What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Professor?

Research the degree requirements, continuing education, and professional development activities necessary to become an instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and finally a full professor of any subject at a university. Schools offering Adult Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Degree Do I Need to Become a Professor?

While colleges and subjects vary, the preferred degree for college professors is a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Students expect their professors to be masters of the subject material they teach. In some disciplines, such as music and psychology, you may be allowed to teach with just a master's degree. Each school states what degree they require in a job posting. Many positions also require at least some experience teaching the subject. This can usually be met in teaching internships or assistantships taken during your matriculation.

A Ph.D. program will equip you with the necessities of working in a college setting. Along with classroom-based learning, you will study research and writing methodologies in preparation for your future field research. You will also learn how to pass these skills on to your students. Your Ph.D. program focuses on special topics and requires you to complete a dissertation that showcases the knowledge you have gained through in-depth original research.

Required Education Preferably a doctorate degree; at least a master's degree (only in some disciplines)
Options For Those Without Doctorate Degrees Be a graduate teaching assistant while working on your Ph.D. degree; teach in 2-year schools like community colleges; get hired as adjunct or part-time professor
Professional Development Attend conferences, continually update skills and knowledge, publish original research books and journal articles
Academic Ranks Instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, professor
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth
Mean Salary Range (May 2018) $130,710 (law, highest-paying field); $58,520 (vocational education, lowest-paying field)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Can I Teach College Courses While Earning My Ph.D.?

Depending on the university, you may be accepted to teach lower-division undergraduate courses if you are working to complete your doctorate. This is usually done through a teaching assistantship in the latter portion of your Ph.D. program. You may be expected to complete certain courses before you could be given such responsibility.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree is sufficient to teach in a 2-year school, like a community or junior college. Colleges also hire adjunct and part-time professors. These positions do not always require a Ph.D., which you need to advance to a tenure-track position (www.bls.gov).

What Should I Know About Being a Professor?

Colleges expect their professors to be leaders in their respective subjects. They are encouraged to attend conferences, read new texts and continually update their skills and knowledge. Many professors are expected to publish original research books and journal articles. Some colleges provide sabbaticals for professors to pursue research and continuing education credits.

The BLS highlights four steps or tiers to becoming a tenured professor: instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and professor. This process takes around seven years. As of 2016, job opportunities were projected to grow by 15% from then until 2026. In May 2018, professors' mean annual salaries varied by field. Among the fields listed, the lowest-paying subject was vocational education at $58,520, while the highest paying subject was law at $130,710 (www.bls.gov).

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master

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  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

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  • Walden University

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    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

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  • Regent University

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    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

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  • Purdue University Global

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    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Concordia University Portland

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    Popular programs at Concordia University Portland:

    • Master

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  • Northcentral University

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  • Trident University

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    Popular programs at Trident University:

    • Master

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