Is Being a Professor Worth It - title pic

Is being a professor worth it?

Deciding to pursue a career in academia, especially to become a professor, is a significant decision. On the one hand, being a professor is amazing because of the intellectual fulfillment derived from research and teaching, the societal impact, and academic freedom. On the other hand, the journey to a professorship may strain your personal life and finances because it is hard work, the academic job market is competitive, and it takes a long time to get tenure-track positions.

What is a professor? 

Two professors in front of a university building
@sven hendrix / midjourney

A professor is typically a senior academic instructor and researcher at a college or university, holding an advanced degree, usually a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). However, the role of a professor extends far beyond just teaching and research. 

There are different types of professors, such as assistant, associate, full-time, and adjunct professors. Understanding their different tasks and roles is essential to decide whether being a professor is worth it.

Why is it attractive to be a professor?

Before pursuing an academic career, you should decide whether it is the right path for you. 

Is becoming a professor worth it? I think it is. I have been a professor of neuroanatomy and a researcher in neuroimmunology for many years – and I love it. 

Why is it attractive to be a professor
@sven hendrix / midjourney

The most attractive aspect of being a professor is the broad variety of tasks! You have multiple roles, combining research, teaching, mentorship, and leadership. 

In addition, the societal impact of professors is significant. They contribute to technology development, medicine, process innovation, and a better understanding of the world. 

They shape the next generation of students and young scientists, influence higher education, and shape public discourse and policy. Thus, academia offers you intellectual freedom, job security, and multiple opportunities for innovation.

Let me describe the roles of professors in more detail to give you a comprehensive idea of what professors are doing:

Professors are researchers 

Professors are researchers
@sven hendrix / midjourney

Professors are at the forefront of exploring exciting and highly relevant research questions that push the boundaries of knowledge in their fields. 

They design studies and supervise PhD students, postdocs, and technicians executing the experiments. They supervise the data analysis and write the manuscript to publish the data in scholarly journals.

In addition, research involves continuous study of new scientific findings and learning to adopt new methods and methodologies to stay abreast of scientific progress. 

Professors play a crucial role in communicating the findings of their research groups. They share their insights with colleagues through publications and conference presentations and with the public. 

Communication with the public can take various forms, including public lectures, writing for mainstream media, or participating in community events, thereby bridging the gap between complex academic research and societal understanding. 

Their research endeavors not only contribute to academic advancement but also have the potential to influence public policy, industry practices, and community awareness.

Is becoming a professor worth it? If you love using your mind and being creative until retirement, it is the best job I can imagine.

Professors are educators  

A professors educating life science students
@sven hendrix / midjourney

Professors dedicate a significant portion of their careers to imparting knowledge and fostering intellectual growth among students. 

They may deliver lectures, seminars, interactive workshops, online courses, and hands-on laboratory sessions. They typically teach undergraduate (bachelor) and graduate (master’s) students, tailoring their teaching styles and content to suit varying academic maturity and specialization levels. 

For bachelor students, professors often focus on providing a broad understanding of the subject, laying the foundational knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary for their academic journey. 

Lectures for master’s students are typically more specialized and research-oriented, delving deeper into advanced concepts and encouraging a higher level of academic inquiry. 

In both cases, professors strive to create an engaging and stimulating learning environment, sparking curiosity and a passion for learning while preparing students for future academic or professional pursuits. 

Through these lectures, professors disseminate knowledge and play a crucial role in shaping the next generation of thinkers, leaders, and innovators. 

Needless to say, not all professors are great teachers, and not all are inspiring.

Is being a professor worth it? If you love teaching, it might be the best job for you.

Professors are mentors  

Professors are mentors
@sven hendrix / midjourney

For those with a passion for education, a teaching career at the college level offers a blend of interesting work and the opportunity to serve as role models for young people. 

Beyond the classroom, profs serve as mentors, offering personalized guidance and support to students, nurturing their academic growth, and helping shape their future careers. This mentorship extends to advising on research projects, providing career counseling, and fostering critical thinking and independent learning. 

Academic careers offer a great way to combine the passion for a subject with the desire to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and the education of the next generation.

As principal investigators (PIs), they supervise graduate students and postdocs. Ideally, they support them in becoming excellent scientists and pursuing successful academic, public, or industry careers. 

However, often, professors are not fully qualified to train young scientists for the non-academic job market. In addition, as in every work relationship, some supervisors may be abusive.

Professors are managers and leaders

Professors are managers and leaders
@sven hendrix / midjourney

Professors often do not only lead their research groups. They may also accept leadership positions as heads of departments, faculties, or entire institutes. In these functions,  they are responsible for setting strategic directions, managing budgets, and overseeing staff and student activities. 

In addition, many professors are members of committees that select new staff members in their institutions. They recruit and select new staff members for their teaching team or research group (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s, PhD students, postdocs, technicians, secretaries). They may be involved in recruiting and selecting new professors (adjunct professors, assistant or associate professors, full professors).

Professors are often part of grant selection committees that fund research positions, projects, or large research consortia. On every level of funding, there are grant selection committees, such as on the level of the institution (so-called intramural funding), regional and national funding bodies (such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US), or international funding institutions (such as the European Research Executive Agency (REA)). 

Finally, professors may hold responsible positions in scientific societies (there are thousands of scientific societies, such as the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) in the US), contributing their expertise to shape policies and standards in their field. 

Professors have a substantial societal impact

Professors are pivotal in advancing society through innovative contributions across various domains. 

Professors have a substantial societal impact
@sven hendrix / midjourney

1. Development of New Technologies

Professors, particularly in engineering, computer science, and physics, are often at the forefront of developing cutting-edge technologies. Their research can create new software, hardware, or engineering solutions that revolutionize industries, from information technology to renewable energy. For instance, developing more efficient solar panels or breakthroughs in artificial intelligence algorithms are often based on academic research.

2. Advancements in Medicine 

In life sciences and the medical and pharmaceutical fields, professors conduct research that can lead to the development of new drugs, medical devices, or therapeutic approaches. This work is crucial in the fight against diseases, with professors developing new treatments, vaccines, or diagnostic tools. Their research improves health outcomes and contributes to the broader understanding of medical science.

3. Process Innovation

Professors in disciplines like chemistry or industrial engineering may focus on innovating and improving processes. This could involve developing more efficient chemical processes, enhancing manufacturing techniques, or creating sustainable, eco-friendly industrial practices. Such innovations can significantly improve productivity, environmental conservation, and economic efficiency.

4. Theoretical Contributions to Understanding the World 

Professors contribute by developing new theories or models in more abstract fields like philosophy, mathematics, or theoretical physics. At first sight, these contributions might seem distant from practical application. However, they often lay the groundwork for future technological advancements and provide a deeper understanding of the world.

Professors in the humanities play a crucial role in shaping our understanding of the past, present, and future, offering invaluable insights into the human experience. 

By examining historical events, cultural texts, philosophical theories, and artistic expressions, these academics help us comprehend human history and its ongoing impact on the present

Their teachings and research foster critical thinking, challenging students and the public to consider diverse perspectives and contexts

In addressing ethical and political problems, humanities professors encourage a deeper analysis of values, principles, and societal norms

They equip us with the tools to critically assess current issues, from social justice and human rights to political ideologies and ethical dilemmas. 

By fostering a nuanced understanding of human nature and societal dynamics, professors in the humanities are instrumental in guiding thoughtful, informed discussions about our collective future, helping to shape a more reflective, empathetic, and conscientious society.

If you like using your mind, the answer to the question, “Is being a professor worth it?”, is a clear yes!

6. Inspiring the next generation  

A professor inspiring the next generation
@sven hendrix / midjourney

Whether it’s through improving healthcare, advancing technology, or influencing policy and education, the work of professors contributes to societal progress and the betterment of human life.

In teaching, they are instrumental in educating and shaping the minds of the next generation within their fields, be it future scientists, doctors, engineers, or educators. 

The perspectives and values they impart in the classroom can significantly influence their students’ professional and ethical attitudes. 

In research, professors often do not only contribute to groundbreaking advancements, developing concepts, technologies, or therapies that can transform lives and industries. As supervisors of bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD students, postdocs, and technicians, they inspire the next generation of researchers. They help them become professional scientists and pursue successful scientific careers.

7. Influencing Higher Education Policy 

Professors often play influential roles in academic management and politics. Their expertise can guide higher education policies and influence political decisions related to their fields.

8. Influencing Policy and Public Opinion

Professors can influence public policy, shape legal frameworks, and inform government decisions through their research findings and expert opinions. 

Whether through public lectures, writing for a general audience, or media appearances, they bring complex academic concepts to a broader audience, influencing societal perspectives and contributing to informed public discourse. 

Most of these points are valid for many types of scientists. However, the status, freedom, and safety of a professorship add an additional layer of quality.

It is amazing to be a professor 

It is amazing to be a professor
@sven hendrix / midjourney

Professors have a broad variety of tasks and may experience deep intellectual fulfillment

From research and teaching to community engagement, the role of a professor encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities, contributing to a dynamic and diverse professional life. 

Professors can explore and teach subjects that align with their interests. Therefore, most professors are committed to lifelong learning. They want to stay updated with the latest developments in their field and adopt new teaching and research methods.

The academic world is evolving, with exciting AI technologies transforming teaching methods and data presentation at academic conferences. 

Professors enjoy high academic freedom, allowing them to contribute significantly to knowledge and societal development. This freedom is intellectually stimulating and often provides deep intellectual fulfillment. This aspect alone makes it worth it to become a professor.

Is becoming a professor worth it? The variety of tasks is very rewarding!

Professors have an excellent work-life balance in later career stages

At the beginning of their careers, professors experience a lot of pressure to publish multiple high-quality publications, raise grant money, and struggle with administrative workload and managerial tasks (see below). 

However, as they progress in their careers, professors often achieve an excellent work-life balance. This balance, of course, depends on one’s personal organization, goal-setting and time-management skills, and individual personality traits.

One of the key advantages is that the work environment in academia can be more flexible than in other professions. University and college professors typically have some control over their teaching schedules and can often allocate time to design their research projects according to their preferences, allowing them to manage personal commitments more effectively. 

One of the perks of being a professor is the opportunity to take sabbaticals, which might be particularly beneficial for personal and professional growth.

This flexibility can be particularly beneficial for family life, enabling professors to attend to family needs and participate in home life more actively than possible in more rigid 9-to-5 jobs. 

Professors have a high societal status

Professors typically enjoy esteemed academic and societal positions, often receiving considerable respect. However, this status is challenged by a rising anti-science sentiment in political spheres and growing science denial, particularly evident on social media, which can provoke negative responses (see below). 

Professors have a significant societal impact

As described above, professors often develop new technologies, processes, or theories that can have far-reaching implications. Their work often leads to significant societal impacts, whether advancing technology, influencing policy, or shaping public opinion. Most professors experience this as very rewarding.

Professors often enjoy international mobility

Most professors work abroad during their academic career – often during their post-doc time. Many universities request international exposure from their staff members. There are negative aspects of international mobility that nobody talks about. However, most scientists are later happy to have had this kind of international experience because international exposure broadens their academic horizons and allows them to contribute to and learn from the global academic community. 

In summary, being a professor offers a unique blend of intellectual freedom, societal impact, job security, and the opportunity for continuous learning and innovation, making it a highly rewarding career for those passionate about their field.

Tenure brings job security   

Professor enjoying job security due to tenure
@sven hendrix / midjourney

Tenure is a permanent appointment until retirement. It is a significant milestone in an academic’s career, offering unparalleled job security within the higher education system. 

Once a professor is granted tenure, they are afforded a permanent position, protecting them from arbitrary dismissal and providing a stable platform for long-term research and teaching endeavors. 

This status not only secures their role at the institution but also encourages academic freedom, allowing professors to explore innovative ideas, challenge conventional wisdom, and engage in critical discourse without fear of losing their jobs

Professors often have a broad international network

Another appealing aspect of being a professor is the opportunity to build an international network and travel. Collaborating with colleagues worldwide, attending international conferences, and conducting research in different countries enrich their professional and personal experiences. 

Is being a professor worth it? Being a scientist can be scary from a job security perspective. Being a tenured professor is one of the safest jobs you can have.

How much do professors earn?

Most professor positions have the potential for a good to excellent salary until retirement. 

The average salary of a university professor can vary widely depending on several factors including the country, the type of institution (such as community colleges, public and private universities), the discipline, and the professor’s rank (assistant, associate, or full professor).

In the United States, for example:

– Assistant Professors could expect to earn an average salary ranging from approximately $60,000 to $80,000 per year, depending on the field and institution.

– Associate Professors might earn between $70,000 and $100,000 on average.

– Full Professors could earn anywhere from $80,000 to over $140,000, with those in highly specialized or in-demand fields (like engineering and computer science) potentially earning more.

Salaries can be significantly higher at prestigious institutions or in high-demand fields. For instance, professors in business, law, and medicine often have higher salaries than those in the humanities, arts, or education.

In other countries, the salary can vary greatly. For example, in the United Kingdom, a lecturer (comparable to an assistant professor in the US) might start with a salary of around £35,000 to £40,000, while more senior roles like a professor might earn between £50,000 and £100,000 or more, especially at leading universities or in specific disciplines.

The academic path also opens doors to lucrative side projects. Professors can earn a lot with side hustles such as consulting, writing, or engaging in entrepreneurial activities like starting spin-off companies based on their research.

What are the downsides of being a professor? Is being a professor worth it? 

It is a long way to become a professor!
@sven hendrix / midjourney

After describing why being a professor is rewarding, I want to analyze the downsides critically. Becoming aware of the negative sides and costs will help you decide whether becoming a professor is worth it. 

Key hurdles include the intense effort and long journey to professorship, which can strain your personal life and finances. The academic job market will remain fiercely competitive in the coming years, with many highly qualified candidates vying for a few tenure-track positions. In addition, professors also face a heavy administrative burden, and their traditionally high social status may be negatively affected by increasing anti-science sentiments.

It is hard work to become a professor!

One of my very successful colleagues once said, “As a successful scientist, you must commit yourself to the life-long lifestyle of a workaholic.” 

However, this is probably true for most careers you follow with ambition!

In addition, this is specifically true for the early phase of your career. Unfortunately, the early phase may extend up to 10 years. With increasing seniority, the workload shifts more and more towards the things you really like to do – and the rest can and must be delegated. 

I still do many things I am not enthusiastic about, such as multiple administrative tasks or teaching subjects I am not passionate about. However, if you develop good delegation skills, you can focus on those fulfilling activities only you can do.

Knowing how to qualify for a professor position is crucial to pursue your academic career efficiently. You can waste a lot of time doing the wrong things. If you do it right, becoming a professor is probably worth it.

It is a long way to become a professor!

How long does it take to become a professor?

As a rule of thumb, it takes about 10 to 15 years to become an entry-level professor – including the times for your undergraduate and master’s degree, a PhD program, and a postdoc period.

A timeline might look like this:

1. Undergraduate Degree: Typically 3-4 years.

2. Master’s Degree: Generally 1-2 years, though some may proceed directly to a Ph.D. program.

3. Ph.D. ProgramThe duration of a PhD program depends on the country. In Europe, a full-time PhD typically takes 3-4 years, while PhD programs in the US typically span six years.

Please note that a Master’s degree is not required for a PhD in the US – unlike most European countries, where it is a prerequisite. Thus, PhD programs in the US are typically longer than in Europe because they include a Master’s component in the first few years. 

4. Postdoctoral Research: Often 2-3 years, though this can vary. Some fields may require two or more postdoctoral positions or more extended periods.

After completing these stages, you can apply for academic positions.

Which factors determine how long it takes to become a full professor?

The time it takes to become a professor can vary significantly based on the academic field, the country’s educational system, individual career paths, and the availability of academic positions.   

There are different types and ranks of professors (e.g., adjunct, assistant, associate, full professor – and many more). Thus, the time from starting as an entry-level academic (like an assistant professor) to achieving a full professorship varies substantially:

Assistant Professor: This is often the starting academic rank. Achieving tenure as an associate professor might take an additional 5-7 years.

Associate Professor: Many spend several years (possibly 5-10) at this level after tenure.

Full Professor: Achieving this rank can vary widely, with some reaching it in a few years after becoming an associate professor, while others may take much longer or never reach it.

So-called adjunct professors work for a university on a contract basis, often only part-time, while a tenured professor usually holds a full-time position until retirement.

Considering all these stages, the journey from starting an undergraduate degree to becoming a full professor can take anywhere from 15 to 25 years or more. 

Becoming a professor might put a strain on your private life and family! 

A stressed professor thinking about his family
@sven hendrix / midjourney

During the first 5 to 10 years of an academic career, you will be very busy with intense study periods, preparing and giving lectures, writing papers and grant proposals, and establishing yourself in the academic community. 

This can result in limited time for family and personal activities, potentially leading to stress and strain in personal relationships. 

Your work-life balance can tilt – especially during peak periods like exam seasons or grant application deadlines.

I remember with pain rewriting a big European grant proposal in the car at the sea while my wife and daughter were playing at the beach. A colleague of mine told me about the stress of writing an urgent grant proposal in the hospital while his wife was in labor.

Balancing the high demands of an academic career with the needs of one’s private life is always a challenge for young academics.

Is becoming a professor worth it? For many scientists, the strain put on your family life is *not* worth it. However, this is true for many demanding jobs you pursue with ambition.

It may be costly to become a professor!

I will try to give a rough estimate of what it costs to become a professor. However, the financial cost ranges for each stage in the academic journey vary dramatically depending on the country, the field, available funding or scholarships, the institution, and personal circumstances. 

1. Undergraduate Degree: $10,000 – $50,000 per year

Costs vary greatly depending on the duration of the studies, whether the institution is public or private, in-state or out-of-state. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid can significantly reduce these costs.

2. Master’s Degree: $15,000 – $60,000 total program cost

Total program costs depend on the field of study, type of institution, and program length. Funding opportunities like assistantships can offset some costs.

3. Ph.D. Program: $0 – $30,000 per year

There are many free or fully funded PhD programs. Many Ph.D. programs in the sciences and engineering offer tuition waivers and stipends, reducing or eliminating tuition costs. 

As mentioned above, in Europe, a Master’s degree is a prerequisite for a PhD, while in the USA, you might enter a PhD program already with a bachelor’s degree (thus, you do not have to do a Master’s degree in the US). However, the US PhD programs are typically much longer.

4. Postdoctoral Research: Financial loss due to lower salaries compared to industry positions.

When pursuing an academic career, a postdoc period is requested in most fields to qualify for a professor position. Postdoc salaries are often modest compared to industry roles that require similar qualifications. This phase can last several years, during which financial growth remains limited. Furthermore, the cost of attending conferences, purchasing academic materials, and potential relocation expenses for research opportunities can add to the financial strain if not covered by grants. Thus, you must be convinced that becoming a professor is worth it.

Postdocs typically do earn a salary. However, the amount of this salary and the employment status vary significantly between Europe and the United States.

In the U.S., postdoc salaries vary widely. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended a minimum annual salary for a postdoc at around $54,000 in 2023, but actual salaries can range from approximately $45,000 to over $70,000. European postdocs might enjoy higher salaries and better social security benefits than U.S. postdocs, especially considering the cost of living. In addition, the employment status differs. The U.S. often treats postdocs as trainees, whereas in Europe, they are more likely to be considered employees.

Overall, the financial pathway to becoming a professor is marked by modest incomes and potential debt accumulation, contrasting sharply with the financial prospects in many private sector careers requiring similar levels of education and expertise. 

Is being a professor worth it? 

You must be convinced that becoming a professor is worth it because, in most fields, 70 to 90 % of all postdocs leave and work outside academia.

The academic job market is competitive

Professor positions, specifically “tenured” positions, are highly sought after. A tenured post is an academic appointment until retirement

Tenured professors enjoy the stability of a tenured position, contrasting with the uncertainty faced by adjunct faculty and part-time faculty members.

At the beginning of their academic careers, universities employ professors only temporarily. To get tenured, new assistant professors must go through a probationary period called the “tenure track.” 

Adjunct professor roles, while offering valuable work experience, often come with long hours and less security than full-time professors because adjunct profs are not tenured. 

Your career goals strongly influence whether you seek a position at four-year colleges, graduate schools, or research institutes because the job profiles of profs differ at different types of institutions.

The number of Ph.D. graduates far exceeds the number of available tenure-track faculty positions. As a result, even highly qualified candidates may face challenges in securing a professorship. This competition is intensified by the increasing prevalence of adjunct and non-tenure-track positions in academia, which offer less stability and fewer benefits than tenure-track jobs. 

In another post, I have summarized the chances to become a professor. Briefly, if you hold a doctorate (PhD), you have a 3% chance of becoming a professor. Depending on the field, 10-33% of postdocs obtain tenure.

A high administrative workload of professors is a drag 

Like in many other jobs, the administrative workload for professors can often be substantial and time-consuming, detracting from their primary roles in teaching, research, and mentorship. As professors, we have to do a wide variety of administration, including the following:

1. Documenting Teaching and Research Activities: Professors must maintain detailed records of their teaching and research activities. This includes preparing and updating course syllabi, recording grades, documenting lesson plans, keeping track of student progress, and organizing office hours. For research, it involves maintaining accurate records of research methodologies, data collection, analysis, and findings. While essential for organizational and accreditation purposes, these tasks can be labor-intensive and divert time away from actual teaching and research work.

2. Execution, Corrections, and Statistical Evaluation of Exams: Creating and grading exams and assignments is a significant part of a professor’s job. They need to prepare for these exams and document the outcomes. This involves reviewing and marking each student’s work and the statistical analysis of exam results. Professors must ensure that grading is fair, consistent, and has no negative legal consequences. They often also need to provide feedback to students. In the case of failing students, it also carries the added pressure of dealing with students’ academic futures.

4. Documentation of Selection Interviews: When profs are involved in admitting new students to their university or in hiring new staff members, professors must conduct and document selection interviews. This process includes preparing for the interviews, conducting them, and then meticulously documenting the outcomes and decisions made. They must ensure a fair, transparent, and legally correct selection process. 

5. Being part of multiple committees. Being part of decision-making processes can be intellectually stimulating and rewarding. However, excessive meetings can also waste a lot of your time, which might be better invested in other activities. In some institutions, well-intended gender policy may even harm the careers of female academics because they are requested to be members of too many committees just to have a sufficient number of female members.   

These are just a few examples of the administrative duties of professors.

Anti-science movements and science denial may be a thread

Professors generally hold a high status in academia and society and are respected for their expertise and educational contributions. However, this respect faces challenges from individuals and groups involved in anti-science movements and science denial, especially in politics and social media. 

These individuals and groups cast doubt on scientific credibility and disseminate misinformation, fostering public distrust. This atmosphere can adversely affect the influence of professors (and scientists in general), who may find themselves targeted for presenting unwelcome research results – or for simply upholding the principles of scientific inquiry and rational discourse.

Most college professors have messy hair  

Professors with messy hair who looks like Einstein
@sven hendrix / midjourney

My wife added that most professors tend to have questionable haircuts. In the best case, it reminds you of Einstein’s haircut. I insist that my messy hairdo is essential to my branding as a professor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What are the benefits of being a professor?

Becoming a professor offers a unique opportunity to contribute to the academic field, mentor students, and engage in research in a specialized area. Additionally, the potential for a tenure-track position, thus, job security, can be appealing.

2. How does one become a professor?

To become a professor, one usually needs to attain advanced degrees, such as a doctorate, gain teaching experience, conduct research, and publish scholarly work in their field. Networking and building a strong academic reputation are also crucial.

Read more here: How to become a professor?

3. What is the significance of tenure for a professor?

Tenure offers job security and academic freedom for professors. It typically requires a probationary period during which the professor’s performance and contributions are evaluated before the possibility of achieving a permanent position.

Read more here: Assistant professor and associate professor – what is the difference?

4. What are the pros and cons of a career in academia?

Embarking on a career choice in academia, especially aiming to become a college professor, is not just about having a day job; it is about pursuing one of the best jobs in terms of research freedom and the ability to design research projects. 

Faculty members, especially those in tenure track positions, are expected to contribute to their research area while balancing teaching duties and administrative work. This can be great or terrible, depending on your goals, values, and personality traits.

Is being a professor worth it? The pros of the freedom a professor can offer in terms of research and teaching are significant. Professors at any average or top university have the autonomy to work on which methodologies best suit their investigative pursuits. This autonomy extends to good teaching practices and the possibility of leaving the office early to pick up a child, showcasing the work-life balance that academia can offer.

Academia offers opportunities for intellectual pursuit, conducting research, and shaping the next generation of scholars. 

The cons are that the job market is fiercely competitive, and the path to tenure can be hard and long.

5. Is it hard to become a professor?

Becoming a professor is pretty challenging due to the competitive nature of academia and the extensive qualification requirements (typically including a Ph.D. and often postdoctoral research), 

To become a college professor, one must navigate a path filled with dedication and strategic planning. The quest to become a part of the faculty of colleges or universities often involves not just obtaining a Ph.D. but also performing well in one or more post-doc positions.

These grad school and post-doc experiences equip candidates with the necessary research and teaching expertise to find jobs in a competitive market where job openings at research universities are highly coveted.

Achieving success in this profession demands a profound enthusiasm for your field, dedication to research and education, and the resilience, persistence, and skills to thrive in a fiercely competitive employment landscape.

5. What is the difference between an assistant professor and an associate professor?

An assistant professor is typically in the early stages of their career, while an associate professor has achieved a higher rank and may have greater job security and influence within their institution.

Read more here: Assistant professor and associate professor – what is the difference?


I have used AI systems, including Grammarly, Google Bard, and ChatGPT, to enhance the English and comprehensiveness of this article. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to purchase through my link. Thus, you support smartsciencecareer at no cost to you!

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