How to Become a College Professor

Professional Tips & Advice to Becoming a College Professor

H. B. Adams said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." A college professor is a respectable, prestigious and dignified but challenging job because it has strict requirements and high standards. If you wish to work in a university as a professor, here are some tips and advice to help fulfill your dream.

Step 1: Understand the college professor's description and responsibilities.

College professors are the principal lecturers or teachers in a field of study in a college. What a college professor teaches mostly depends on his/her major, the working status and the type of university.

College professors are expected to deliver instructions to undergraduate and graduate students, provide a vision for academic and research programs and contribute to student learning. When universities want to recruit new professors, there are some qualifications considered, like professional degree, teaching experience, and academic accomplishments. Their duties also involve contributing to research and academic services, so they need to attend academic conferences to exchange ideas and keep themselves updated with the latest research development and trends.

Step 2: Think before you do: whether is it worth to be a college professor or not

Being a college professor usually comes with a decent payment and fringe benefits, including medical plans, retirement and educational fee discounts. So you don’t have to worry about life quality and prospects. Psychologically, teaching and researching can give you a sense of accomplishment for contributing to education and society. Plus, as a college professor, you can enjoy long term vacations according to the schedule of the university, which means you have better control of your life.

However, the position also brings a lot of responsibilities and challenges. College students may be confused and lost, without the company of parents. As a professor, student mentoring and advising is a part of your job, you should accurately evaluate the students’ progress and develop their ability to engage in debates and discussions. But it takes time and effort to promote the development of students, and not everyone has enough patience, and influence to do so. Before you take a relative job, ask yourself whether you are ready to use your abilities and knowledge to help others develop themselves and achieve their goals.

Step 3: Research best colleges and universities for a college professor

We list some universities which would help your career development:

1. Harvard University

Harvard University is a world-renowned private research university and a famous member of the Ivy League. It is the alma mater of 8 presidents and more than 30 winners of the Nobel Prize. Its education school has made a significant international and national impact on talent development, scientific research and social services and has become a world-class school of education. The school motto is "learn to change the world".

2. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is one of the leading public research universities. It is the oldest university in the English-speaking and the second oldest institution of higher education in the world. The major of education of Oxford focuses on global higher education theory and practice and aims to foster future leaders in academia, policymaking, research and management.

3. Stanford University

Stanford University, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is known as a member of the association of American universities and University-Based Institutes for Advanced Study. The university is filled with thick culture and an academic atmosphere and has mighty teaching staff. Stanford Graduate School of Education has always been an academic center of educational research and teacher training in the United States and a world-renowned educational research institute.

4. University of Hong Kong

5. University of Pennsylvania

6. University of Cambridge

7. University of California, Berkeley

8. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

9. University of California, Los Angeles

10. University of Wisconsin-Madison

11. Vanderbilt University

12. Peking University

13. University of Helsinki

14. University of Toronto

15. Penn State (Main campus)

16. UCL

17. University of Washington

18. Columbia University

19. King's College London

20. University of Texas at Austin

Step 4: Go through college

Your performance in your university plays a vital role in your career development and will be considered by your interviewers. So you need to make sure you have a high GPA and no failed courses in your major, be active in volunteer jobs and social practice. It is very important to manage your time well and don’t get overloaded. And if possible, participate in a professor’s research programs. your professor can give you much valuable advice and maybe write you a recommendation letter. You can constantly check the website of your university or college, there might be some useful notifications about events, conferences, voluntary work or some open vacancy positions.

Step 5: Internship opportunity

Internship experience would make you more competitive and allow you to acquire knowledge that was never mentioned in class. First of all, you can apply for course assistant positions as postgraduate and learn from experienced professors. It helps you to promote relationships in the academic field. Also, you can work or volunteer in a professor's laboratory, as a research assistant. If you perform well and leave good impression, your professor would likely give you more opportunities to develop your abilities and polish your skills.

Step 6: Prepare relevant skills for a college professor

To become a professor, you need to build up many skills to undertake various complicated tasks. The priority is to have a solid theoretical foundation and profound professional knowledge and the ability to follow the trends of the subject field. Also, you should have leadership, management and communication skills to lead and guide scientific research and academic innovation. Last but not the least, a professor is expected to have exceptional teaching ability to impart knowledge to the students. At class, they should arouse students’ learning interests, improve students’ capability of solving problems, train students’ innovative thinking and cooperation spirits.

Step 7: Find relevant college professor jobs, and apply it.

If college professor is your dream job, your own college might be your best option, because you already have contact circles there. You can ask your course instructors or mentors for help, to see if there are vacant positions. If not, don’t get down, you can still find relative information on the official websites of other universities. Make the best use of all your relationships and gather as much information as you can.

Important tools for a successful college professor

Interested candidates should prepare things as follows:

(1) Cover letter

In this letter, you should write about why you want to apply for this job, your understanding of duties in the position and some other personal information.

(2) Curriculum vitae (your contact information is very important!)

(3) A summary of previous research accomplishments and plans

(4) A narrative of your own profession

Develop your career path

The certification progression of a college professor is as follows: instructor, lecturer, senior lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. The speed of promotions depends on academic achievements and experience. Usually, it takes 7-10 years for an instructor to becoming an associate professor, at least 5 years. And associate professors are not eligible for evaluation until five years later.

Being a college professor will need courage, patience, and sacrifice, but you can also learn your own lessons and stimulate yourself in the position. Once you start reaching out for your dream, you will not stop. Hope our tips can help you.

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