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How can you become a college professor?

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Quick Answer

Earning an advanced degree is the most substantial element of the path toward becoming a college professor. While some community college instructors are known as professors, this title is most often associated with a research university professor who balances instruction and research roles.

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Full Answer

  1. Get an advanced degree

    Research professionals typically need a doctoral degree in their academic field, though some specialty fields require only a master's degree. In other situations, a person may get hired while completing a doctoral degree. Schooling for a doctoral degree usually lasts a few years beyond the completion of a bachelor's degree.

  2. Gain entry-level experience

    Aspiring professors often start in research associate or adjunct teaching roles. A research associate works closely with a full professor on research projects. An adjunct teacher teaches individual classes by contract. Graduate assistants may also balance research and teaching roles in support of a professor.

  3. Publish, and gain tenure

    While requirements vary by institution, a person is typically known as an assistant or associate professor prior to reaching tenure. Tenure is a decision by a university committee to grant a professor employment for life after seven years. To achieve tenure, a professor must usually demonstrate consistent and successful research publications in his field along with reasonable teaching performance.

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