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Lecturer vs. Professor

  1. Jan 3, 2013 #1
    Hello! I have just a quick question for the PF community. What are the major differences between a lecturer and a professor in the US university? Reason I ask is because I'm interested in becoming a teacher and earning a PhD in physics, however I'm not too interested in the research part of being a professor.

    Is it possible for one to become just a lecturer in physics at any small/big research university/liberal arts college?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2013 #2
    If you're not interested in research, then doing a PhD isn't a good idea. If you're not passionate about research, then you're going to have an awful time as a grad student.

    I'm sorry that I did not answer your question, but I needed to say this.
  4. Jan 3, 2013 #3


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    The answer is yes it is possible. A high school teacher, who lives near me, does this for a University. He comes in a few nights a week and teaches one or maybe two lower level classes a semester (ie college algebra or pre-calc.) So in that regards, I've seen it done, but it isn't exactly a career, more like a hobby that pays.
  5. Jan 3, 2013 #4
    I think I should have been more clear. I'm interested in grad school and earning a PhD through research, though after completing the required research and earning a PhD, is it possible to earn to a lecture position without required research?
  6. Jan 4, 2013 #5
    "What are the major differences between a lecturer and a professor in the US university?"

    A lecturer is usually similar to an adjunct professor in the US. These jobs tend to be low pay, low job security, and have weak benefits. Having a PhD in physics will certainly qualify you for one of these jobs.
  7. Jan 4, 2013 #6


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    Not all schools hire lecturers, but when they do, they are full time, non-tenure-track teaching positions that require more teaching than a tenure track professor and don't require research. So it's something you could aim for, but there aren't a ton of those positions out there (not that there are a lot of faculty jobs either right now). The other thing to consider is teaching at a community college, where even tenured professors are not required to do research.
  8. Jan 4, 2013 #7


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    One of my friends in grad school did that. After he finished his PhD, he stayed as a lecturer for a few years, doing the big lecture sections for the intro physics courses and supervising the grad students who did the recitation sections. Then he went off to Italy to work at an (English-language) American school there, and I don't know what happened to him after that.

    There are also four-year liberal-arts colleges where the main duty is teaching. Unlike the other situations described above, you'll have to teach courses from freshman to senior level, supervise student projects, etc. Most such schools nowadays expect professors to do some research, although not at the "research factory" level. It's usually intended to provide students with research opportunities, and to keep you yourself from becoming stale. It varies with the school. Generally, the more prestigious the school and the better the students, the more seriously they take research in terms of requirements for promotion and tenure.
  9. Jan 4, 2013 #8


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    Have you considered teaching at a community college? They generally require a Master's but I'm seeing more and more PhDs in those positions. Mostly they're folks like you, who want to put their efforts towards teaching.
  10. Jan 4, 2013 #9
    You need a masters at minimum. The professor I TAed for was a lab lecturer and he didnt earn his PhD until many years after lecturing.
  11. Jan 5, 2013 #10
    You can become a lecturer but it rarely pays well, and seems to be a stepping-stone type career path between grad student and 'real job' for most of the people I know who did it. Most of the people I know who went that route were able to do it because they had influential collaborators or advisers who had the pull to get a position put together for them at the school where they did their phd.

    And while there are community college teaching jobs available, for which you don't need to do research, they are small and shrinking. My local community college no longer has full-time physics professors, instead relying entirely on adjuncts (adjunct position are less like jobs and more like low-paid hobbies).
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