Is an education degree needed to become a college professor? In most cases, the answer to this question is no. College and university professors typically earn a Ph.D in the subject in which they teach before taking on college level courses, although some institutions do hire professors with a master’s degree in the subject that they teach. Read on to learn more about how to become a college professor, the job duties and responsibilities, and the salary and job outlook for this field.
The Path to Professorhood
If you want to become a college professor, the first step is to decide on the field in which you want to teach. In order to teach at a college level, you will need to earn a Ph.D degree, or doctorate, in that subject area. Start off by earning a bachelor’s degree in a related subject; if you already have a bachelor’s degree, your next step is a master’s degree in that field before pursuing your doctorate. In many cases, you can begin working as a teaching assistant or a full teacher as you complete your master’s, which is often how candidates fund their Ph.D education. Upon entering the Ph.D program, most of your time will be spent researching and writing a dissertation rather than on coursework. This dissertation should be on the subject where you have the most expertise and plan to focus your career.
Roles and Responsibilities of a College Professor
In addition to teaching courses within their subject areas, college professors are also responsible for guiding and mentoring students within the major field of study where they teach. College professors must develop a curriculum and lesson plan, schedule the course syllabus and assignments, grade assigned work, and evaluate each student in each course. In addition to the work of teaching, most institutions require college professors to conduct original research and publish on their topic of expertise, as well as serve on academic committees. College professors typically have a flexible schedule, and many devote the school year to teaching and the summer to research and writing.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for college professors is $68,970. However, there is a wide range within this field, largely based on subject area. For example, law and engineering professors typically earn an average of $90,000 or more, while foreign language and education teachers earn an average of less than $60,000 per year. This career field is expected to grow by 19 percent by 2022, reflecting the increased number of students who choose to pursue a college education. However, competition for tenured professorships will continue to be fierce as there are many more applicants than available spots. Choosing a niche subject where few others are studying is key to being marketable as a college professor.
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In answer to the question of whether an education degree needed to become a college professor, the answer is no; however, if you’re interested in this field you must pursue extensive education credentials in your subject of choice.