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I want to be a professor, but is it a smart choice?

  1. Jan 13, 2016 #1
    I will try to keep it short here. I want to be a professor (Physics or Engineering) but from what I am reading, it seems like a large amount of work with little pay. I have a few questions about this topic and was wondering if anyone could shed some light on it.

    1.) What are the chances of being a professor straight out of grad school? My adviser said he did it, but that was back in the 70's and I feel like times have changed. I don't think this is possible anymore.

    2.) Is it realistic to get a job in the industry (either private or government) and also be a lecturer on the side? I like the idea of teaching and preparing lectures, but not so much in always hunting for grants and struggling with trying to get tenure. I also don't like the relatively low pay until you are 10 years or so in.

    My fiance and I are looking to get married and have kids soon, and I want a job that I can easily provide with. But I also want to teach so I am conflicted! Thanks for any responses.

    I will have my PhD in electrical engineering as well as a masters in physics in about a years time.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2016 #2


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    you DO understand that you don't just become a professor ?
    go to university, work your way through a BSc, a MSc and a PHD, then you have the background to
    look at a becoming a professor in your chosen field

  4. Jan 13, 2016 #3
    Yes, sorry I didn't state my current academic status as I wanted to keep the post short.

    I will have my PhD in electrical engineering in a year and also obtain a masters in physics at the same time.
  5. Jan 13, 2016 #4


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    Gold Member

    OK cool
    just didn't know where you were currently at. The way you wrote your post sounded as tho you thought it was just a job
    and not something that was worked towards :wink:

    best wishes for your future

  6. Jan 13, 2016 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    In physics, you normally have to do at least one post-doc (probably more) before having a chance at a tenure-track faculty position at a research university. You might be able to get a teaching-oriented position at a 4-year bachelor's-only institution, straight out of grad school, depending on how desperate they are to find someone. But even these places can easily get > 100 applicants for a tenure-track position. I did a two-year "visiting assistant professor" gig at another college before I landed a tenure-track position, and that was over thirty years ago. You'd probably have to look for one or two of those, or some adjunct (part-time) positions in order to build up teaching experience.

    Ending up with a tenure-track position is far from a sure thing. I went this route with the plan that if I didn't get a tenure-track job after a few years, I would switch to a programming job. But I was lucky and ended up teaching both physics and programming courses.

    In engineering, things may be different.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  7. Jan 14, 2016 #6
    I think 2) is a viable option. I know someone who went from new PhD to assistant professor, but that was not in physics or engineering. In addition, your reluctance to be happy hunting grants etc., and your desire to concentrate on teaching suggests industry or government labs and adjunct teaching can be a rewarding option. This may also pay better than option 1). I know people who taught community college mathematics and university physics as an adjunct prof while working full time at a lab.
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