How To Get Teaching Experience To Become A Professor?

The path to becoming a professor is paved with knowledge, research, and a crucial ingredient – teaching experience. While textbooks and lectures equip you with expertise, it’s the ability to effectively share that knowledge that sets a professor apart. But how do you land that first teaching role, especially when you haven’t yet reached the professorial ranks?

This post dives into unconventional yet impactful ways to build your teaching experience and your passion for instruction.


Who is a Professor?

A professor is the highest-ranking teacher and researcher at a university or college. They’re like the head coaches of specific academic subjects. 


Common Roles of a Professor

Here’s a breakdown of what professors do:

  • Teaching: Professors lead undergraduate and postgraduate courses in their area of expertise. This involves creating a curriculum, delivering lectures, and guiding discussions.
  • Research: Many professors are actively involved in research, pushing the boundaries of knowledge in their field. They often publish their findings in academic journals and conferences.
  • Mentoring: Professors often mentor graduate students, guiding them through their research projects and thesis or dissertation development.
  • Leadership: In some universities, particularly with graduate programs, full professors may take on leadership roles within departments, research groups, or even university administration.

There are some regional variations in the term “professor.” In the US and Canada, it’s a general term for senior faculty, while in the UK and some European countries, it signifies a more distinguished academic rank requiring significant achievements.

Read also an important post: How to Get a Teaching Credential in California?

how to get teaching experience to become a professor?

How to get teaching experience to become a professor?

Here’s a concise guide on how to gain teaching experience and work toward becoming a professor:

1. Start Early

Begin your journey toward becoming a professor during your undergraduate years. Engage in research projects, join academic clubs, and participate in student organizations related to your field.

2. Graduate Studies

    • Pursue a master’s degree in your area of interest. This will deepen your knowledge and provide opportunities for teaching assistantships.
    • Consider a Ph.D. program if you aspire to teach at the university level. Doctoral programs often offer teaching assistant positions.

 3. Teaching Assistantships (TA)

    • As a graduate student, seek TA positions. Assist professors in teaching undergraduate courses, grading assignments, and leading discussion sections.
    • Use this experience to develop your teaching skills, interact with students, and gain insights into classroom dynamics.

4. Adjunct Teaching Roles

    • Apply for adjunct faculty positions at community colleges or smaller institutions. These roles allow you to teach part-time while pursuing your advanced degree.
    • Adjunct positions provide valuable teaching experience and help you build a teaching portfolio.

5. Continuing Education Programs

    • Explore opportunities to teach non-credit courses or workshops. These can be offered through community centers, libraries, or online platforms.
    • Teaching in these settings allows you to refine your communication skills and adapt to diverse audiences.

6. Publish and Present:

    • Engage in research related to your field. Publish scholarly articles and present your findings at conferences.
    • Active research enhances your credibility and demonstrates your commitment to academia.

7. Networking and Mentorship:

    • Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars. Network with established professors and researchers.
    • Seek mentorship from experienced academics. Their guidance can be invaluable as you navigate your career path.

8. Develop a Teaching Philosophy:

    • Reflect on your teaching experiences. What are your core beliefs about education? How do you approach student learning?
    • Craft a teaching philosophy statement that reflects your values and teaching style.

9. Apply for Faculty Positions:

    • Keep an eye on job postings for assistant professor positions. Apply to universities or colleges aligned with your research interests.
    • Tailor your application materials (CV, cover letter, teaching statement) to highlight your teaching experience and research contributions.

10. Stay Curious and Passionate:

    • Embrace lifelong learning. Stay updated on developments in your field.
    • Passion for your subject matter and a genuine interest in nurturing students’ growth are essential qualities for a successful professor.

The path to becoming a professor is both rewarding and challenging. Stay committed, seek guidance, and continue to learn and evolve as an educator.

Read also: A Good Teacher Behavior


Needed Education To Become a Professor:

While a passion for teaching is essential, becoming a professor requires a specific educational path to gain the knowledge and teaching experience universities seek. Here’s a breakdown of the foundational education you’ll need:

1. Master Your Field: The Cornerstone Degree

  • Bachelor’s Degree: This forms the foundation of your expertise. Choose a major that aligns with your academic interests and future professorial aspirations. Or if not offered, attend as many classes as possible in a subject related to your preferred one. You can always switch between a major and a minor subject. Try to maintain good grades in the subject that you would prefer to teach in the long run.
  • Master’s Degree (Optional, but Often Preferred):  A master’s degree delves deeper into your chosen field, providing advanced knowledge and potentially some research experience. While not always mandatory, it can strengthen your application for doctoral programs and some professorial positions.
  • Doctorate (Ph.D. or Ed.D.): This is the gold standard for most professorial positions. Doctoral programs equip you with in-depth knowledge, and research skills, and often include opportunities to gain teaching experience through teaching assistantships (TAs) or instructor roles. Make sure you get your research published and contribute to research conducted within your field. Because no matter how good your research paper is, if it isn’t published, you won’t get the recognition you deserve. Also, the published work plays a vital role when you want to apply as a professor in any institution. Try to maintain a good relationship with your doctorate supervisor. This can be effective when you need to use someone as your reference in your job application.


2. Take Opportunities Within Your Degree

While coursework provides essential knowledge, universities also value practical teaching experience. Here are some ways your doctoral program (or even your master’s program in some cases) can be a springboard:

  • Teaching Assistantships (TAs):  Many doctoral programs offer TA positions. You’ll assist professors with leading discussion sections, grading assignments, or even co-teaching courses. This provides invaluable experience in classroom management, curriculum delivery, and student interaction.
  • Graduate Instructor Roles: In some doctoral programs, you might have the chance to lead your undergraduate courses under faculty supervision. This is an exceptional opportunity to develop your entire teaching repertoire, from crafting a syllabus to creating effective assessments. Remember not to be passive!  Speak with your program advisors about opportunities to gain teaching experience. Some universities might even offer workshops or programs specifically designed to help doctoral students develop their teaching skills.


3.  Building a Teaching Portfolio

Earning your doctorate is just one step. Consider these additional strategies to strengthen your teaching profile:

  • Develop a Sample Syllabus: Showcase your ability to structure a curriculum by creating a sample syllabus for a course you’d love to teach.
  • Craft a Teaching Philosophy Statement: Articulate your approach to education in a clear and concise statement.
  • Gather Student Evaluations (When Applicable): If you’ve had teaching opportunities, collect positive student evaluations (with their permission) to demonstrate your teaching effectiveness.

By combining your educational foundation with these proactive measures, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professor with a rich teaching background that sets you apart from the competition.


How to Get Teaching Experience to Become a Professor

  • Community Colleges and Adult Education Programs: These institutions often seek passionate instructors for non-credited courses or workshops. You can design and deliver engaging sessions on your area of expertise, reaching a new audience and honing your teaching skills.
  • Online Tutoring Platforms: Platforms like Chegg or Wyzant connect you with students seeking subject-specific guidance. This allows you to tailor your approach to individual learning styles, gaining valuable experience in explaining complex concepts.
  • Industry Training and Workshops: Does your field require ongoing professional development? Offer workshops or training sessions for companies or industry associations. This not only positions you as an expert but lets you refine your ability to translate complex knowledge into actionable skills.
  • Develop Online Courses: Platforms like Udemy or Coursera empower you to create and share in-depth online courses. This allows you to experiment with different teaching styles, and receive student feedback, and your teaching philosophy on a global scale.
  • Embrace the Podcast Classroom: Podcasts are a fantastic way to delve into complex topics in an engaging format. Consider creating a subject-specific podcast series, using it as a platform to showcase your expertise and communication skills.
  • Volunteer as a Guest Lecturer: Approach local high schools, colleges, or community centers and offer to deliver guest lectures on your area of expertise. This not only allows you to practice in front of a live audience but also exposes you to potential future students.
  • Mentorship Programs: Mentoring programs pair you with students interested in your field. By guiding and advising them, you gain valuable experience in fostering a love of learning and providing constructive feedback.


Final Note

In conclusion, we can say that the path to becoming a professor may seem daunting at first for many of us. However, building your teaching experience is an achievable first step. By strategically combining unconventional opportunities like workshops and online courses with traditional academic routes through graduate school assistantships, you’ll gain valuable skills and develop your teaching voice. Remember to showcase your accomplishments by crafting a sample syllabus and teaching philosophy statement.

As you gain experience, don’t forget to collect positive student evaluations (with permission) to solidify your teaching effectiveness.  With dedication, initiative, and a strong portfolio, you’ll transform from an eager student into a confident professor, ready to inspire and guide the next generation of learners.


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