endless opportunities for instructing, researching, and making a real-world impact in your field of expertise.

Gaining Work Experience

When it comes to pursuing a career as a college professor, gaining work experience is essential. In fact, many colleges and universities require their professors to have real-world experience in their field before hiring them.

There are several steps you can take to gain the necessary work experience:

1. Explore Different Specialties

Before applying for professor positions, it’s important to explore different specialties within your field. This will help you align your career goals and interests with the opportunities available.

2. Manage Your Time

As you remain in school studying for your higher degrees, it’s important to manage your time effectively. Balancing your responsibilities as a student with gaining work experience can be challenging, but it’s necessary for future success.

According to a wide range of colleges and universities, the top 4 steps to gaining work experience for a college professor include:

1Seek Assistantships
2Pursue Postdocs
3Obtain Professional Certificates
4Work in Startups or Government

In some cases, colleges and universities may also require licenses or specialized credentials. It’s important to make a list of the specific requirements for the colleges you are interested in.

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Looking for summer internships or assistant positions related to your field can provide you with hands-on experience. These opportunities allow you to work with experienced professionals, manage real-world work responsibilities, and apply your academic knowledge.

In addition to gaining work experience, it’s important to remain active in your academic studies. Continuing to research and publish material in your field will help you stand out when applying for professor positions.

Start Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistantships play a crucial role in the journey to becoming a college professor. As a graduate student, taking on a teaching assistantship at your university can provide valuable experience, a salary, and help you progress towards a tenure-track position.

Before exploring teaching assistantships, it is important to note that not all graduates will start with this opportunity. Some doctoral programs may require you to complete a certain amount of coursework and make progress on your research before being considered for a teaching assistantship. However, if you are looking to gain experience in academia and wish to begin honing your teaching skills, this can be a beneficial pathway to consider.

What Are Teaching Assistantships?

Teaching assistantships are employment roles within universities that provide financial support to graduate students pursuing higher degrees. As a teaching assistant, you will typically work under the guidance of a professor, delivering lectures or leading discussions, grading assignments, and assisting with course material. This hands-on experience in the classroom not only helps you develop your teaching skills but also allows you to explore different subject areas.

Qualifications and Requirements

To qualify for a teaching assistantship, you will need to meet certain qualifications set by your university or department. These can vary, but generally, they require you to have completed a bachelor’s degree and be enrolled in a graduate program. Some universities may also require you to have specialized knowledge in a specific subject area or have certain certifications.

While qualifications may differ, universities are generally looking for candidates who demonstrate strong communication skills, a passion for teaching, and a desire to support the learning of others. Prior experience or background in education can also be beneficial.

Benefits of Teaching Assistantships

Another significant benefit of teaching assistantships is the opportunity to work closely with professors and other teaching assistants. This allows you to engage in discussions about course material, pedagogy, and the wider world of academia. Such interactions can be intellectually stimulating and can help you form connections and build relationships with faculty members.

Lastly, teaching assistantships can be a stepping stone towards a tenure-track position. As you progress in your doctoral program and gain more teaching experience, you will become a more competitive candidate for future faculty positions. Teaching assistantships also demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skills and dedication necessary to excel in an academic career.

So, if you are considering a career in academia and wish to become a college professor, teaching assistantships can be an excellent starting point. They offer valuable experience, financial support, and the opportunity to align yourself with the world of higher education. Follow this guide and immerse yourself in teaching assistantships as you climb the ladder to your dream career!

Seek Research Opportunities

When considering a career as a college professor, it is essential to seek research opportunities. Developing your research skills is an integral part of progressing in the academic world and building a successful professorial career.

Research opportunities can come in various forms, such as assistantship positions, working with experienced professors, or participating in research programmes. These opportunities allow you to hone your research skills, publish your findings, and deliver presentations at conferences or in introductory courses.

Research is particularly important if you are looking to secure tenure-track positions at colleges or universities. Tenure-track roles often require candidates to possess a wide range of research experience and a strong publication record. By seeking research opportunities, you not only improve your chances of obtaining tenure-track positions but also demonstrate your commitment to academic excellence.

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When seeking research opportunities, consider what disciplines and fields you are most interested in. Look for educational programmes or doctorates that align with your interests and career goals. It is also essential to remain up-to-date with the latest developments in your field and stay active in research communities.

Research opportunities can also help you network with other professionals in your field, opening up doors for collaboration and potential employment opportunities. By immersing yourself in the academic community, you will gain valuable insights and connections that can support your journey as a college professor.

It is important to note that salaries for college professors can vary widely depending on factors such as the level of education, the type of institution, discipline demand, and your experience in the field. However, a career as a college professor offers many rewards beyond just monetary compensation.

Overall, seeking research opportunities is an essential step in preparing for a career as a college professor. It allows you to develop your research skills, build a strong academic foundation, and stay connected with the broader academic community. By focusing on research, you can position yourself for success in the competitive world of academia.

Key points:
– Seek research assistantship positions– Develop strong research skills
– Publish your findings and deliver presentations– Network with other professionals in your field
– Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your discipline– Aim for tenure-track positions at colleges or universities

Attend Conferences

One important aspect of progressing in the academic profession is attending conferences. Conferences offer valuable opportunities for college professors to network and stay updated on the latest research and developments in their respective fields.

By attending conferences, professors can fulfill multiple roles. They can present their own research, gaining recognition and feedback from others in the field. They can also attend introductory sessions to learn about new topics and approaches.

For graduate students or recent graduates considering a career as a college professor, attending conferences can be particularly beneficial. These events provide an opportunity to connect with professors and professionals in their desired field, getting to know potential mentors and building relationships that could aid in their career progression.

Conferences can also offer guidance on finding teaching opportunities, using technology in the classroom, and problem-solving smaller issues that may arise while working as a professor. They often cover a wide range of disciplines and offer sessions on acquiring new skills and credentials.

Having a presence at conferences can elevate a professor’s professional standing. It shows their dedication to staying current with the latest advancements in their field and their commitment to ongoing learning.

Attending conferences is not limited to summers or breaks from the academic year. Many conferences are held throughout the year, providing opportunities for professors to continue their professional development while still fulfilling their teaching responsibilities.

Furthermore, conferences often host keynote speakers and presenters who are esteemed in their fields, offering insights and perspectives that can be enlightening and inspiring. These experiences can provide professors with new ideas and perspectives to incorporate into their lectures and course material.

While attending conferences does require time and potentially some travel, the benefits make it a worthwhile investment. It is a pathway to becoming a successful college professor and can open up doors for career advancement and new opportunities.

Publish Research

As a college professor, one of your responsibilities will likely be to publish research in your field. Publishing research is crucial for professors because it allows them to contribute to their profession, stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field, and make a name for themselves in the academic world. It also provides an opportunity to share knowledge and findings with other researchers and educators.

Higher education institutions place a high value on research and often prioritize professors who have a strong publication record. Research publication is a way for college professors to validate their expertise and knowledge in a specific area. It demonstrates your ability to contribute new ideas, theories, and methodologies to your field.

When it comes to publishing research as a college professor, there are several avenues you can explore. Many professors publish their research by submitting articles to academic journals relevant to their field. These journals often have a peer-review process, where your work is evaluated by other experts in the field before it is accepted for publication.

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Benefits of Publishing Research

By publishing your research, you not only contribute to the advancement of knowledge in your field but also elevate your own professional progress. Here are some of the benefits of publishing research as a college professor:

  • Establishing yourself as an expert
  • Building relationships with other researchers and scholars
  • Opportunities for collaboration and networking
  • Gaining recognition and visibility within your profession
  • Enhancing your chances of receiving research grants and funding
  • Increasing your credibility as an educator

How to Publish Research

If you wish to publish research as a college professor, there are a few steps you can take to improve your chances of getting your work published:

  1. Identify the best publication venues: Research the journals or conference proceedings that are most relevant to your area of study and align with your research interests.
  2. Conduct thorough research: Ensure that your research is comprehensive, well-documented, and based on rigorous methodology.
  3. Write a compelling article: Craft your article in a clear and concise manner, adhering to the specific guidelines and requirements of the chosen publication.
  4. Submit your work for peer review: Send your article to the selected journals or conferences for evaluation by experts in your field.
  5. Revise and resubmit: Take feedback from reviewers seriously and make necessary revisions to improve the quality of your work.
  6. Respond to reviewer comments: Address any concerns or questions raised by reviewers in a professional and timely manner.
  7. Publication and dissemination: Once accepted, your research will be published and made available to the academic community and other interested individuals.

Remember that publishing research takes time and effort, but the rewards can be great. It is a way to contribute to your field, make a difference, and enhance your career as a college professor.


What qualifications do I need to become a college professor?

To become a college professor, you usually need a doctoral degree in the field you want to teach. Some colleges may require a master’s degree, but a doctorate is typically preferred. In addition to the degree, you will also need teaching experience and strong academic credentials.

How long does it take to become a college professor?

The time it takes to become a college professor can vary. Generally, it takes about 8-10 years after starting your bachelor’s degree to earn a doctoral degree. This includes 4-6 years to earn a bachelor’s degree, 2-3 years for a master’s degree, and another 2-4 years for the doctoral degree. After completing your education, you may also need several years of teaching experience and research before you can become a professor.

Are there any alternative paths to become a college professor without a doctoral degree?

While it is rare, there are some cases where individuals without a doctoral degree become college professors. These cases typically involve individuals who have exceptional expertise and experience in a specific field, such as industry professionals or artists. However, it is important to note that having a doctoral degree is generally the standard requirement for becoming a professor.

What is the average salary of a college professor?

The average salary of a college professor can vary depending on several factors, including the institution, location, and level of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $79,540 as of May 2020. However, salaries can range from around $40,000 for entry-level positions to over $150,000 for experienced professors at prestigious universities.

What are the main responsibilities of a college professor?

As a college professor, your main responsibilities include teaching courses in your area of expertise, developing curriculum, conducting research, advising students, and participating in faculty meetings and committees. You will also be expected to stay updated on advancements in your field, publish scholarly articles, and provide guidance and mentorship to students.

What qualifications do I need to become a college professor?

To become a college professor, you typically need a minimum of a master’s degree in your field. Some universities may require a doctoral degree, especially for tenure-track positions. Additionally, teaching experience and research publications are often highly valued.

Is teaching experience necessary to become a college professor?

Teaching experience is not always necessary to become a college professor, but it can significantly enhance your chances of securing a position. Many universities prefer candidates with teaching experience, as it demonstrates your ability to effectively communicate and engage with students. It also shows that you have a genuine interest in education and are committed to the role of a professor.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.