How to Become a Professor: A Step-by-Step Guide
A professor is an academic who teaches and conducts research at a college or university. Professors typically have a doctoral degree in their field of study, although some may have a master’s degree or a professional degree. Professors are experts in their disciplines and contribute to the advancement of knowledge through teaching, research, and service.
If you are interested in becoming a professor, you may wonder what steps you need to take to achieve your goal. In this article, we will outline the general process of becoming a professor and provide some tips and resources to help you along the way.
Step 1: Choose your field of study
The first step to becoming a professor is to choose your field of study. This is the subject area that you want to teach and research at the college or university level. You should choose a field that you are passionate about and that matches your skills, interests, and goals. You can explore different fields by taking courses, reading books and articles, attending seminars and workshops, talking to professors and mentors, and joining academic clubs and societies.
Step 2: Earn your bachelor’s degree
The next step to becoming a professor is to earn your bachelor’s degree. This is the minimum educational requirement for most academic positions. You should choose a major that is related to your field of study and that prepares you for graduate school. You should also take courses that develop your critical thinking, writing, research, and communication skills. You should aim for a high grade point average (GPA) and seek opportunities to enhance your academic profile, such as participating in honors programs, conducting undergraduate research, presenting at conferences, publishing papers, applying for scholarships and awards, and joining professional associations.
Step 3: Earn your master’s degree
The third step to becoming a professor is to earn your master’s degree. This is an advanced degree that deepens your knowledge and skills in your field of study. Depending on your discipline, you may need to complete a thesis or a project as part of your master’s program. You should also continue to build your academic portfolio by engaging in research activities, attending and presenting at conferences, publishing papers, applying for grants and fellowships, and networking with professors and peers.
Step 4: Earn your doctoral degree
The fourth step to becoming a professor is to earn your doctoral degree. This is the highest level of education in most academic fields and the standard qualification for most professor positions. A doctoral degree usually involves completing coursework, passing comprehensive exams, conducting original research, writing and defending a dissertation, and teaching as an instructor or teaching assistant. A doctoral degree can take anywhere from four to eight years or more to complete, depending on your field, program, and progress.
Step 5: Apply for postdoctoral positions
The fifth step to becoming a professor is to apply for postdoctoral positions. These are temporary research positions that allow you to gain more experience and expertise in your field after earning your doctoral degree. Postdoctoral positions can last from one to five years or more and can be based at universities, research institutes, government agencies, or private organizations. Postdoctoral positions can help you develop new skills, expand your network, collaborate with other researchers, produce publications, secure funding, and prepare for the academic job market.
Step 6: Apply for professor positions
The final step to becoming a professor is to apply for professor positions. These are permanent or tenure-track positions that involve teaching courses, conducting research, supervising students, serving on committees, and performing other duties at a college or university. Professor positions are highly competitive and require a strong academic record, publications, grants, teaching experience,
and recommendations. You can find professor positions by searching online databases,
visiting websites of academic institutions,
contacting professors in your field,
attending job fairs,
and applying through professional associations.