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What are the Different Types of Professor Jobs?

By G. Melanson
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are several different types of professor jobs that academics can pursue on the path to, or in lieu of, a career as a college or university professor. Some of these professions include teaching assistant (TA), associate professor, teaching fellow (TF), and adjunct professor. These professor jobs require specific academic credentials that may vary by country or academic institution. Some of these positions may also allow the incumbent to reach tenure, which provides him or her with a contractual level of job security and the opportunity to move up in the ranks of professor jobs.

Sometimes referred to as tutors or graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), TAs are graduate students employed by college or universities to assist professors with course instruction. A TA will provide support to the professor during lectures, grade students' work, and may also conduct tutorials or labs independently. Undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs) are part of a sub-category of TAs who hold a bachelor's, or undergraduate, degree and may be paid by course credit rather than the fixed salary which TAs receive on a contract basis. A TA who has received tenure or established a track record of academic accomplishments set by the college or university is promoted to the position of associate professor.

Unlike a TA, a teaching fellow (TF) is an academic who holds a master's degree and instructs an undergraduate class independently. Some universities, however, require that TFs be supervised by a professor, with whom they meet regularly and receive suggestions on ways to improve their teaching skills. TFs are paid higher salaries than TAs, and on a per-semester contract basis. In the UK, the title of "teaching fellow" is occasionally given to an academic staff member who has demonstrated excellence in lecturing.

An adjunct professor is a professor who is employed on a part-time, casual basis by a college or university and typically holds a Ph.D. As adjunct professors don't hold permanent professor jobs, they don't receive the same benefits as other academic staff, and are relieved of the research and administrative responsibilities required of full-time, permanent professors. Professors who have made teaching contributions to a department outside of their own can be recognized as adjunct professors in that department in addition to retaining their regular professor jobs, however.

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Discussion Comments

By Viranty — On Jul 24, 2014

In the future, I am thinking about getting my Masters and teaching at the college I graduated from. It's always a good idea to take a trip back to your place of graduation, and it could even be considered a reunion of sorts.

By Krunchyman — On Jul 23, 2014

I've enjoyed most of my college professors, but one thing I really like is how overtime, you begin to realize that they're human too. Though many students might see them as someone who gives out too much homework, they have friends and family just like us. For example, during my sophomore year of college, I had a very strict communications teacher. More than often, he would invite us to visit his house for dinner. It was quite a shock to see him so casual and laid back. Not to mention that his kids were great.

By Chmander — On Jul 23, 2014

This isn't always the case, but in some ways, being a college professor is much harder than being an elementary and middle school teacher. One reason is because you are monitoring several classes. Unlike school teachers, who normally have one class to focus all day, college professors might teacher five classes throughout their day. Between keeping up with the schedules, and making sure that you don't fall behind on your lesson plans, it's not an easy task.

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