How to Become an Assistant Professor?

Are you thinking of becoming an Assistant Professor or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become an Assistant Professor, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Assistant Professor job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
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Steps to Become a Professor

Do you love molding young minds and helping students succeed? If that sounds like a dream job to you, become a professor with these four steps:

Earn a doctoral degree in your chosen field.

Most university teaching positions require applicants to earn a doctoral degree in the field they wish to teach, such as economics or psychology. In addition, most postgraduate programs take between five and seven years and require a master's degree prior to enrollment. However, some doctoral programs will allow you to earn your master's along the way.

It is possible to teach some college-level classes without a doctoral degree. However, those positions are only at certain schools like community colleges and technical schools and only in certain subjects, such as creative writing. Understandably, these professor jobs are pretty competitive, so you may want to bring at least a master's to the table.

What skills do you need to be a Professor?

  • Teaching Experience
  • Statistics
  • PHD Science
  • PDF
  • Calculus
  • Writing
  • Graduate Degree
  • Interpersonal and Communication
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Professor in the United States.

Get some teaching experience.

Your previous teaching experience is another plus when you're looking to become a professor. Any practice leading or instructing students is valuable. The University of Michigan offers a program for students to earn classroom experience as a Graduate Student Instructor. People in these part-time teaching jobs operate under the supervision of a full-time faculty member.

Many established professors hire teaching assistants or aides. These jobs consist of performing various tasks, like grading papers, preparing assignments, and leading classroom discussions. You can also gain teaching time by:

  • Tutoring in your spare time.
  • Coaching a little league sport's team.
  • Host an undergraduate class.

Earn your professional certification.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia offer national certification. Teachers are required to complete coursework, pass exams, and meet other specified criteria to receive their license. The process to obtain your credentials ensures that teachers meet rigorous standards in their subject areas, pass required background checks, and are proficient in commonly accepted instruction methods.

Universities may also require you to obtain a professional certification in addition to getting a doctoral degree and your state's teaching license. For example, depending on your subject, educators who prepare students for an occupation that requires a permit, such as a nurse, must generally hold the same credentials.


Publish academic papers and books.

Since full-time professor positions are highly competitive, industry leaders strongly recommend that you publish as many academic papers as possible. This habit is particularly relevant if you want to land a tenured position because a long track record of printed materials offers the best job security for professors. Therefore, you want more than a few scholarly articles in your favorite journal on your resume. You can improve your chances of acceptance by:

  • Giving yourself enough time.
  • Asking for help.
  • Targeting the right journal.
  • Following the publication's instructions.
  • Embracing criticism.
  • Being patient.

Assistant Professor Career Path

Assistant Professor

0 - 1Years of Experience
$97K - $164K /yrMost Likely Range
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7% advanced to

Adjunct Professor

No Years of Experience Reports
$94K - $168K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Assistant Professor Career Path

Assistant Professor
Adjunct Professor
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Related Careers in the Education Industry

Interested in other Education careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Assistant Professor skills. Discover some of the most common Assistant Professor career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Professor Of Biology
13% skills overlap
10% transitioned to Professor Of Biology