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How to Become a College Professor

Majors Overview December 17, 2012

Pre-requisites to Becoming a College Professor

Students at universities or colleges gain knowledge in various fields of interest from college professors; they are engaged in research work, writing essays and articles. A prospective college professor at a community college must hold a master degree. However, an individual who aspires to join a school to work full-time as a tenured professor will require a doctoral degree.

If students aspire to become a college professor, they must complete an undergraduate degree program in their chosen field of specialization. Thereafter, students should obtain a master degree and follow it up with a doctoral degree accompanied by writing and publishing of papers — based on independent research — in scholarly journals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most commonly sought qualification by employers is a master degree in any area of specialization while some universities require their professors to have a Ph.D. Students who worked as a graduate assistant and garnered previous experience relating to research and teaching that will help improve their chances of getting employed. Any work experience related to their field of study in a private sector, non-profit or government area will benefit them. Computer skills are a worthwhile qualification as potential professors may be required to teach online courses that many universities offer now days. Other attributes that will enhance your career prospects are writing, communication and critical thinking skills (additional source: Indiana Daily Student (Indiana University –

Stage One: Choosing an Academic Field

There are various academic fields for prospective college professors to choose from when they decide to specialize in a particular area of interest; some of these include history, English, mathematics and chemistry. While making their decision, a candidate can consider their personal preference as well as the job prospects in a particular area of specialization. For instance, their personal preference can be philosophy, but students might choose another area of specialization, if they considered the intense competition for a college professor position in philosophy.

Stage Two: Enrolling in an Undergraduate Degree Program

Completing a bachelor degree program is the first thing students need to do when they embark on fulfilling their dreams of becoming a college professor. The bachelor degree is a stepping stone to a graduate degree course; the prospective college professor must make decisions accordingly. For instance, a certain grade point average (GPA) that is sufficient for graduation may not be enough to enter into a graduate school program. Also, when students are enrolled in an undergraduate course, they can observe and learn how professors interact and work with the students at that level.

Stage Three: Enrolling in a Graduate Program

Aspiring college professors are expected to hold a master degree and in certain cases, even a doctoral degree (source: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The requirements for employment at prominent and popular colleges are extremely demanding and the competition could be intense with several people applying for a limited number of jobs. Students who wish to join a school as a professor; they should get in touch with that school and find out in advance about the pre-requisites.

Students and professors at the graduate school generally develop strong academic bonds. Often, a professor and a graduate student will collaborate in order to co-author an article or start a business. Potential college professors who choose to complete a doctoral degree, often do so in the same area of specialization as their master degree program. For instance, a master degree holder in sociology will choose to complete their Ph.D. in the sociology of religion or medical sociology.

If students are an aspiring professor, they may be called on to publish articles. Once students have established a publishing record during their graduation program, they have improved their career prospects and job opportunities in tenure positions of teaching. They must hone their computer skills and learn how to teach online, especially as more colleges are offering online courses, including degree programs.

Stage Four: Embarking on a Career as a College Professor

Students who are a potential college professor should pursue any internship opportunities as well as any teaching opportunities that can give them valuable experience. To this end, students should aim at holding an assistantship during their graduate school program. They must maintain great work and academic relationships with professors along with the school because networking will increase their chances of landing a job.

Once they have a full-time position, a college professor will eventually earn tenure status with the institution after being with them for an extended period of time. Several research universities require their professors to continually contribute to research in their areas of specialization and require the professors to publish papers apart from fulfilling their teaching responsibilities.

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