Basic Steps to Becoming a College Professor

Becoming a college professor isn’t just a basic foot and many who get to this level of academic ladder put so much work and time into it.

Basic Steps to Becoming a College Professor

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. What particular measures should you take to become a college professor now that we’ve gone over the fundamental college professor requirements? What are your responsibilities in high school? Are you in college? Are you a graduate student?

We’ll show you how to become a College Professor in this step-by-step approach. We have separated the 19 stages into four sections:

‣ High School

‣ College

‣ Graduate School (master’s degree)

‣ Graduate School (Doctorate)

1. High School

Starting your journey to become a professor in high school may seem unusual, but it will help the whole process go much more easily for you. While you’re still in high school, these are the most crucial preparatory measures you can do.

‣ Keep your Grades Up 

Although all high school students should strive for good GPAs, you’ll need to pay special attention to your academics since you’re heading into the area of teaching. This shows that you’re committed to not just your future, but also education—the area you’ll be joining!

Maintaining strong grades is critical for admission to a reputable institution. Attending an excellent college may help you get admission to a more prestigious graduate program and a higher-paying teaching position.

If you already know what topic you want to teach, attempt to take as many courses as you can in that discipline. If you like English, for example, you might take a couple electives in journalism or creative writing.

Alternatively, if you’re a scientific wiz, investigate if you can take additional science courses (beyond the ones necessary) in subjects like marine science, astronomy, or geology.

Make sure you’re earning good grades in all of your subjects, especially the ones that are most relevant to the field study you want to teach in.

‣ Volunteer to Teach

Tutoring is a simple approach for a high school student to get teaching experience.

Choose a topic in which you excel—ideally, one that you’d want to teach someday—and give after-school or weekend tutoring to your friends or other kids in lower grades.

Tutoring will not only assist you in determining if teaching is a realistic career route for you, but it will also appear as an extracurricular activity on your college applications.

‣ Ace Your SAT/ACT Tests

Because you’ll need to go to graduate school to become a professor, getting into a good institution will be beneficial. You’ll need a strong SAT/ACT score to do this.

Your first SAT or ACT should be taken at the beginning of your junior year. This should allow you ample time to retake the exam in the spring, as well as a third time over the summer before or after your senior year.

The SAT/ACT score you should strive for is mostly determined by the universities to which you apply.

‣ Submit College Applications

Though it’s ideal to attend a reputable institution, it doesn’t really matter where you go as long as it provides an academic program in the (broad) discipline or topic you want to teach.

However, if you want to attend the institution of your choice, you’ll need to concentrate on putting together a strong application, which will often contain:

 a. An impressive SAT/ACT score

b. An effective personal statement/essay

c. Strong letters of reference

d. A high GPA and proof of hard coursework (if required)

Allow plenty of time to work on your applications so that you may submit the best versions possible before the deadlines set by your institutions.

Check out our expert advice on how to get into Harvard, prepared by an actual Harvard graduate, if you’re aiming for the Ivy League or other equally prestigious colleges.

2. College

I include steps to getting a good grad school in these sections continuing the thought process above.

 Make a Major in the Subject Area You Want to Teach

The most important step is to figure out what you want to teach in the future and then major in that subject (or a related field).

For example, if you decide after taking a few computer science courses that you truly want to teach this topic, designate it as your major.

If you’re still undecided about what subject you’d want to teach in, you may change your major later or declare your field of interest as a minor (and then change it to a major if you wish).

If your institution does not offer a major or minor in the area you wish to teach, attempt to take as many related courses as possible.

Although it is not usually mandatory for graduate school candidates to have majored in the area they desire to study at the master’s or doctorate level, it is a big bonus since it shows you’ve done your homework and will perform well straight away.

‣ Watch and Learn from Other Professors

Since you’re considering a career as a college professor, now is a good time to sit down and watch your lecturers to see whether teaching at the postsecondary level something is you really want to do.

Examine how your instructors deliver lectures and interact with students in your courses. What tools, worksheets, books, and/or technology do they employ to engage pupils effectively? What kind of environment do they create in class?

It’s also a good idea to dig into your lecturers’ professional experiences and backgrounds. What type of publications can they boast about?

What universities did they attend to get their master’s and doctorate degrees? Is it true that they are tenured or not? When did they teach?

If at all feasible, I suggest meeting with a professor directly to discuss a career in academia (preferably, one who teaches in the topic you want to teach in).

Most instructors would gladly meet with you during office hours to discuss your career goals and advise.

All of this will offer you an inside look at what a professor’s work requires and will help you determine whether it’s something you’re interested in.

‣ Keep a Clean Academic Record

It’s critical to maintain strong marks as an undergraduate, particularly in the area you want to teach, since you’ll need to attend graduate school after graduation.

Because most graduate schools need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA for admittance, this is required.

Getting strong marks also guarantees that your application for graduate school is more competitive, and it shows that you value your education and are enthusiastic about studying.

‣ Get familiar with your Professors

Apart from seeing how your professors teach, it’s critical to develop close connections with them outside of class, especially with those who teach in the subject you want to teach.

Frequently meet with professors during office hours. If you have any issues concerning assignments, papers, projects, or your general progress, contact them. Most essential, don’t be hesitant to discuss your plans with them!

You want to establish a positive relationship with your teachers, which is essentially the same as networking.

In this manner, you’ll not only have a better understanding of what a professor does, but you’ll also ensure that your letters of reference for graduate school are stronger and more convincing.

‣ Opt for an Experience in Research/Publication

This isn’t a requirement for students, although it may be beneficial in the long run.

Try to get research experience via your studies or extracurricular initiatives if at all feasible. You may, for example, volunteer after class to help a professor with research or gain a part-time employment or internship as a research assistant.

If nothing of these options work, try submitting a senior thesis that requires extensive study. In the best-case scenario, your study will cause a paper (or two!) bearing your name.

However, as an undergraduate, don’t worry too much about having anything published. Although most students write nothing while in college, many continue on to graduate school and eventually become college instructors.

Rather, think of this as an opportunity to become acclimated to doing research and writing about the findings.

‣ Apply to Grad School after taking the GRE

If you want to go to graduate school right after graduation, start working on your application in the autumn of your senior year.

GRE scores, which are needed for many graduate programs, will be an important element of your graduate school application.

Because the GRE is such an expensive exam, it’s preferable if you can only take it once (but there’s no damage in taking it again).

Although the GRE isn’t the most significant aspect of your graduate school application, devote enough time to it so that it’s clear that you’re really prepared for graduate school.

Transcripts from undergrad; personal statement/statement of purpose; curriculum vitae (CV)/resume; and letters of reference are likely to be included in other portions of your graduate school application.

3. Graduate School (Master’s Degree)

It’s time to think about graduate school when you’ve graduated college. We will divide this section into two parts: master’s degree and PhD. Although some doctorate programs include a master’s degree, others don’t or prefer candidates with a master’s degree field.

‣ Maintain Good Grades (Emphasis)

One of your top concerns should be to maintain your grades so that you may get into a good PhD school when you complete your master’s degree.

Many graduate programs require students to get at least Bs in all of their subjects or risk being dismissed! So pay attention to your grades.

‣ Become a Teaching Assistant (TA)

Becoming a Teaching Assistant, or TA, for an undergraduate class is a terrific way to make the most of your graduate degree (besides attending courses!).

As a TA, you will not only get paid, but you will also get valuable experience teaching at the postsecondary level.

Many TAs run small discussion groups or laboratories on their own, which is a practical way to get into college teaching.

TAs’ responsibilities usually include any or all of:

a. grading papers and homework.

b. Small discussion or lab parts of a class are led by you (instead of its large lecture section).

c. assisting the professor with administrative responsibilities.

d. Having student-only office hours.

The one significant disadvantage of becoming a TA is the time commitment; thus, make sure you’re ready and eager to devote yourself to this position without jeopardizing your grades or academic goals.

‣ Engage in Summer Research

In the United States, master’s programs normally run two years, with at least one summer break included. As a consequence, I highly advise you to perform research for your master’s thesis this summer.

This way, you may get a head start on your thesis and avoid cramming all of your research into your lectures.

Using this time to research will give you a taste of what your summers as a professor can be like, since they often ask college instructors to do research during their vacations.

Summer scholarships are available from many graduate schools for graduate students who want to study or do research over the summer (in or outside the US). What is my recommendation?

Apply for as many fellowships as you can to increase your chances of receiving adequate funding to achieve your academic goals.

‣ Write a Master’s Thesis

Master’s programs in the United States typically last two years, with at least one summer break.

As a result, I strongly encourage you to do research for your master’s thesis this summer.

You may get a jump start on your thesis and avoid having to jam all of your research into your lectures this way.

Using this time to study will also give you a taste of what your summers as a professor will be like, since they often requested college professors to do research during their holidays.

Many graduate institutions provide summer scholarships to graduate students who wish to study or do research during the summer (in or outside the US).

So, what is my suggestion? To maximize your chances of acquiring appropriate financing to pursue your academic ambitions, apply for as many fellowships as possible.

‣ Apply for Doctoral Programs or Teaching Positions

Depending on whatever route you want, you have two alternatives for this phase.

If you truly want to teach in a four-year university or college, you’ll need to get a PhD. Doctoral programs include application standards that are comparable to master’s programs. More information about grad school application criteria may be found in our guide.

If you’ve decided that getting a PhD isn’t for you and that you’d rather teach courses at a community college or technical school, now is the time to apply for teaching positions.

Meet with any of your present or former professors who teach in the area in which you’ll be teaching to see if they know of any job opportunities at neighboring community colleges or technical schools to begin your job search.

You may be allowed to use certain academics as references for your job applications (just ask them first!).

4. Graduate School

Getting a PhD degree in the area you desire to teach is the last step in the process (for becoming a college professor at a four-year university).

Here’s what you should do throughout your PhD school to increase your chances of becoming a college professor after graduation.

‣ Connect with Professors

This is the time to concentrate on developing good connections with professors—not only those whose courses you’ve attended but also those who come to campus to give speeches, host seminars, or attend conferences, for example.

This will expand your network of individuals you know who work in academia, making it (hopefully) simpler for you to secure a position as a professor later on.

Maintain a solid connection with your doctorate adviser in particular. After all, throughout your time as a doctorate student and candidate, you’ll be working closely with this professor.

Ask for counsel from your adviser, visit with her often, and make sure you’re making adequate progress toward your PhD and professional objectives.

‣ Make Efforts to Publish your Research

This is also a good moment to think about publishing your findings.

Remember that finding a full-time professorship is quite difficult, particularly if you just have a PhD and no notable papers.

So make it a point to work on more than just your dissertation; contribute to articles and other research projects as well.

According to an article on The Conversation,

“Your early publishing record— the number of articles you’ve published by the time you get your PhD—is by far the strongest predictor of long-term publication success.

It’s true that the first in, best dressed rule applies: students who begin publishing sooner have more publications by the time they complete their PhD than those who begin later.”

If you’re not sure where to begin, I recommend contacting your adviser for help on how to have some of your research published.

‣ Write a Revolutionary Dissertation

During your PhD program, you’ll mostly focus on your dissertation, which is the pinnacle of your study. It is vital to come up with a very original dissertation in order to ultimately stand out from other job seekers.

This shows that you’re motivated to undertake innovative research and produce groundbreaking discoveries in your profession.

You may even explore turning your dissertation into a full-length book in the future.

‣ Apply for Postdoctoral and Teaching Positions

It’s time to look for college-level teaching employment after you’ve earned your PhD!

Applying for postdoctoral (postdoc) posts is one alternative. A postdoc is a PhD holder who takes part in “mentored scholarship and/or scholarly training” for a period of time.

They hired postdoctoral researchers for a limited time at a college or university to assist them earn more research and teaching experience.

While you may technically bypass the postdoctoral role and go straight for long-term teaching employment, many professors have found that their postdoctoral work helped them improve their resumes/CVs before applying for full-time teaching posts at institutions.

Assistant Professor Johanna Greeson of Penn speaks about her postdoc experience in a piece for The Muse:

“Although I didn’t want to undertake a post-doc, it gave me some time and helped me to improve my CV and professional identity.

Following the first year of my two-year post-doc, I went on the market again and was in a better position than the previous time.”

After your postdoctoral position is done, you may begin applying for full-time faculty positions at colleges and institutions.

Also, you’ll have a far better CV/resume than you had when you graduated from your doctorate school.

Do You Need a Phd to Be a Professor?

It takes years of hard work to become a college professor, but it’s absolutely achievable if you know what you’ll need to do to prepare for the role and enhance your chances of landing a job as a professor.

Overall, becoming a professor is incredibly tough. There are far more competent candidates than there are full-time, college-level teaching positions available nowadays, making tenure-track employment more difficult.

Although the employment growth rate for academics is strong (11%), this does not guarantee that finding a job as a professor will be simple.

Professor salaries vary based on the topic in which you teach and the institution where you work; you may earn as little as minimum wage (as an adjunct/part-time professor) or as much as $100,000 or more (as a full professor).

The following are the fundamental college professor criteria for anyone interested in becoming a professor:

‣ Teaching experience and a doctorate degree in the topic you wish to teach in
‣ Certification as a professional (depending on your field)
‣ Publications and a strong academic presence

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