1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Becoming a professor?

  1. Nov 11, 2005 #1
    I have always had the idea of becoming a physics professor after I graduate and go to graduate school, but the more I hear about it the more weary I am of this happening. I go to University of Cincinnati which isn't really known for its physics or anything but see that all of the professors went to places like Cornell and Chicago, so I am wondering what my odds are of becoming a professor? I really love theoretical physics and would love to work on that while teaching, as some of the professors at my school do. Also, is their anything I can do now to increase my chances of eventually becoming a professor after I graduate? Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2005 #2
    A professorship is a granted position, not something you can just become. To even get into a position to apply for a professorship you must be an experienced and successful researcher.
     
  4. Nov 11, 2005 #3

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Or have experience as a lecturer :)
     
  5. Nov 11, 2005 #4
    Well that is what I am asking, how I go about it and how to prepare for it. I have had several professors talk about how they saw an open position and applied for it to get the position they have now, then again, those weren't physics professors. So what do I do after I get out of grad school, or while im still in, if I am focusing in the theoretical field?
     
  6. Nov 11, 2005 #5

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    For information about academic research positions, your first source will probably be personal connections: the professors that you are working with as a grad student (in particular your dissertation advisor), other grad students, etc. Otherwise, I think just about every academic physics job in the U.S. appears at some point in the job-ads pages of Physics Today magazine or in their online database.

    If you are aiming for a serious research/teaching position at a "name" university or even a "respectable" one, be aware that competition is very stiff. You'll probably have to spend at least a few years in temporary post-doctoral research positions to gain experience and build up your contacts and resume. My impression is that competition is tougher for theory positions than for experimental ones.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2005
  7. Nov 11, 2005 #6

    robphy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    It seems to me that one has to publish a lot of good papers and have postdoc experience to get the "Research I" professorship positions. You'll probably have to be quite productive [paper-wise and grant-wise] to get tenure (i.e. keep your position).

    For the much more numerous positions at the smaller universities and liberal arts colleges, teaching experience [beyond that of being a TA] and enthusiasm to teach is highly valued. In addition, many positions will expect you to work on "research that involves undergraduates". Ability to attract grants will be a big plus. To go this route, I'd try to be an instructor of a summer course.... or at least something that is more distinguishing than a plain-old TA.

    Take a look at the job descriptions at http://aip.jobcontrolcenter.com/search/results/ .
     
  8. Nov 11, 2005 #7

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    as far as "pull" goes, it matter more where you go to grad school than undergrad.

    the main thing you can do to increase your chances is to work as hard as possible to maximize your understanding of physics, and your ability to do imaginative research.

    Interact with top professors, read good papers, go to good talks, and think about your subject.

    some of the best research professors at my university went to lesser known colleges or public universities.

    It was their ability and accomplishments that got them where they are, not their connections.
     
  9. Nov 12, 2005 #8

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Another place to get teaching experience while you're still in grad school might be at a nearby community college. When I was a graduate teaching assistant at my university, all I did was labs. Later, while I was finishing my dissertration, I taught a few classes at a CC. Having some lecturing experience helped me get my first position after grad school, a sabbatical-replacement temporary position at a liberal-arts college.
     
  10. Nov 12, 2005 #9
    Thanks for all the advice, hopefully it helps me :)
     
  11. Nov 12, 2005 #10

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Focus on getting the best grades and understanding you can get out of your undergrad experience. If you have an opportunity to do some undergrad research, do it. Get to know your current professors well enough to get good letters of recommendation from them. Those will all help when it's time to apply to graduate school. Your choice of undergraduate school is fairly unimportant to a career in academics other than in providing you with what you need to get into graduate school. What's important is your productivity in grad school and in post-docs, that you have good mentors who will guide you in learning to do high quality research, publishing that research, and learning to write grant proposals. For a research faculty position, you need to have a strong publication record, which means a strong research record. When you are applying for those positions, you also have to have in mind a clear idea of the direction your research will go (you will not know that now, so don't worry about it yet) and be able to articulate it. For a position that is primarily teaching, you will need to obtain experience teaching courses where you're actually responsible for the course content, not just being a TA. You'll also need to describe your teaching interests and teaching philosophy. These are all things you can learn while in grad school and doing a post-doc, and further while in a non-tenure-track research or lecturer faculty position (the non-tenure-track positions are fairly easy to come by, and allow you the opportunity to become more independent to obtain a good tenure-track position).
     
  12. Nov 12, 2005 #11

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My university had several levels of professor: assistant p., associate p. and (full) professor.

    Promotions seems to depend on teaching and research (and publication). It seemed to me that the more outside research one brought in (that means more outside support($$$)), the faster one became professor. I did see several faculty members more or languish as assistant or associate professor, so they moved on.
     
  13. Nov 12, 2005 #12

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Most places also have "instructors" who don't have PhD's. In some fields (esp. the humanities) it's not uncommon for someone to start out as an instructor while finishing his/her dissertation, then be promoted to asst. prof. and move onto the tenure track after getting that PhD. This is less common in physics, though.

    They can also depend on campus service (committees etc.) and community service. The weighting of these factors varies from school to school. At many small colleges, research and publication are relatively unimportant. Some require only a token amount of publication, some don't require it at all (although it's nice if you do publish).

    Where I teach, for example, we're not specifically required to publish, but we are required to show "professional development:" doing new things, engaging in professional activities, and maintaining outside contacts, so we don't get stale and burn out. Research and publication can be part of that, of course. As a church-related school, we're also big on community service.

    It's kind of hard to languish as an assistant prof, because most schools have an "up or out" policy. After a maximum of seven years as an assistant prof, you have to get tenure and promotion to associate prof, or leave.

    At many schools, it's unusual for someone to be forced out after seven years, because there are ways of making the person realize that his/her chances of promotion are minimal. There are usually intermediate reviews by the department chair and the administration.

    And at some of the very best schools (e.g. Princeton), it's unusual for an assistant prof to get tenure. Those schools usually bring in associate profs from outside, based on a proven track record of outstanding research. The ex-assistant profs usually move into associate prof positions at lower-level schools (e.g. the big state universities, or some of the better small liberal-arts colleges).
     
  14. Nov 12, 2005 #13

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'd always imagined to become a professor you had to beat another professor in single combat and then take his place.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Becoming a professor?
  1. Becomming a professor! (Replies: 2)

Loading...