What You Need to Know About Teaching at College

If you’re currently considering your career options and you think you might want to be a teacher at college, then it’s useful to learn a little more about what’s needed to reach your goal.  This piece will give you plenty of insights about teaching at college in the USA and help you make that all-important decision.

Love Research and Academia?

Firstly, if you love research and engaging with students as well as academia then you could look at becoming a college professor but it’s important to note that there aren’t a huge pool of professor jobs in the USA, so it is competitive.  There are more teaching jobs at elementary and high school level. However, if you’re dead set on becoming a teacher at a college then read on to find out about the salary.

Professor Salaries in the USA

The average salary for a full professor at a college is $140,000, an associate, $95,000 and an assistant, $82,000.  So, there’s plenty of range, there is also a lot of potential to grow within the profession although it is not highly paid but lots of college teachers supplement their income by coaching privately during the evening or at the weekend to make up the difference.  Remember though, to do that you’ll have to be prepared to put in a lot of hours.

Pay does vary according to what you specialize in, for example, the median salary for an architecture professor is around $90,000 whereas an education professor is just $65,000 so there is a broad spectrum to consider when considering college teaching as a career.  If you decide to teach law, you can expect a higher salary, the median income for this is approximately $113,500.

The fastest growth areas for teaching at college is health and the slowest areas are social sciences, mathematics, computer science and English (language and literature). The upside to this is that there could be more opportunity in the fast-growth areas due to the demand for quality college teachers.

Qualifications for Teaching at College

Teaching at College

For teaching at college, you need the following qualifications:

  • A doctorate degree in the area you wish to teach in.  So if you teach English, you’ll need a PhD in English.  Bear in mind that a doctorate can take anything from four to seven years, and you’ll need both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  Remember, lots of doctorate programs allow you to study for your master’s at the same time.  You can teach some college classes without a doctorate but only in specific fields. Some schools insist on doctorates but there are others that don’t (depending on the field).  The positions that don’t require a doctorate can still be extremely competitive because you could find yourself competing for a job against applicants with doctorate degrees which reduces your chance of getting the position.
  • Teaching at college experience is very useful when applying to be a college teacher.  You can get this type of experience as a graduate student, or you could take up a part-time teaching job as a graduate student instructor.  You’ll teach a class but be supervised by a fully qualified college professor.
  • Certification.  Most fields require certification as well as a doctorate degree. As an example, if you’re teaching nursing, you may need a nursing license so do your research, especially if you’re going into a vocational or technical industry. Interestingly, you don’t generally need a teaching certification to be a college professor, but you do need it if you want to teach at middle or high school!
  • It’s also worthwhile getting yourself published in as many academic publications as you can – especially if you’re looking for tenure and that equals superb job security.  You’ll need to be published in notable publications for tenure.

Keep Up Your Good Grades!

If you’re still at high school and thinking about teaching at college as a career, you should keep on top of your grades. As you’re choosing a career in education, you need to be seen to do well in your field!  Obviously, good grades are also important for you to secure a place at a reputable college because then you are in a better position to be offered a position at an excellent graduate school plus it helps you to get better paying teaching jobs.  You’ll need good SAT/ACT scores too.

Add Extra Classes

Do expand your knowledge.  So, if you love English, add on extra classes such as creative writing or journalism.  For science lovers, expand beyond biology, physics and chemistry and perhaps do geology or anatomy.

Coach Other Students

Another good idea is to coach other younger students in your spare time.  Not only will this give you extra money to spend but it will also help you develop a teaching style.  You’ll soon understand whether or not teaching is for you too and let’s not forget that this will look great on your application for a job later on.

Make Your College Application Stand Out

When you apply for college, make sure your application really stands out.  You’ll need evidence of your coursework, information relating to your SATs/ACTs, a letter of recommendation and a really high-quality personal statement.  Never rush your application, take your time, and perfect it, revisiting it again and again to make sure it’s absolutely perfect.

Observe Your Own Teachers

When you get to college, watch your teachers, and really think about whether you want to teach.  What do they do well?  What do they do “not so well”? How would you change their style?  How do they engage students?  What tools do they use to get the best out of their classes?  You could also look up their backgrounds and see what their degrees are to understand more about what you need to do to get to their level.  Try and spend some time with a professor and ask him or her about teaching, the positives, and the negatives.  Listen to their advice because this will give you a real insider as to what their role entails and help you decide if it’s definitely what you want to do.

Become a Teaching Assistant

Once you’ve graduated, you may want to become a teaching assistant for an undergraduate class – you’ll get paid too and you’ll get a deep insight into what it’s like to teach at college.  You’ll also get to grade papers, lead discussions, do administration and speak to students directly.  Remember, you will be studying as well, so you’ll have to make time for both.

Get Your Doctorate

Getting your doctorate is the next stage and that comes at graduate school, which is a four-year process and takes hard work, but it can also be lots of fun as you’ll have opportunity for hands-on experience.  Here’s some more information on degrees for teaching at college:

It is hard work to eventually become a college professor and for many, it’s a real vocation but if you really are driven and you want to teach then focus, research, do your best and maximize on opportunity.  That is the grit that will help you to land your dream job.  Always concentrate on getting the best possible grades you can and if you’re about to enter college, you could also do some work experience in elementary, middle, or high school to give you that extra foot in the door.

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