How to Become a Tenured Professor

HBEU04Teaching at the college level is a rewarding career, with both tangible rewards, like compensation, and intangible rewards, like the thrill of helping young people grow their knowledge. By attaining the title of tenured professor, college teachers can add job security to the list of benefits of their roles.

What Is Tenure?
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

College professors start their employment on a probationary level. Each year, colleges can terminate probationary teachers without any stated reason. The National Education Association indicates that one out of every five probationary faculty members loses his or her job each year.

Once a professor has worked for a set period of time, he or she can be granted tenure. After receiving tenure, the teacher can no longer be terminated without cause. If you perform your duties professionally and competently, you will remain employed after receiving tenure. The NEA indicates the average tenure takes seven years to earn at a four-year college.

Benefits of Becoming a Tenured Professor

Job security is not the only benefit of becoming a tenured professor. You will also position yourself for better compensation. Specific details about the compensation of tenured professors versus probationary professors is not available, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the 2010 median pay for postsecondary teachers of all experience levels was $62,050 a year. The top 10 percent, which are likely experienced, tenured professors, earned over $130,510 a year.

How to Become One

If you are interested in becoming a tenured professor, you need to prepare for a long educational commitment. Most colleges and universities require a Ph.D. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but some will accept teachers with just a master’s degree or with a master’s degree and some doctoral work.

To earn a doctoral degree, you are looking at around 10 years of education. First, you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in your subject field or in education. Most teachers focus their undergraduate education on the specific field in which they will eventually teach, such as science, history or mathematics. These programs may be completed as online degree programs, traditional degree programs or a combination of both. A bachelor’s degree program typically takes about four years to complete. Teachers will then pursue a master’s degree followed by a doctoral program, which takes an additional six years.

That process is the typical educational process a teacher takes, but many exceptions exist. For instance, two-year and community colleges will often hire teachers with just a master’s degree, so some teachers will begin their careers at this level while completing their doctoral work. The job experience combined with the education allows them to have a better shot at open positions at the four-year college or university level.

Many institutions also prefer candidates who have teaching experience, particularly for highly sought after tenure track positions. Students can gain this teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants, or teachers enrolled in a graduate program who also teach undergraduate classes at their institution.

Gaining Tenure

Getting hired is just the first step in becoming a tenured professor. The teacher must then go through the ranks of tenure. Newly hired teachers are given the title of Assistant professor. As they teach for a few years, they are then granted the title of associate professor. Finally, when they reach the level of experience necessary for tenure, they are given the title of professor.

Because of budgetary constraints, tenure track positions are declining. If you are able to get hired as an assistant professor and work your way up to tenured professor, you will be in a good position for your career. With the right education and work experience, you will be in the best possible position to pursue the position of a tenured professor. The process is not always easy, but the rewards and job security are worthwhile. To find out more about starting your career with the right education, fill in this online form.

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