College Professor Job Outlook

A college professor or post-secondary teacher works in institutes, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Traditionally, college professors taught graduate and undergraduate students ages 18 to 26, but these days more and more instruct adults who have returned to school.

Education Requirement for a College Professor

For almost all college teaching positions, advanced degrees in their respective fields are required to become a college professor. Four-year universities and colleges typically require that their full-time professors hold a doctorate, while community colleges may hire teachers who have a master’s degree. In fields such as writing, painting and other creative fields, the highest academic award is considered to be the master of fine arts, or MFA.

Career Options: What You Can Do as a College Professor

The most common career option for a professor is to teach at a two- or four-year university. Those who wish to keep researching in their field while continuing to teach can work toward a tenured position. After a specified time period, a committee will review a professor’s work and decide to grant tenure, which rewards a professor with a lighter teaching load and higher level of job security. Moreover, professors can continue doing research for their field and pursue other interests.

What to Consider as a College Professor

Post-secondary teachers are expected to see average job growth through 2020, according to  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those will to work part-time or on short-term contracts have the best job prospects. While pay rates for college professors vary widely, the median annual wage was $62,050 in 2010, according to the BLS.

The BLS also states that  colleges and universities are moving away from tenure-track positions and toward adjunct and part-time positions. As a result, there is a lot of competition for tenure-track positions. Still, opportunities should be available for part-time or adjunct professors.

In addition, a number of post-secondary teachers are expected to retire, creating opportunities for new people entering the field.

Some specialties, such as nursing and engineering, will likely experience better job prospects than others, such as those in the humanities.

Many college professors go into post-secondary education administration. According to the BLS, employment of post-secondary education administrators is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average. Expected growth is due to increases in enrollments. What’s more, between 2010 and 2020, a large number of post-secondary education administrators are expected to retire. This should open opportunities for new workers entering the field due to the occupation’s need to replace workers who are leaving.

The median annual wage for post-secondary education administrators was $83,710 in May 2010, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,130, and the top 10 percent earned more than $164,540, the BLS reports.

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