How to Teach at College

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There are various types of teaching positions at the college level. Generally, you must attain at least a Master's degree. However, it is best to get a Ph.D. in your chosen discipline, because that is the path to tenure. How high you climb the academic ladder will determine how far you will advance as a college teacher. Naturally, this means that you must be prepared for a long-term commitment to achieve your goal.

Things You'll Need

  • Advanced education/degree(s)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Lots of patience and endurance
  • Determine an area of study that interests or excites you. This is a process, not an event. You may discover that biology or history enlivens your imagination. This discovery may come at an early age or it might not happen until you are an undergraduate or while you attend community college. Give yourself time to settle on something that matters to you. Remember, you have to study this subject for years and then you will teach it for years. Your initial decision deserves time and attention. That is one of the main purposes of undergraduate studies--to decide what you want to be when you grow up, regardless of how old you are.

  • Decide the schools that will give you the best education in your chosen field. There are many resources in college and university counseling centers. Remember that you have to pay for your education. Visit a college financial aid office. If you are younger, bring your parent(s) into the financial discussions. Grants and scholarships are valuable financial resources.

  • Focus. Study. Get a Bachelor's degree. Search for the best and most affordable school for advanced studies. Apply. Remember that how you perform academically as an undergraduate will determine if you are accepted into graduate school. You will have to take a graduate entrance exam, such as the GRE. At this point, you should know if you are in the right field for you. Get your Master's degree. Don't give up.

  • You can teach with an M.A. at community colleges and, in some cases, as adjunct faculty at universities. Consider doing this for two practical reasons. The first reason: finances. Unless you are independently wealthy, you should be needing money by now. Secondly, this is valuable experience and will read well on your CV. At this point, you should spend quality time to decide if you want to go "all the way" in your education. You can continue to teach at the community college level with a Master's degree. If you want to teach in a university, you will need to enter into doctoral studies. You can teach while you do this. Find the right school, get accepted, attend classes, write and defend your doctoral thesis. This takes years. Do not be discouraged.

  • You can begin university-level teaching as you write your dissertation. As with most careers, you do not have to stay at your first teaching assignment. You can change schools. Well, there you are. You have achieved what relatively few do. You are a college faculty or a university professor! Now, go after that department chair opening.

  • Keep studying. Stay up-to-date in your field. Write papers and contribute to your field. Perhaps the most important aspect of teaching is that it is a life-long learning experience.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't do this alone. Acquaint yourself with your professors and fellow students. Join student associations.
  • You are considering a long-term experience. Your resolve may waver from time to time. That's natural. Ride it through. Don't throw it all away based on how you feel during a difficult patch. Talk to people. Noble endeavors come at a certain cost and, usually, they are worth it.

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