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How difficult is it to be a professor?

  1. Oct 8, 2007 #1
    Well I know it must be hard obtaining a Ph.D, but assuming you are capable of obtaining it, how hard, generally, is it to be a professor? On what criterias do they depend on? What are the odds of becoming one?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2007 #2
    (an attempt at humor below):

    If you are really really smart, it is really really easy.

    Otherwise, it is really really hard.
  4. Oct 8, 2007 #3
    All my professors seem to live their work. They spend most of their day on it. I don't envy them at all, even if their job is cool. So even though you likely won't grade any papers, you still have to make up a lesson plan, teach it, assign reasonable homework, make tests, make sure the tests are reasonable (or not...), and make a grading curve.

    Next you have to work with your Ph.D. students on their (and probably yours too?) project, nudging them along and seeing where they are at and if they are going in the right direction.

    Then you have your own share of the work to do, which would depend on what it is you are doing.

    So, it's a lot of work. And this is only from what I've observed. There's likely more.
  5. Oct 8, 2007 #4


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    I decided that I wouldn't do it because it seems to have a lot of annoying things attached to it.

    I'm sure all jobs do too.
  6. Oct 8, 2007 #5
    Ok. So how hard is it, becoming a professor?
  7. Oct 9, 2007 #6


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    becoming a profesor is quite hard, but not as hard as doing a good job as one.

    you have to be willing to work harder than most people, but for less money and less respect. then you have to teach people with less ability and less motivation, for your whole life.

    and you are evaluated by people who think science is about money. just today i received an email from a committee i agreed to join, evaluating grant proposals from young faculty. it said the first criterion is quality of the science, "I.E. HOW LIKELY IS THE PROSPOSAL TO GENERATE OUTSIDE FUNDING?"

    in other words, they actually do not care anything about the scientific value of the work, just whether it will bring in dollars to the university, which is another matter entirely, related to the defense department's interest in the work, the political appeal of the work to congress, etc..... I am tempted seriously to resign the comittee before it even meets.
  8. Oct 9, 2007 #7


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    Right. Money is boring, but at least earning it is sometimes pleasant...
    More seriously - Look for a balance of some funding-generation and some real science. Could you suggest a long-term reason why any proposal of pure scientific interest might open new applications? If yes, then this can form a path to generate more funding.
  9. Oct 9, 2007 #8


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    You call all teaching staff "professors" in the US, right?

    Is there any distinction between the different layers of lecturing?

    ie. in the UK they have lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, professor -- and some in between.
  10. Oct 9, 2007 #9
    We have lecturers and I believe senior lecturers. Never heard of a "reader" though.
  11. Oct 9, 2007 #10


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    Reader's equivalent to Senior lecturer.

    You can also go the research route -- Research Assistant (PhD assumed -- here, again, I think the definition is different from the US.) --> Research Associate --> Research Fellow --> Senior Research Fellow --> Professorial Research Fellow.
  12. Oct 9, 2007 #11
    im pleased of being an armchaired professor... (-:
  13. Oct 9, 2007 #12


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    they need to be very passionate about their work; so passionate that sometimes some of them never get married, never have kids, work on Christmas day and only understand jokes that no one else can understand.... :smile:

    it is not to say being a professor means you are a freak... but certainly only a small species of human can ever achieve that and be good at it. In my opinion, they should get more respect from society for it is much harder to achieve than many things in life.
  14. Oct 9, 2007 #13


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    Don't forget that in the USA, there is a wide variety of colleges and universities, which have different emphasis on teaching and research. At strongly research-oriented universities, professors are evaluated mainly on their research and their ability to bring in grant money. At these schools you must publish regularly in order to gain tenure or other kind of long-term contract.

    At schools that are more oriented towards teaching, professors are also evaluated on teaching ability by way of in-class visits, student evaluations, review of teaching materials and syllabi. At these schools, research is often given less weight, and you don't need to publish as much.

    At some small teaching-oriented schools, research is viewed mainly as one route to professional development, i.e. learning new things so you don't become stale. You don't need to publish professionally so long as you can show that you're doing other things to stay fresh (developing new courses, taking courses elsewhere, participating in research elsewhere, etc.).
  15. Oct 9, 2007 #14
    well i think you are kind of harsh, not getting married?!
    those would be consindered freaks by a society that it's accustomed to people getting married, which is human society, so yes those particular would be considered freaks, but they are a small portion of them anyway.

    i believe that proffessors do achieve the respect you talk about, by simply seeing them interviewed in programmes in tv, people do respect ideas from proffessors, if you ask me you should be a critic of everyoone including professors, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't respect their achievement, and i don't know if there are such people who don't respect profs, maybe ignorant people.
  16. Oct 9, 2007 #15


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    I can't think of any colleagues where I am now or where I've been in the past who aren't married :smile: (or haven't a long-term partner)
  17. Oct 9, 2007 #16
    The percentage of unmarried professors is at most the percentage of unmarried nonprofessors.
  18. Oct 9, 2007 #17


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    a professor is a person near the top end of a scale of teaching professionals. there are grad assistants, postdocs, lecturers, assistant professors, associate professors, and then professors, then for a few people only, chaired or distinguished teaching or research professors.
  19. Oct 9, 2007 #18


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    my comments are meant to be slightly exaggerated (with light humor). but there is no doubt that some put their career above all else. Incidentally, there are three professors here I know choose not to have kids, one don't even live with his wife (so technically he is married but their career means they are not)

    yeah, isolated examples these may be. but for some one who care about these sort of things other than just their research, this may become a significant issue.

    I don't think an uni academic receives the kind of respect or tends to have the persuasive powers that medical partitioners (doctors) have in society (ie. they are lower in the social chain than they should be given how difficult it is to get to where they are). But then again Oprah probably has more persuasive powers than anyone else on this planet :smile:
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