College Professors


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Your high school's college preparatory program likely includes courses in English, science, foreign language, history, math, and government. In addition, you should take courses in speech to get a sense of what it will be like to lecture to a group of students. Your school's debate team can also help you develop public speaking skills, along with research skills. 

Postsecondary Training

At least one advanced degree in your field of study is required to be a professor in a college or university. The master's degree is considered the minimum standard, and graduate work beyond the master's is usually desirable. If you hope to advance in academic rank above instructor, most institutions require a doctorate.

In the last year of your undergraduate program, you'll apply to graduate programs in your area of study. Standards for admission to a graduate program can be high and the competition heavy, depending on the school. Once accepted into a program, your responsibilities will be similar to those of your professors—in addition to attending seminars, you'll research, prepare articles for publication, and teach some undergraduate courses.

You may find employment in a junior college with only a master's degree. Advancement in responsibility and in salary, however, is more likely to come if you have earned a doctorate.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for college professors, but an educator who is preparing students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration may need to have that credential. In other fields, having such a credential may not be required, but it is highly recommended. For example, a college education teacher might need a teaching license, an engineering professor may need to receive a professional engineer license, and a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Previous teaching experience (student teaching, etc.) is necessary to become a college teacher; it will take several years at the minimum to gain tenure and advance to the rank of professor.

You should enjoy reading, writing, teaching, and researching. Not only will you spend many years studying in school, but your whole career will be based on communicating your thoughts and ideas. People skills are important because you'll be dealing directly with students, administrators, and other faculty members on a daily basis. You should feel comfortable in a role of authority and possess self-confidence. Familiarity with Internet programs and e-mail is also useful, particularly if teaching distance-learning classes. Having a flexible schedule also helps as some classes may be scheduled for evenings and weekends.