What is a Professor?

A professor holds a high-ranking position within an educational institution, typically at the college or university level. As experts in their respective fields, professors engage in advanced research, scholarship, and teaching. They are responsible for imparting knowledge, guiding students, and contributing to the academic community through their research and publications. Professors play a pivotal role in shaping the intellectual and professional development of their students, fostering critical thinking, and advancing knowledge within their disciplines.

Professors teach undergraduate and graduate courses, design curriculum, mentor students, and evaluate academic performance. Additionally, professors actively contribute to academic conferences, publish research articles, and collaborate with colleagues within their discipline and beyond.

What does a Professor do?

A professor lecturing in front of a group of students.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a professor encompass a wide range of academic, research, and administrative tasks within a higher education institution. Here are some key responsibilities associated with the role of a professor:

  • Teaching and Curriculum Development: Professors are responsible for designing and delivering high-quality courses that align with the curriculum. They create engaging lesson plans, prepare course materials, conduct lectures, facilitate discussions, and assess student learning through assignments, projects, and examinations. Professors also provide mentorship and academic guidance to students, helping them navigate their educational journey and supporting their intellectual growth.
  • Research and Scholarship: A significant portion of a professor's role involves conducting original research in their field of expertise. This includes formulating research questions, designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, and publishing their findings in reputable academic journals. Professors also present their research at conferences and engage in scholarly discussions to contribute to the advancement of knowledge within their discipline.
  • Student Supervision and Advising: Professors serve as mentors to students, guiding them in their academic pursuits and offering advice on course selection, research opportunities, and career pathways. They supervise undergraduate and graduate students' research projects, theses, and dissertations, providing valuable feedback and fostering critical thinking and independent inquiry.
  • Academic Leadership and Service: Within the academic community, professors take on leadership roles by participating in departmental meetings, serving on committees, and contributing to institutional decisions. They collaborate with colleagues to shape curriculum, develop academic policies, and enhance the overall learning experience. Professors also engage in service to the academic field, reviewing research papers, serving as conference organizers, and sharing their expertise with peers.
  • Networking and Professional Development: Professors stay current with the latest developments in their field by attending conferences, workshops, and seminars. Networking with fellow academics, researchers, and professionals allows them to exchange ideas, explore potential collaborations, and contribute to ongoing academic conversations.
  • Administration and Program Coordination: In addition to teaching and research, professors may take on administrative roles within their department or institution. This could involve overseeing academic programs, managing budgets, and contributing to strategic planning. They may also be involved in faculty recruitment, evaluation, and the hiring process.
  • Institutional Contribution and Community Engagement: Professors play a vital role in upholding the mission and reputation of their institution. Through their research, teaching, and community engagement, they contribute to the institution's academic excellence and its connections with the broader community. Professors often engage in public talks, workshops, and outreach initiatives that benefit society.
  • Pedagogical Innovation and Teaching Excellence: Professors continually seek ways to enhance their teaching methods. They explore innovative instructional technologies, active learning strategies, and experiential approaches to create dynamic and engaging learning environments that cater to the diverse needs of their students.

Types of Professors
Professors can specialize in various fields of study and take on different roles within academia. Here are some types of professors based on their specialization and areas of expertise:

  • Research Professors: These professors primarily focus on conducting original research within their field. They often work at research universities and contribute to advancements in knowledge through their publications, studies, and collaborations.
  • Teaching Professors: Teaching professors excel in delivering engaging and effective lectures, designing curriculum, and mentoring students. They prioritize teaching excellence and student engagement while contributing to their institution's educational mission.
  • Clinical Professors: Commonly found in fields like medicine, law, and healthcare, clinical professors have extensive practical experience in addition to their academic qualifications. They often provide hands-on training to students and may supervise clinical placements.
  • Adjunct Professors: Adjunct professors are typically part-time faculty members who bring industry expertise into the classroom. They often have other professional commitments alongside their teaching responsibilities.
  • Tenured Professors: After meeting specific criteria, professors may be awarded tenure, which provides them with job security and academic freedom. They continue their research, teaching, and service to the institution.
  • Endowed Professors: These professors hold positions that are financially supported by endowments or donations. Endowed positions often recognize exceptional contributions to a field and support ongoing research or teaching initiatives.
  • Emeritus Professors: Upon retirement, professors may receive the honorary title of "emeritus" or "emerita." This status acknowledges their past contributions and allows them to continue their involvement with the institution in a reduced capacity.
  • Lecturers: Lecturers are often non-tenure-track faculty members who focus primarily on teaching. They may teach specific courses or areas of expertise within a department.
  • Distinguished Professors: Distinguished professors are recognized for their exceptional contributions to their field. They often hold senior academic positions and play a prominent role in advancing knowledge and mentoring others.

Are you suited to be a professor?

Professors have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

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What is the workplace of a Professor like?

The workplace of a professor is a diverse and intellectually stimulating environment that spans various settings within the confines of an academic institution. Classrooms and lecture halls serve as the cornerstone of their interaction with students. These spaces come alive as professors deliver lectures, facilitate discussions, and inspire critical thinking. The exchange of ideas and knowledge between professor and students forms the foundation of the learning experience.

Beyond the classroom, professors often find themselves immersed in research laboratories and libraries. In these spaces, they delve into the world of scholarly inquiry, designing experiments, conducting studies, and poring over extensive literature. Research is a collaborative endeavor, involving interactions with colleagues, research assistants, and students. The pursuit of answers to complex questions and the quest for discoveries fuel the sense of curiosity that drives their work.

The professor's office is a hub of productivity, a space where course materials take shape, assignments are graded, and students seek academic guidance. Amidst the stacks of books and research materials, professors engage in the creative process of curriculum development and research planning. Equally important are collaborative spaces, where interdisciplinary discussions spark innovative ideas and potential research partnerships, emphasizing the holistic nature of knowledge.

Conferences and workshops punctuate the academic calendar, providing opportunities to showcase research, learn from peers, and expand their intellectual horizons. In an increasingly digital era, professors navigate online platforms and engage with students and colleagues through virtual classrooms and video conferences, ensuring global connectivity and access to education.

Administrative responsibilities extend to committee meetings and departmental decisions, shaping academic policies and contributing to the institutional vision. Moreover, many professors engage in fieldwork, industry collaborations, and public outreach, underscoring the real-world impact of their work.

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Pros and Cons of Being a Professor

Becoming a professor comes with its share of advantages and challenges. Here are some pros and cons of pursuing a career as a professor:


  • Intellectual Fulfillment: Professors engage in rigorous academic pursuits, conduct research, and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their field. The opportunity to explore new ideas, question assumptions, and make original contributions can be intellectually satisfying.
  • Teaching Impact: Professors have the privilege of shaping the next generation of thinkers and leaders. They can inspire students, foster critical thinking, and contribute to the personal and professional growth of their students.
  • Flexibility: Academia often offers a level of flexibility in terms of work hours and research pursuits. Professors can manage their schedules to accommodate research, teaching, and personal commitments.
  • Autonomy: Professors typically have autonomy in their research direction, teaching methods, and academic pursuits. They can delve into topics of personal interest and contribute to areas they are passionate about.
  • Lifelong Learning: Academia encourages ongoing learning and personal growth. Professors stay updated with the latest advancements in their field, attend conferences, and engage in scholarly discussions.
  • Research Opportunities: For those who enjoy research, academia provides an environment conducive to pursuing groundbreaking studies, collaborating with peers, and contributing to scientific or scholarly advancements.


  • Time-Intensive: The demands of research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities can make academia time-intensive. Balancing these commitments, along with personal life, can be challenging.
  • Workload Pressure: The pressure to publish research, secure grants, and maintain teaching excellence can be intense. This pressure may lead to burnout and stress.
  • Job Insecurity: Tenure-track positions, which offer job security and academic freedom, can be highly competitive to attain. Many early-career academics face uncertain employment prospects.
  • Limited Income Potential: While tenured professors can earn a comfortable income, entry-level positions and adjunct roles may offer lower salaries compared to other professions with similar levels of education.
  • Administrative Demands: Professors often participate in departmental committees, administrative tasks, and program development. These responsibilities can be time-consuming and take away from research and teaching.
  • Publishing Pressure: Continuous research output is crucial for academic progression. The pressure to publish can sometimes prioritize quantity over the quality of research.
  • Work-Life Balance: Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be challenging due to the demands of research, teaching, and administrative tasks. Long hours and periods of intense workload are common.