College and university faculty teach and advise more than 15 million full- and part-time college students across the United States. They also complete a large portion of the research conducted in the country. Faculty stay abreast of the latest developments in their field and may consult with government, business, nonprofit, and community organizations. Faculty usually teach several related courses in a specific, specialized subject area. They teach undergraduate and graduate students, or both. They give lectures, prepare exercises, design laboratory experiments, grade exams and papers, and advise students on an individual basis. Most use computer technology extensively, including the Internet, e-mail, software programs, and CD-ROMs. Some use more sophisticated technology, such as telecommunications and videoconferencing, to teach courses via the Internet.
College and university faculty should enjoy working with students and be able to motivate the to succeed in their academic endeavors. They need to have the ability to communicate effectively with students, as well as relate well to them. Their minds should be inquiring and analytical, and they should have a strong desire to pursue and pass on knowledge. They often work in environments in which they have little direct supervision, requiring them to be self-directed and self-motivated.
In 2002, full-time college and university faculty earned a median annual salary of $64,455. Earnings ranged from instructors, who earned $37,737, to professors, who earned $86,437. Faculty in 4-year institutions earned more on average than faculty in 2-year institutions. Average faculty salaries in public institutions were lower, on average, than in private institutions.
Training and Education
Individuals who hold doctoral degrees are considered for full-time, tenure-track positions at four-year colleges and universities. Some institutions, however, may hire master’s degree holders or doctoral candidates for disciplines such as the arts or for part-time and temporary positions. Faculty positions are divided into four ranks: professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor. Most are initially hired as instructors and assistant professors. 2-year colleges usually hire candidates with master’s degrees for full-time positions, and many institutions require candidates to have teaching experience or experience with distance learning. Candidates with dual master’s degrees sometimes get preference because they are able to teach more subjects.
A major step in the career of a faculty member is attaining tenure. At the end of their initial 7-year term, their record of teaching, research, and overall contribution to the institution is reviewed. If the review is positive, tenure is usually granted, meaning they cannot be fired without just cause and due process. This protects their academic freedom, enabling them to teach and conduct research without fear of losing their jobs due to unpopular ideas. It also provides a high measure of financial security to professors.
In 2002, college and university faculty held about 1.3 million jobs. A majority were employed in public and private 4-year colleges and universities and in 2-year community colleges.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of college and university faculty is expected to grow much faster than the average. A large portion of jobs will be part-time. Retirement of current faculty and continued increases in student enrollment will combine to create good job opportunities in many types of postsecondary institutions. The growth in college and university enrollment is due largely to the increase in population of 18- to 24-year-olds.
For more information on how to pursue this profession, please see our Education Degree directory.