College Instructor Jobs: Career and Education Facts

With enough experience and education in your chosen field, you can become a college instructor and pass along your excitement and knowledge to the next generation of students. Read on to find out how you can become a college instructor. See the career outlook for the field and get an idea of your earning potential. Schools offering Adult Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

College instructors teach courses, conduct research, and publish scholarly papers and books. A doctorate degree will allow for the greatest career opportunities as a college instructor.

Degrees Master's degree or higher
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 15%
Average Salary (2017)* $74,630 per year (for postsecondary teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Level of Education Do I Need to Become a College Instructor?

A college instructor is expected to have a master's degree or higher in the field in which he or she will teach. If you plan to teach college English, for example, you will need both a bachelor's and a master's or doctorate degree in English.

Will a Master's Degree Be Enough?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a candidate with a master's degree will be qualified to teach as a part-time or temporary instructor at a 4-year institution ( A master's degree will also qualify you to teach at a 2-year college or a community college. Having two or more master's degrees will also make you a stronger candidate for a position with both a 2-year and 4-year school.

You might be able to find a Master of Science in Special Education, Educational Leadership or English Language Learning. Additionally, you could enroll in a Master of Arts in Sociology or Biology. You may also want to consider a Master of Music or a Master of Arts in Art for your degree program.

Should I Earn a Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. will open up many new opportunities to you in your career as a college instructor. In most schools, a Ph.D. is mandatory for a tenured, full-time professor. In some cases, this will include research or field-work, especially in the natural sciences. A doctoral degree will nearly always improve your chances of being hired as a college instructor and will allow you to advance through the ranks to full professor. The BLS expects a 15% increase in job openings for postsecondary teachers, such as college instructors, between 2016 and 2026. However, competition for these positions will be significant. If you are determined to enter this profession, you should seriously consider acquiring your doctoral degree to ensure you are a top candidate.

A Doctor of Philosophy in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education might be an available option. You could also find a Doctor of Philosophy in English or Physics for your degree.

What Will I Do as a College Instructor?

College instructors are expected to do far more than teach courses and grade students' work, according to the Career One Stop website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration ( As an instructor, you may also act as an advisor to students, conduct research in your field, serve on academic committees, and even write grant proposals in order to further research.

What Is the Earning Potential?

The BLS reports the average annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $74,630 in 2017. This number can vary widely depending upon subjects taught, level of experience and education of each instructor, and geographic location of the school.

Many instructors supplement their income with research and publication as well as consulting, tutoring, and private lessons, depending on their area of expertise. In addition to salary, becoming a college instructor will give you the benefit of working in the field that interests you the most while you enjoy the rewards of passing your knowledge on to the next generation of scholars.

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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