A professor is a college educator. At a research institution, a professor balances classroom teaching responsibilities with research and publication expectations. Professors at community colleges and non-research institutions teach classes using their educational background, work experiences and teaching abilities. While professors earn solid pay and have flexible schedules, they also face challenges such as lengthy educational requirements, unprepared students, and high stress from multiple roles and classroom management responsibilities.
Lengthy Educational Demands
To become a full-time college professor, you will need an advanced education. For a teaching-oriented position, a master's degree in your field is often enough. A research professor must have a doctoral degree. These educational demands mean a significant investment of both time and money. A master's degree takes at least one or two years beyond a bachelor's degree. A doctoral program takes three to five years in most cases. You also have to invest much more in tuition, room and board for education than someone who enters a career requiring less education.
Dealing with Unprepared Students
A January 2013 "Forbes" article noted that professors face several major stressors in their jobs. A primary one is that many students come unprepared from high school for the academic and self-discipline requirements for college success. To compete and attract students, many schools lower standardized test score and grade requirements to admit more students. Professors feel frustrated over their lack of control in selecting students, but their accountability for teaching them. Professors end up in the role of trying to motivate unequipped or unmotivated students, and offering a lot of one-on-one coaching.
Pressure from Multiple Roles
Professors must balance research, writing and teaching roles, which means they often work way more than 40 hours a week. Universities expect professors to produce a certain number of scholarly articles while also teaching a few classes and maintaining office hours each semester. As more schools rely on lower-cost adjunct instructors, full-time professors also face more pressure to perform and to help part-time teachers adapt. The stress of building relationships with peers and trying to gain tenure is significant for research professors as well.
Classroom Management Responsibilities
A professor is not just an instructor in a classroom, he is also its manager. One of the less publicized responsibilities of the job is to set course policies for assignments, projects and exams. You also have to establish ground rules for things like discussion decorum, respect and conduct, and use of cell phones. Professors who desire just to impart wisdom and have starry-eyed students listen struggle with this reality check. You sometimes have to challenge students to get involved in discussions. You may also have to ask them to stop talking to neighbors and to put away cell phones.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: United States
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Postsecondary Teacher
- Forbes: Top 10 Reasons Being A University Professor Is A Stressful Job
- The Art of Manliness: So You Want My Job: College Professor
- Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
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