I'm a college professor. It's been rewarding, but there are things I didn't expect.

I'd expected professors to have PhDs and work at their colleges full-time. I also expected them to do non-stop research, and have Teaching Assistants grade all their assignments.

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I also thought students would submit all their assignments on time, and if they couldn't, I expected they'd ask for extensions. But that's simply not true.

Since becoming a professor, I've learned it's a demanding job with big expectations!

Princess Bride's Inigo Montoya saying a professor's job I do not think it is what you think it is

1. Full-time jobs are rare and difficult to get

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Did you know that the majority of college professors in Canada and the U.S. are on contract?

This means they probably only teach at your college part-time, or at multiple colleges at the same time.

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Because of this, full-time positions are highly sought after and competitive. In fact, part-time professors outnumber full-time professors by 50%, and this difference continues to grow.

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Getting a full-time position requires you to stand out by:

  • Getting a Masters degree and more likely a PhD 🎓

  • Conducting research and submitting it to be published 🔬

  • Presenting at conferences 🎤

  • Receiving excellent evaluations from students, colleagues, and department heads 💯

Test Your Knowledge

Sofia and Mark are two part-time college professors. They both applied for the same full-time position as a Spanish Professor at their college. Read about their experience:

Sofia (she/her)

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  • Achieved a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics

  • Speaks English and Spanish fluently

  • Published 3 articles

  • Presents at an applied linguistics conference every year

  • Colleagues say she's helpful and has unique learning activities

Mark (he/him)

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  • Achieved a Masters in Applied Linguistics

  • Speaks English and Spanish fluently

  • Currently researching Spanish assessment strategies

  • Hasn't been to an applied linguistics conference 5 years

  • Students love him


Who would be more likely to get the full-time position as a Spanish professor at their college?

2. The workload's huge

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Remember when I said I thought professors had Teaching Assistants? In colleges, that isn't the case.

That isn't to say they don't have help, but no one is teaching their classes or marking assignments for them.

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Professors have a lot to do inside and outside of the classroom. This includes:

  • Planning lessons

  • Designing curriculum and assessments

  • Grading assignments and providing feedback

  • Meeting students and offering support

  • Participating in professional development

Some of the work is unpaid.

On top of the workload adding up, time spent marking and prepping outside of class time is unpaid.

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This means that even though a professor might be paid $300 per week for a 3-hour class, they could spend between 3 to 10 hours prepping for lessons and assessing students.

3. Relationships with students can be challenging

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Colleges are one of the most diverse places. Students come to class with different life experiences. So, professors can't expect all their students to come to class every week, submit their assignments on time, or communicate when they miss class or need more time on an assignment.

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Managing student behaviour is a part of the job.

It's important to know these behaviours are common. The key is learning how to manage student behaviour when it comes up, and resolve the issue together:

  1. Request a meeting with the student.

  2. Before meeting the student, think about the goal of the conversation.

  3. At the start of the meeting, state the goal.

  4. When the student speaks, listen carefully.

  5. After the student speaks, share your perspective.

  6. Brainstorm solutions together.

  7. End the meeting by summarizing the conversation or setting up a meeting for the future.

Sometimes students feeling heard may be all that is needed in a difficult situation.

Selina from Veep speaking to a woman and saying Every difficult conversation starts with a sentence.

Test Your Knowledge

Sophia noticed a student's stopped attending her class, and they didn't submit the last 2 assignments. She sends them an email to set up a meeting. In the meeting, she learns the student works full-time and needs to take care of their younger siblings in the evenings.

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What should Sophia do next? Select all that apply:

Take Action

Being a college professor isn't easy, but it can be a rewarding career if you know what to expect!

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Consider whether becoming a college professor is right for you:


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