Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Pros and Cons of Being A College Professor
If you're thinking about which direction to take your research career, one possibility is the professor route, teaching and researching in a university context. This is one of the most desirable jobs among young academics, and something that people often strive for. But what are the pros and cons of working as a college professor?
The Benefits of Being a College Professor
One of the biggest pros is the freedom that it offers you in terms of research. Once you are senior enough, you can choose which projects to work on and which methodologies you employ. Few other jobs can match this level of intellectual freedom, and it is undoubtedly one of the perks of being a professor. Alongside freedom, is the joy of teaching, which, with the right group, can be endlessly interesting. The beauty of teaching is often – somewhat counter intuitively – the learning. Engaging young ambitious students with learning materials, and seeing what novel angles they take when approaching them can be highly stimulating, to say nothing of how rewarding it can be. Who, for instance, get's to say that they shape and inspire the next generation of academics?
Another big plus is the working hours that academia can offer, which are frequently more flexible than in other professions. If, for example, you are a young parent who needs to leave the office early to pick up a child from school, workarounds can often be found, and your job can be made to fit around home life.
Sabbaticals are another possibility. Many senior professors will, at some point in their career, arrange to take off few months, maybe even a year, from their regular teaching duties so that they can go and research in a different university and country. Others sometimes go even further, and step away from teaching entirely to work on writing a book, for example, all the while knowing that they can return to their position once they are done.
And finally, on the way to becoming a professor there are many opportunities for travel. You can find jobs in many places all over the world, and you can travel to new places for conferences or research visits. If you enjoy exploring new places and getting to know new cultures, languages, and cuisines, then working as a professor offers many chances for you to develop those interests.
The Negatives of Being a College Professor
One of the biggest issues with being a college professor is that because there are a large number of highly qualified academics competing for a small number of professorship jobs, they are highly competitive. Even a talented and hard-working researcher who has published extensively and has teaching experience may not ever manage to land a permanent professor job.
This low supply and high demand can lead to poor job security: researchers who are waiting to land a professorship role often feel compelled to take on a series of temporary jobs with contracts ranging from 6 months to a few years. This insecurity is stressful, and means that you have to be constantly vigilant about finding and applying for new roles. It certainly is not for everyone.
If you do successfully get a permanent job as a professor, there is also the issue of compensation. Professors are by no means poorly paid, and they typically earn enough to live comfortably and to raise a family. However, someone with the level of skill and experience that a professor has could almost certainly earn much more money in the private sector.
This problem is then compounded by the last issue on this list: as a professor expect long hours. As we discussed before, hours do tend to be flexible, however, it is still (too) frequently expected that professors will work both in the evenings and on the weekends. In some cases, it can even be difficult for them to take the vacation days which they have earned, as there is just too much work, with deadlines making things additionally tricky. In order to remain at the front of the profession, you will likely have to work many hours each week, and sacrifice time spent with family, friends, and pursuing your hobbies. Unperturbed? Check out our professor jobs here.
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