Assistant Professor: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for assistant professors. Get the facts about education requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Adult Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Assistant Professor?

An assistant professor position is an entry-level professorship. These professionals teach courses at various levels in their specific area of expertise. This involves planning lessons and assignments, as well as grading assignments, answering students' questions and advising students on what courses to take. Assistant professors must also stay updated on research in their field and conduct their own research with the goal of publishing scientific articles and/or books. Most assistant professors will also oversee the work of graduate students and work closely with them on their thesis and dissertations. Discover the employment outlook and median earnings for these postsecondary teachers by looking through the following chart.

Degree Required Doctorate degree
Key Skills Research effectively, communicate clearly, advise students
Job Growth for Related Occupations (2014-2024) 13% for all postsecondary teachers*
Average Salary (2015) $71,060 for various types of postsecondary teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does An Assistant Professor Do?

There are typically three ranks of professors; they are assistant, associate and tenured. You start as an assistant professor, and eventually, you may earn a promotion to an associate professor after an evaluation of your work. Finally, you can earn tenure after a second evaluation. This process can take years.

Most assistant professors apply to tenure-track positions with the goal of eventually securing tenure. Tenure is a permanent employment contract. Whether or not you secure tenure depends on your publication history and teaching record. Research can sometimes be more important than teaching at some universities. The field you choose to study could affect the difficulty of securing tenure.

You could be an assistant professor in any number of fields, including health specialties, business, art, theater or literature. You could also work in fields like biology, engineering, architecture, computer science or creative writing. You will likely spend your time completing research projects and teaching classes. You might also serve on advisory committees for graduate students who are working on a final project.

Do I Need a Degree?

Most assistant professors have a Ph.D. in their field of study. However, in some fields, you may need a different degree. For example, a creative writer could have a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) instead of a doctorate degree. Likewise, an assistant professor of law could have a Juris Doctorate (J.D.), and an assistant professor of medicine could have a medical degree. Whatever the field, you must almost always hold a terminal degree. However, in rare cases, universities grant professorships to individuals with substantial professional achievements. For example, former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser was granted a professorship after only earning a bachelor's degree based on the merits of his published work.

What About the Salary and Job Prospects?

Your salary and job prospects could vary greatly depending on your field of study. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the employment of postsecondary teachers in general is expected to increase 13% between 2014 and 2024 ( The mean annual salary for postsecondary teachers of various types was $71,060, as of May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Biochemists and biophysicists are a couple of related careers that require a doctoral or professional degree. These scientists develop and execute complex research experiments to study the physical and chemical makeup of living things and processes. They may study diseases, cell development, heredity and more. They often oversee teams of lab workers, and aim to get their research published to be available to other scientists and interested parties.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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