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Universities have been the hotbed for intellectual and academic developments for centuries. Art, science, literature and medicine have been developed, theorized, and revolutionized by professors. These professional thinkers are highly educated in one or two subjects, and are constantly involved in researching, writing, and lecturing students on their areas of expertise.

Professors research and publish their findings in journals, and present their study findings at conferences around the world. They develop new theories about child development and learning patterns, or they look at new movements in literature and link developments in pop culture to the evolution of the modern novel. They focus on scientific developments, or they write mathematical theories to explain nature and space. They work alone on projects, or alongside professors at their own universities or academic centers around the world. But research and publishing their findings are not the only thing professors do.

Professors are also educators. They teach students about the history and background of a subject, and also explain some of the new developments that they and their colleagues are working on. Professors lecture new students who have no experience, as well as work with students who have chosen that subject as their area of focused learning. Often, professors work closely with students who are on their way to becoming professors themselves--instead of lecturing to a group of 300 students, these professors spend time one-on-one with graduate students.

Professors also take their expertise out of the academic settings and into the community--they may advise government agencies, non-profit groups, hospitals, and businesses on the running and structuring of their organizations, or they may conduct research on their behalf. Though professors may be thought of as being only present in classrooms and stuffy, dark offices, in actuality, these academic superstars have quite a lot of influence on the world in many unknown, unseen ways. Their work with governments and the private sector can influence everything from the education system to the judicial system.

Working as a professor entails much more than reading books and presenting lectures to students. Professors must continually research new findings and revise existing theories. They must figure out ways to make intellectual pursuits appealing to students, and they must always be willing to meet with colleagues or students who need their help with a project or paper. Professors must balance their time and priorities between research and students. Good professors are able to excite the students in the classrooms, as well as their colleagues in the labs.
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Purdue University Global

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults.

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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
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  Interests and Skills  
Professors need to be motivated, independent, and avid researchers. Professors have excellent reading, researching and writing skills, are dedicated to learning, and enjoy lecturing on and discussing issues with others. Professors are also required to be hard-working and organized, with a natural curiosity as well as creative skills. They must also enjoy working with young people as instructors and mentors, and should be respectful of all students and their learning capabilities. They need critical thinking skills, good communication skills, and are able to work alone as well as in groups.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan and teach university courses
  • Prepare, administer and mark student assignments and examinations
  • Meet with students and advise them on academic matters
  • Supervise graduate students
  • Conduct research and write papers on subjects within their field of study
  • Work as guest lecturers, consultants, and resource personnel
  • Organize and coordinate curriculum and course schedules
  • Serve on various committees concerned with curriculum revision, academic planning, degree requirements and faculty matters
  • Take care of any other administrative duties that may come their way
  • Professors spend each day thinking, reviewing other peoples' thoughts and theories, and coming up with new thoughts and theories of their own. They share their ideas with other academics, newspapers and magazines, and students. They challenge people to think, analyze, and develop their academic and intellectual capabilities. They travel for conferences, to assist in developing programs and curricula, and for research purposes. They spend most of each day indoors.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Professors work on university campuses, and spend their time in classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories, offices, and libraries where they read, write, teach, and research. They also meet one-on-one with students, either in classrooms or their offices, where they answer questions about the students' projects or papers.
  • Professors work between eight and 10 hours a day, and often go in to work on weekends, as well. They work all year long, researching, writing, and publishing articles, travelling to conduct research, or to meet with other specialists in their field. The working environment for professors is stimulating and conditions are generally pleasant.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Professors could work for the government as salaried employees or independent consultants, become high school teachers, researchers for private research institutes, or consultants for advocacy groups. They can also advance within the university, and work with various committees, become department chairs or department heads, or move from teaching into positions as deans, vice-presidents or presidents within universities.

  Educational Paths  
In order to work as a professor, completion of a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a PhD in one area of specialization is required. This can take up to 10 or 12 years to complete, so anyone interested in working as a professor needs to love school! University degrees are not enough, however--professors need to prove they are exceptional writers, researchers, and lecturers. Most professors have made some sort out outstanding and innovative contribution to their own area of study and expertise.

Before they can even work as full professors, however, they must spend five or six years as an assistant or associate professor. After five years or so of full-time work, these assistant or associate professors are considered for tenure (permanent) status which involves a review of their accomplishments by academic peers.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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