How to Become a College Professor | Salary, Career Prospects

A college professor is someone with an academic rank at universities and other post-secondary education and research organizations. College professors are usually specialists in their fields and are top-tier educators.

 As a college professor, you have the privilege of sharing your passions in the classroom and having a direct impact on students. At a higher education institution, college professors construct course curricula and instruct students in their academic specialty. 

Furthermore, they conduct research in their field of interest regularly and produce articles and books to enhance their academic reputation.

In this article, we would examine various aspects of becoming a college professor as well as provide the necessary information on how much college professors make.

How to Become a College Professor | Salary, Career Prospects

What Are The Qualifications Of A College Professor?

The qualifications of a college professor vary according to individual interests. In working as a college professor, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in a related topic.

This is the first step of your qualification if you are majoring in a more broad field such as Education, or a general subject.

To advance, you’ll need a master’s degree in Education or the subject you wish to teach. It doesn’t just end there. You will almost certainly require a PhD to be hired by a university.

Above all, it’s essential to conduct research and strive to get published, putting you on the front lines as a qualified college professor during your post-graduate studies. It is very significant to participate in internships and apprenticeships to learn from instructors.

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What Are The Ranks Of College Professors?

It is important to know that not all college professors are equally ranked as various institutes distinguish them in order. 

You might assume that everyone who teaches at the college level is just a professor, but this isn’t the case. There’s a technique to detect whether a professor is new to the position or has been there for a long time.

The different ranks of college professors include;

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1. Graduate Teaching Assistant

A graduate teaching assistant (GTA) who is simultaneously a college professor teaches undergraduates while earning a degree in a specific subject.

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GTAs are frequently paid stipends that cover their tuition and provide a small compensation. In exchange, graduate students are required to teach one or more undergraduate courses.

2. Adjunct Instructor

Adjunct college professors are part-time employees who teach courses at a college or university, occasionally multiple ones — but are not full-time employees.

In higher education, adjunct college professors account for 40% of all teachers. They also write syllabi, assess students, and perform scholarly or applied research in addition to teaching.

3. Visiting Scholar

A visiting scholar is a lecturer or college professor from another institution who is invited to teach for a brief period at a university or college.

 In most cases, visiting college professors are well-known and respected in their disciplines.

 Furthermore, visiting college professors are frequently invited to institutions to contribute fresh insights, interact with researchers and other professors, or temporarily cover a department opening. Most visiting professors only teach for a semester, however they may remain longer in some cases.

4. Assistant Professor

Assistant college professors are college and university instructors who are just starting as college professors, and who greatly need a PhD.

The first step is to become an assistant professor. Research, teaching, and academic advising are common responsibilities for assistant professors.

5. Associate Professor

An associate college professor is a professor with a doctorate or other professional degree who teaches classes relating to their research.

An associate college professor’s responsibilities are identical to an assistant college professor’s responsibilities. Associate college professors, for example, have more experience than assistant professors.

6. Professor

A college professor is the highest academic title in a college, university, or other postsecondary institution. Interestingly college professors are skilled and well-known professors who are usually regarded as authorities in their fields.

A college professor instructs both upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses. They are also likely to hold positions of leadership in their department or institution, and they conduct continuous research on their subjects.

How Do I Become A College Professor?

When it comes to achieving your dream of teaching in universities, follow these steps as a guide on how to become a college professor:

Acquire a bachelor’s degree.

Before you become a college professor, you need to apply to a college or university and obtain a bachelor’s degree before pursuing an advanced degree.

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Although you can concentrate more on your postgraduate degree, you should choose a major that is relevant to the subject you desire to teach in the future.

Obtain a master’s or doctoral degree

To improve your qualifications, study postgraduate programs in your field of specialization.

You should enroll in a graduate program that has a strong reputation, interesting lectures, and teachers with whom you want to collaborate to become a college professor.

Also,  you will almost certainly complete one or more significant thesis projects to demonstrate your mastery of a subject during your postgraduate education.

Gain experience as a college professor.

To gain adequate experience as a college professor you need to pursue opportunities to teach or tutor others throughout and after your college studies. 

Working as an assistant professor will provide you with the most practical classroom experience before becoming a professor. You can also practice teaching skills with high school students or peers.

Obtain certification

To become a college professor, you must go to college and earn a degree in your field of study in order to teach college classes.

 Thus to be a better candidate for a college professor job you need to look into the necessary teaching licenses or other credentials for your career.

Even if an employer does not specifically request qualifications, taking the time to become certified in your profession indicates your dedication and expertise.

Be published in your Field

To become a college professor, you must first publish several pieces of writing or research that are closely related to the subject you wish to teach. 

To an institute, the more peer-reviewed articles you have on your resume, the more remarkable you will appear.

Therefore, to stay relevant in the academic job market, many colleges want academics to be well-known in their communities and publish constantly.

How Much Do College Professors Make?

College professors make a conventional income which is determined by several factors, including the college or university’s size and location, the subject taught, and whether the school is private or public, for example;

The average salary of a college professor by rank and institution type:


  • All institution type: $143,823
  • Public institution: $134,580
  • Private institution: $181,490
  • Religiously affiliated: $126,289
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Associate Professor

  • All institution type: $97,724
  • Public institution: $95,764
  • Private institution: $110,651
  • Religiously affiliated: $90,672

Assistant Professor

  • All institution type: $85,063
  • Public institution: $83,562
  • Private institution: $96,657
  • Religiously affiliated: $77,743

Adjunct Instructor

  • All institution type: $62,874
  • Public institution: $58,064
  • Private institution: $74,566
  • Religiously affiliated: $67,767

Consequently, college professors in four-year colleges, whether private or public, make more money than those at two-year institutions.

As of May 2016, the average yearly pay of a college Professor was $75,430, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid 10% of college professors earn less than $38,290 per year, while the highest-paid 10% earn more than $168,270.

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College professors make an average standard of living with the wages they make in colleges based on their rank and qualification.


What are the requirements of a college professor?

An obvious necessity for becoming a successful college professor is having excellent communication abilities, both written and spoken, which will be fundamental. It is also important to possess patience and understanding to be able to prepare students by giving them what they need to succeed.

What is the average time it takes to become a college professor?

To become a college professor, you typically need at least eight years of a college education.

Do you need a PhD as a college professor?

To be a college professor in a university college, one needs to have a PhD and above as the minimum requirement. However, lower-level educational institutions like community colleges may only require a master’s degree to lecture.

Can I be a college professor with just a master’s degree?

College professors having only a master’s degree are most commonly found teaching at community colleges or as adjunct faculty at four-year colleges.

What are the most in-demand college professors?

Adjunct professors in health-care-related academic disciplines, such as science, nursing, and pre-med, are in high demand. Law, business, psychology, engineering, architecture, biology, economics, and criminal science have the biggest need for adjunct lecturers.


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