How to Become a College Professor

Matthew writes:
I recently read your article
Choosing a College
Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path
. I was wondering if you could give me some
advice. I was looking into a career as a college professor. I was wondering how
you got your start teaching at the university level?

The Career Doctor responds:
Please forgive the trip down memory lane here but Matthew did ask so here goes…
While not totally cognizant of it at the time I started my career-change journey from
hotshot marketing manager at a couple of consumer magazines to college professor
while getting my master’s degree in marketing magazines. How? To help offset the
costs of graduate school I taught a number of journalism and communications courses.
Little did I know it at the time but that taste of being in the classroom on the other side
of the desk started in motion a growing desire — and eventually consuming passion — to
make a difference in people’s lives.
The teaching bug hit me again when I accepted an offer to teach an advertising class one
night a week at a local community college. What began to puzzle me though was that I
was beginning to spend much more time planning and looking forward to that one night a
week than I did my day job. That set in motion the rough stage of career change for me.
First introspection and identification of my strengths and weaknesses and my career
and job interests. Next I conducted research on types of teaching jobs at various colleges
and universities. I then realized that educating was my calling in life and that in an ideal
world I would want to be a college professor full-time.
The last step was developing a plan to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.
Luckily I had a very supportive wife and so we uprooted the entire family and moved to
Tallahassee so I could enter the doctoral program at Florida State. All three of my degrees are
related to marketing; if I had wanted to teach something else my path would have been
different; similarly if I had wanted to teach at a different level.
Of course being a professor involves a lot more than teaching at the college level. In
many ways I wish that’s all it did include. Unfortunately being a professor involves more
than teaching; it also includes research and service. At the college at which I began teaching professors
have freedom to really define their research and so I had the flexibility of combining my
interests in marketing career development and job-hunting into one big research stream.
The service component is spending lots of time serving the university the discipline the
profession and the community.
So as my article states. Take your time in examining and evaluating your interests and
desires. Then research and explore various career options. Talk with people in the careers
you’re considering. Finally choose a major. Just remember to take your time and really
spend some time examining all your options.

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