Assistant Professor Job Description


Assistant professors are newly hired tenure-track faculty at colleges and universities. They specialize in a variety of subjects, and are responsible for educating students as well as publishing independent academic work in scholarly journals, books and electronic media. Educational requirements for assistant professor positions vary based on the subject taught and the educational institution.

Teaching, Researching, Publishing

  • Assistant professors may teach both undergraduate and graduate students within their fields of expertise. They usually teach several related classes in their subjects, and may lead lectures with hundreds of students, conduct seminars with only a few students, or oversee students’ lab work. Assistant professors must grade tests and papers, advise students on an individual basis, and prepare lessons, exercises or lab experiments. Assistant professors generally spend less time conducting personal research than tenured professors, but they are still able to perform experiments, collect and analyze data, and examine works of literature and other source material for their own projects. Often they will publish their work or research findings in academic journals or books.

Doctorates and Masters Required

  • Most four-year colleges and universities require assistant professors to possess doctoral degrees. In some cases, though, master’s degree holders or doctoral candidates will be considered. This is especially true in fields such as the arts. On average, doctoral programs require six years of full-time study to complete, which includes obtaining a master’s degree and writing a dissertation. Programs in the humanities may take longer to complete, while a doctorate in a field such as engineering may be shorter. Two-year colleges fill most of their assistant professor positions with master’s degree holders, though they typically prefer that candidates have prior teaching experience.

Tenure Track

  • For postsecondary faculty, obtaining tenure is a major career goal. This usually takes about seven years, as professors must meet specific criteria as their careers advance. Assistant professors are usually newly hired tenure-track faculty who are hired under term contracts. When they reach the end of a certain specified period, their record of teaching, research and publication is considered, and tenure may then be granted if they receive positive reviews. Those who are not granted tenure are asked to leave the college or university. As an assistant professor moves along the ranks, he will usually be promoted to associate professor before he attains the title of tenured professor.

Four-Year and Two-Year College Salaries

  • According to a 2013-14 survey conducted by the American Association of University Professors, assistant professors with a doctoral degree earned a compensation package well in the six figures at major universities. Columbia University paid its assistant professors $132,900; Stanford, $149,000. Assistant professors at two-year colleges earned generally less. Howard Community College, in Maryland, paid $78,800 and Miami Dade College paid $72,000.

Good Job Outlook

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teaching employment, including assistant professor positions, is expected to grow by 19 percent between through 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. These projections are based on anticipated increases in college and university enrollment.

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