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8 Steps to Becoming a College Professor

College Professor

If you love conducting research, teaching, or sharing your knowledge and having a positive impact on others, you may consider becoming a college professor. This career requires you to provide high-level education and guidance in particular fields to university or college students. 

Professors hold the highest academic titles at colleges and other post-secondary institutions. They are expected to have excellent subject expertise, great communication, and creative teaching skills. If you’re interested in this career, here are steps required to become a college professor:

1. Get an undergraduate degree

Just like every other educator, you’ll start by getting a bachelor’s degree. This is where you decide if you want to be a professor in the arts, science, or commerce stream. You’ll get to learn the basics of subjects that interest you the most and choose the one to gain expertise in. 

After enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program of your choice, make sure to maintain a high academic record and graduate with good grades. It’s one of the requirements for entering grad school. You should also observe your college professors understand their teaching styles.

2. Gain work experience

On your way to becoming a college professor, you need to practice at the level you’re at. First, pick one or two subjects you’re really strong at and offer to tutor college freshers or anyone else who needs help. It can help you discover if teaching is something you’d really like to pursue. 

You can also gain teaching experience by working as a student instructor or holding a part-time teaching position. If you’re really keen on research, it’s also helpful to volunteer or gets a paid research assistant role where you can gain more experience in teaching certain subjects.

3. Specialize

Your specialization is one of the most crucial college professor requirements. It doesn’t have to be the exact field of study you chose for your undergraduate degree but it needs to be somewhat similar. You’ll find it much easier to dive deeper into topics you’re already familiar with. 

Your chosen specialty also helps to set you apart from the competition. Plus the more specialized knowledge you have, the greater the advantage you’ll have against more ‘generalist’ job candidates. Better yet, you may find yourself being headhunted in the future. 

4. Get a postgraduate degree

To become a college professor, it’s imperative to get a doctoral degree in the field you wish to teach in. A master’s degree can help to prepare you for the task ahead. But if you’ve demonstrated strong academic performance as an undergraduate, you may be allowed to skip that. 

A Ph.D. requires you to work on a dissertation or research project and although you may be working under supervision, you’re meant to plan, research, and write a really good thesis by yourself. Also, a unique or unusual dissertation topic can help you catch the attention of a recruiting college. 

5. Become a teaching assistant or postdoc positions

During your postgraduate years, you can join an assistantship program if your college has one. You’ll work under the supervision of a professor and might receive full or partial tuition remission and a stipend. You can choose to participate in research or teaching assistantships. 

After graduating, you need to apply for a postdoc position at a college. Your responsibilities may include: undertaking a reasonable amount of teaching, acting as an assistant supervisor to master’s and Ph.D. students, as well as conducting original research and investigations. 

6. Join academic and professional associations

As someone who wants to become a college professor, it’s important for you to join professional associations. It helps to add some clout to your resume and shows you are serious about your field. You’ll also network with many educators from different colleges and universities. 

And of course, exclusive information about job and research opportunities is often shared in these groups. Some associations for college professors include The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

7. Publish a research article

Another one of the college professor requirements is for you to contribute to academic publications. You need to write well-researched articles and papers for academic websites or magazines. Doing this will help to establish yourself as an authority in your field of knowledge. 

Published papers help to provide more insight into certain questions and topics. You’d have to publish at least 5 high-quality papers to go from assistant to associate professor. Then, you need at least ten research publications to be a college professor.

8. Apply for professor positions

College professor positions are projected to grow 12 percent from 2020 to 2030. After getting your degrees, gaining work experience, choosing what to specialize in, and fulfilling other college professor requirements. you’re ready to go.

You can start by asking your graduate advisor or other academic staff. If you’ve already joined a scholarly association, you can ask other members to point you in the right direction. There are several higher education job sites to help you out.


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