Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Job Outlook: 11% (Much faster than average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Postsecondary Teachers Do About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Professors may teach a wide variety of subjects, such as history, science, business, or music.

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Duties

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills
  • Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards
  • Plan lessons and assignments
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field

Postsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors or faculty, specialize in a variety of subjects and fields. At colleges and universities, professors are organized into departments that specialize in a degree field, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, publishing original research, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, spend most of their time teaching students.

Professors may teach large classes of several hundred students (often with the help of graduate teaching assistants), smaller classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors read scholarly articles, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional conferences to keep up with developments in their field. A tenured professor must do original research, document their analyses or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use the Internet to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors use email, phone, and video chat apps to communicate with students, and might never meet their students in person.

Work Environment About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Most classes are held during the day, but some are held on nights and weekends.

Postsecondary teachers held about 1.3 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up postsecondary teachers was distributed as follows:

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary 254,000
Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary 116,300
Business teachers, postsecondary 105,100
English language and literature teachers, postsecondary 81,300
Education teachers, postsecondary 77,300
Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary 72,900
Biological science teachers, postsecondary 64,700
Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary 60,100
Psychology teachers, postsecondary 46,800
Engineering teachers, postsecondary 44,600
Computer science teachers, postsecondary 38,500
Communications teachers, postsecondary 35,600
Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary 30,900
Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary 30,600
Chemistry teachers, postsecondary 26,400
History teachers, postsecondary 26,000
Law teachers, postsecondary 21,300
Political science teachers, postsecondary 19,800
Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other 19,300
Social work teachers, postsecondary 17,300
Physics teachers, postsecondary 17,100
Sociology teachers, postsecondary 17,000
Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary 16,800
Economics teachers, postsecondary 16,800
Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary 13,400
Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary 13,100
Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary 11,400
Architecture teachers, postsecondary 8,500
Environmental science teachers, postsecondary 7,600
Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary 7,200
Library science teachers, postsecondary 5,400
Geography teachers, postsecondary 4,800
Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary 2,100

The largest employers of postsecondary teachers were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private 40%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 37
Junior colleges; local 11
Junior colleges; state 6

Many postsecondary teachers find their jobs rewarding because they are surrounded by others who enjoy the subject they teach. The opportunity to share their expertise with others is appealing to many.

However, some postsecondary teachers must find a balance between teaching students and doing research and publishing their findings. This can be stressful, especially for beginning teachers seeking advancement in 4-year research universities. At the community college level, professors focus mainly on teaching students and administrative duties.

Classes are generally held during the day, although some are offered in the evenings and weekends to accommodate students who have jobs or family obligations.

Although some postsecondary teachers teach summer courses, many use that time to conduct research, involve themselves in professional development, or to travel.

Work Schedules

Many postsecondary teachers teach part time, and may teach courses at several colleges or universities. Some may have a full-time job in their field of expertise in addition to a part-time teaching position. For example, an active lawyer or judge might teach a law school class during the evening.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule to prepare for classes and grade assignments. They may also spend time carrying out administrative responsibilities, such as serving on committees.

How to Become a Postsecondary Teacher About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Some institutions prefer to hire professors who have teaching experience, which can be gained by working as a graduate teaching assistant.

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Typically postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. Other postsecondary teachers may need work experience in their field of expertise.

Education

Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years to complete, and students must already possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree before enrolling in a doctoral program. Doctoral students spend time writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, some fields have more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, law, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve working for 2 to 3 years as a research associate or in a similar position, often at a college or university.

Some postsecondary teachers gain teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants—students who are enrolled in a graduate program and teach classes in the institution in which they are enrolled.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Postsecondary teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration, may need to have—or they may benefit from having—the same credential. For example, a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license or a postsecondary education teacher might need a teaching license.

Advancement

A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure-track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time professors.

Some tenured professors advance to administrative positions, such as dean or president. For information on deans and other administrative positions, see the profile on postsecondary education administrators. For more information about college and university presidents, see the profile on top executives.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. To challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need to apply analyses and logic to arrive at sound conclusions.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to be able to present information in a way that students will understand. They need to adapt to the different learning styles of their students and teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good verbal skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.

Pay About this section

Postsecondary Teachers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Postsecondary teachers

$80,790

Educational instruction and library occupations

$52,380

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $80,790 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $180,360.

Median annual wages for postsecondary teachers in May 2020 were as follows:

Law teachers, postsecondary $116,430
Economics teachers, postsecondary 107,260
Engineering teachers, postsecondary 103,600
Health specialties teachers, postsecondary 99,090
Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary 94,520
Architecture teachers, postsecondary 90,880
Physics teachers, postsecondary 90,400
Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary 90,340
Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary 89,220
Business teachers, postsecondary 88,010
Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary 87,400
Political science teachers, postsecondary 85,760
Biological science teachers, postsecondary 85,600
Computer science teachers, postsecondary 85,540
Environmental science teachers, postsecondary 84,740
Geography teachers, postsecondary 82,330
Chemistry teachers, postsecondary 80,400
Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary 78,840
Psychology teachers, postsecondary 78,180
History teachers, postsecondary 76,890
Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary 76,160
Sociology teachers, postsecondary 75,610
Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary 75,470
Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary 73,650
Library science teachers, postsecondary 71,580
Social work teachers, postsecondary 71,570
Communications teachers, postsecondary 71,030
Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary 69,920
Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary 69,690
Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other 69,340
English language and literature teachers, postsecondary 69,000
Education teachers, postsecondary 65,440
Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary 63,560

In May 2020, the median annual wages for postsecondary teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private $83,810
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 81,390
Junior colleges; local 79,740
Junior colleges; state 62,800

Wages can vary by institution type. Postsecondary teachers typically have higher wages in colleges, universities, and professional schools than they do in community colleges or other types of schools.

Many postsecondary teachers work part time. They may work part time at several colleges or universities, or have a full-time job in their field of expertise in addition to a part-time teaching position.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule to prepare for classes and grade assignments. They may also spend time carrying out administrative responsibilities, such as serving on committees.

Job Outlook About this section

Postsecondary Teachers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Postsecondary teachers

9%

Educational instruction and library occupations

5%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Overall employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Both part-time and full-time postsecondary teachers are included in this projection.

The number of people attending postsecondary institutions is expected to grow in the next decade. Students will continue to seek higher education to gain the additional education and skills necessary to meet their career goals. As more people enter colleges and universities, more postsecondary teachers will be needed to serve these additional students. Colleges and universities are likely to hire more part-time teachers to meet this demand. In all disciplines, there is expected to be a limited number of full-time nontenure and full-time tenure positions.

However, despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth in public colleges and universities will depend on state and local government budgets. If budgets for higher education are reduced, employment growth may be limited.

Overall employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to increase, but it will vary by field. For example, employment of health specialties teachers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As an aging population increasingly demands healthcare services, additional postsecondary teachers are expected to be needed to help educate the workers who will provide these services.

Job Prospects

There are expected to be more job opportunities for part-time postsecondary teachers since many institutions are filling vacancies with part-time rather than full-time teachers. There will be a limited number of full-time tenure-track positions and competition is expected to be high.

Some fields, such as health specialties and nursing, will likely experience better job prospects than others, such as those in the humanities.

Employment projections data for postsecondary teachers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Postsecondary teachers

1,329,900 1,451,400 9 121,500

Business teachers, postsecondary

25-1011 105,100 117,700 12 12,700 Get data

Computer science teachers, postsecondary

25-1021 38,500 39,500 3 1,000 Get data

Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary

25-1022 60,100 60,800 1 800 Get data

Architecture teachers, postsecondary

25-1031 8,500 9,000 5 400 Get data

Engineering teachers, postsecondary

25-1032 44,600 48,400 9 3,800 Get data

Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary

25-1041 11,400 11,700 2 200 Get data

Biological science teachers, postsecondary

25-1042 64,700 70,700 9 6,000 Get data

Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary

25-1043 2,100 2,200 2 0 Get data

Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary

25-1051 13,100 13,400 2 200 Get data

Chemistry teachers, postsecondary

25-1052 26,400 27,500 4 1,100 Get data

Environmental science teachers, postsecondary

25-1053 7,600 7,800 4 300 Get data

Physics teachers, postsecondary

25-1054 17,100 17,800 4 800 Get data

Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary

25-1061 7,200 7,500 4 300 Get data

Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary

25-1062 13,400 14,000 5 700 Get data

Economics teachers, postsecondary

25-1063 16,800 17,600 5 900 Get data

Geography teachers, postsecondary

25-1064 4,800 5,000 3 100 Get data

Political science teachers, postsecondary

25-1065 19,800 20,800 5 1,000 Get data

Psychology teachers, postsecondary

25-1066 46,800 51,000 9 4,100 Get data

Sociology teachers, postsecondary

25-1067 17,000 17,600 4 600 Get data

Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other

25-1069 19,300 19,200 0 -100 Get data

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary

25-1071 254,000 306,100 21 52,100 Get data

Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary

25-1072 72,900 85,700 18 12,800 Get data

Education teachers, postsecondary

25-1081 77,300 81,000 5 3,700 Get data

Library science teachers, postsecondary

25-1082 5,400 5,500 3 200 Get data

Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary

25-1111 16,800 17,900 7 1,100 Get data

Law teachers, postsecondary

25-1112 21,300 22,800 7 1,500 Get data

Social work teachers, postsecondary

25-1113 17,300 18,300 6 1,000 Get data

Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary

25-1121 116,300 122,800 6 6,500 Get data

Communications teachers, postsecondary

25-1122 35,600 36,700 3 1,100 Get data

English language and literature teachers, postsecondary

25-1123 81,300 82,900 2 1,700 Get data

Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary

25-1124 30,600 32,300 6 1,700 Get data

History teachers, postsecondary

25-1125 26,000 27,000 4 900 Get data

Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary

25-1126 30,900 32,900 7 2,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about postsecondary teachers, visit

Council of Graduate Schools

O*NET

Agricultural Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary

Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary

Architecture Teachers, Postsecondary

Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary

Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary

Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary

Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Business Teachers, Postsecondary

Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary

Communications Teachers, Postsecondary

Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary

Economics Teachers, Postsecondary

Education Teachers, Postsecondary

Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary

English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary

Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary

Forestry and Conservation Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Geography Teachers, Postsecondary

Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

History Teachers, Postsecondary

Law Teachers, Postsecondary

Library Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Mathematical Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary

Physics Teachers, Postsecondary

Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary

Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other

Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary

Sociology Teachers, Postsecondary

Video