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What are the prerequisites to become a professor at a college?

I am studying Information Systems Technology and am planning on becoming a teacher some day. #teaching #professor #information-technology #university-teaching

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Subject: Career question for you


4 answers

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Earl A.’s Answer

Most universities require tenured faculty to have a PhD or other "terminal" degree (J.D., EdS, etc).
Some smaller colleges and technical schools sometimes hire faculty with Master's Degrees, but the higher degrees are more likely to find teaching jobs.
If you really want to be a professor, you must love school!
So, go be a student as long as you can, as long as you are pursuing your passion (You must really love it to stick it out through a PhD program!).
When you are in your Master's program, you will ask your professors and advisors to help you pick a grad school for your PhD program. Since you want to teach, you can pick a school that employs many PhD students as teaching assistants or even as an instructor for lower-level (i.e. freshman) courses.
That way, before you graduate, you have already gained experience teaching and will have an advantage when applying for teaching jobs.

All the best!!
Enjoy learning!
Peace, Earl

Thank you comment icon Thank you for your answer, and in response: I do love school and I plan to attend to obtain at least a Master's degree. Brandon
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Jeff’s Answer

Hi Brandon,

Great question! You are well on your way since you love school. For almost any teaching position in a college environment, you need a minimum of a Master's degree in your area of specialization. I say almost because there is the occasional subject where they can't get anyone with a graduate degree to teach it but need the course. That's a rare, one off situation. A terminal degree (PhD, etc) is mandatory if you want to teach graduate classes and usually required if the university offers grad classes in your department. I taught at several different universities with only an MS but was not eligible to get a tenure track position at schools with grad programs. I did however, head up two different programs at universities that only offered undergrad CS degrees.

My advice is to continue on and get your PhD if you can. If not, you can get into teaching and earn the degree part-time. The other bit of advice is to get out into the real world and get some industry experience under your belt. It really helps if you can talk and teach from experience.

Best of luck!


Thank you comment icon I thank you for your answer, and in response: I most certainly will be working to obtain my Doctorate, but I worry about how much time I will have to spend studying and being ineligible for the job. Brandon
Thank you comment icon Most, if not all, universities that offer Doctoral degree programs offer teaching or research assistant positions. they are paid, although not huge paychecks. It's also good experience. Your other option is to get your Master's, start teaching and then work on your PhD part-time. Jeff Sloan
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Rachel’s Answer

Many colleges provide incredible teaching programs. A few of the best in the nation are Johns Hopkins University, NYU, and UConn

Teaching involves a number of different skills and qualities. I would say the most important are:

  1. People skills - being friendly and working well with others. You will need to be personable, caring, kind, friendly, compassionate, and understanding. These qualities make a great teacher. But you also need to be stern and firm in your directions, rules, and discipline
  2. Public speaking - every day in your class you will need to be able to speak and present information to your students, practice speech, and practice fluency of language and talking in front of others
  3. The subject you plan to teach - become a master of the subject you plan to teach, make sure you know as much as possible and learn as much as you can about the subject you plan to teach. Take as many classes as possible in this subject and learn everything you can about it.
  4. Psychology & Human Development - start reading books and research articles on human development and psych. It will be helpful for you to know how people learn at different stages and the best ways to teach them at these stages (depending on stage of development and schema).

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Rachel’s Answer

It really depends what type of teacher you would like to be. However the main pathways are generally the same and the options vary but go along the same lines.

  1. You need to graduate high school.
  2. You need to attend a college/university and earn a four- year B.A. degree. You will want to get a bachelors degree in the subject-matter that you want to teach, this makes certification in your state and subject-area feasible. You may opt to minor or double-major in education. You do not need to have a bachelors in education to be a teacher. I would suggest getting a bachelors degree in the subject you would like to teach. (for example: I am an English teacher, I majored in English literature and now have a bachelors in English).
  3. Once you graduate college with your bachelors degree you have a few options:

A. Go directly to Graduate school and obtain your masters in the area of teaching/education you want to teach (ie. Masters of Education, Masters of Teaching, Masters of Secondary English, Masters of Teaching in Secondary English, Masters of Teaching in Elementary, Masters of Special Education etc.). You may also opt to get a masters degree in the subject-are you wish to teach. However, while in graduate school you must obtain a masters degree in some variation of teaching/education. So you will have either a MAT (Masters of Teaching) or MED (Masters of Education). Most graduate schools have one of the two programs and offer a variation depending on the subject (ie. Masters of Teaching in Secondary English or Masters of Education in Secondary English). This option is ussually a fifth year pathway that allows you to student teach at a school while earning your masters degree.

B. You can apply to an Alternative Route to Certification (if you state has options/offers this). This would look like a program like TeachForAmerica, AmeriCorps TutorCorps, or other Teacher Residency Programs (ie. KIPP Teaching Fellows, MATCH Schools, or charter schools that offer Teacher Resident positions. Look up the options in your state or the options available if state is not a boundary for you. During the year or two-year commitment of these programs you would typically also have classes or being earning a masters degree. This option is for teachers who want to start working directly after they graduate college. Some programs lead to Certification in your state and others lead to BOTH Certification and a Masters Degree. The ARC programs lead to 90 day certifications, which then lead to Initial Educator Certification OR Resident Teacher Certification (ALL are pathways to FULL certification in your state).

  1. Regardless of which route you take you will need to take the certification exams in your state. MOST states, including CT (which is the information I know because it is my state) require the PRAXIS exams. You will need to research certification requirements within your own state for more information. However, while you are earning your masters (or after you have earned your bachelors) you will want to also prepare for and take the PRAXIS Core (which can be waived if your SAT/ACT scores are high enough) and the PRAXIS II which cannot be waived and MUST be passed for certification.
  2. Once you have obtained your Bachelors degree AND Masters degree AND Passed your state certification exams AND done some form of students teaching (whether that is during college or in a residency program) you can then:
  3. Go to your state board of education website and complete your certification information.
  4. Then, you can APPLY as a LEAD teacher in the area you are certified.

MOST pathways take 4-6 years. You will be able to start your first year of teaching as a lead teacher generally in year 5 or 6.

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Earn a bachelors degree in the subject area you would like to teach in AND or a bachelors in Education.
  • Decide if you want to do a teaching Residency program like Teach For America or if you would like to go straight to graduate school to earn your masters degree.
  • Apply to Graduate schools and Teaching Residency programs. During your senior year of college.
  • Begin your first year of grad school or teaching residency.
  • Earn your Masters degree in Education or Teaching, in the area you would like to teach in.