Have you ever thought about becoming a professor? This can be a very rewarding career. You not only teach at a high level, you can do research as well. But, you need to be aware that you must achieve a Ph.D. degree and this is very time consuming and difficult. You can get a Ph.D. degree in any number of disciplines, so you’ll need to think about what interests you. Consider disciples such as sociology, physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, psychology, English, foreign languages, humanities, political science, history, religions, music and it goes on and on.
You’ll need a high school diploma or GED and have passed your college entrance exam (SAT/ACT). You’ll need these to enter into a bachelor’s program. You’ll be in a four year program and your coursework is dependent upon your major. Keep in mind that science areas are the most demanding.
It is important that you maintain high grades at all times as graduate programs are highly competitive. That means they take students that have the highest grades and they only have so many seats to fill. Before you can apply to grad school your need to take the appropriate graduate record exam (GRE) or equivalent for your particular major. It is important that you do well on your GRE. Even if you have a high grade point average (GPA), a low GRE score could keep you out of graduate school. Try to get on the Dean’s list!
Hopefully, the university you decide to attend has a straight Ph.D. program which runs anywhere from 5 to 8 years. If they do, that means you can skip the master’s degree. This is particularly important in science areas. A master’s degree adds 1 more year of curriculum (not much above senior level) and 1 year of research (that would never be published) which is not particular useful in science (more so a waste of time). Go straight Ph.D. if you can.
A Ph.D. degree requires two years of coursework (minimum) and a dissertation. The dissertation is the research you will do. Before you get to do research, you’ll need to pass your qualifiers to become a Ph.D. candidate. These qualifiers consist of a lengthy written exam and proficiency in two foreign languages. You can usually substitute a computer language for one foreign language. You’ll need to write a program of some type as well as translate foreign literature in your major discipline into English. Your qualifiers can be grueling so you need to be well prepared. Once you have passed your qualifiers and finished your dissertation and passed, you are now ready to do postdoctoral research (2 to 5 years).
Getting into a postdoctoral program can be very difficult. You’ll need anywhere from 3 to 5 letters of recommendations and go through a grueling interview. Try to secure the best postdoc position you can, as that will help set you up for a good professor’s position in university. During your postdoctoral work, you’ll need to publish as much as you can and build up a good work history. Once you have finished your postdoc, you’ll be able to go out and apply to your first professor’s position. Sometimes there are very few tenured tracks available. You’ll just have to go with the flow on that one. You’re not granted tenure when you’re hired. You have to work a number of years to prove proficiency before you can apply for tenure. It’s highly unlikely, there will be positions where you went to school. Actually it’s best not to secure a professor’s position in the school you went to because you really need to broaden your horizons. So be prepared to move to another state perhaps even across the country.
When applying for professor’s position, you’ll have to submit a curriculum vitae (life history resume). If the department is interested they will call you in for an interview and either then or some time after you’ll have to present a 50 minute seminar on your latest research to the department you have applied to. Hopefully, you have fully impressed them and are hired. Now you’re on your way to do your own research and teaching college level curriculum.
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Susan has studied at the University of Texas Medical Branch Marine Biomedical Institute in Galveston, Texas and the University of South Florida in Tampa and received a Ph.D. in Biology with a major in Neuroscience and minors in physics and mathematics. Area of research is in brain transplantation and behavior testing with twenty years of teaching experience. Fields of interest include the physical basis of memory and learning, brain repair and regeneration as well as neuro-development. As an educator, has taught thousands of students at the college level in anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology, marinebiology, nutrition, communications, radiography, ultrasound, mathematics and physics. She enjoys reading current scientific literature and simplifying the material making it readily available to the public.