A professor refers to an educator or a member of the faculty of an academic institution such as a university or college. The general role of a professor is to teach and guide their students on specific subjects or courses. In addition, professors hold seminars and lectures about their specific research areas. These academic individuals also carry out research experiments as well as train graduate students on specific laboratory techniques.
Professors generally act as consultants to certain institutions and agencies in order to provide their insights on their specialized area of research and study. Professors can be classified according to their academic level at the university (Gilbert, 1998). An assistant professor is a professorial position that is given to a faculty applicant that holds a doctorate or Ph. D. degree and a substantial amount of postdoctoral research fellowship training. This position is generally considered as an entry-level position.
Certain academic institutions only require a master’s or M. S. or M. A. degree for entry into this professorial position. This professorial level is commonly not tenured hence the universities often advise the faculty that the position is a tenure-track position, which means that the faculty can attain permanency after a sufficient probationary period. This duration typically runs from 3 to 7 years, mainly depending on the academic institution and the area of research specialization of the faculty member.
Generally, an assistant professor attains tenure after 6 years of service at one particular academic institution, as well as promoted to the next higher faculty level. An associate professor is the next higher academic position that is commonly given to a faculty member who holds a Ph. D. degree, a significant number of postdoctoral research fellowship training and a substantial number of publications on his scientific area of expertise. Publications may include research articles, review papers, book chapters and academic or reference books.
Just like the assistant professor position, the associate professor position may or may not be tenured hence this may be determined by the phrase tenure-track attached to the job title. A full professor is a senior faculty position that requires at least those requirements listed under the associate professor position and a significant amount of experience in teaching, writing and training in his area of expertise. The typical age of a full professor is 55 years old. Professors may also be classified according to tenure which denotes the permanency of the faculty member at the academic institution.
Tenure means that a faculty member holds the academic position until his retirement. The academic positions of assistant professor, associate professor and full professor are generally associated with permanency or tenure. The lower faculty positions such as assistant and associate professor positions generally have options of being non-tenured, so that the academic institution could still attract other faculty applicants which the current faculty is under probation.
Should it be known that the current faculty is not fit to serve as assistant or associate professor at the academic institution, he will not be given tenure and another new faculty applicant will be admitted into the academic institution. If awarded to a non-tenured person, the position is usually tenure-track with an expectation that the person will soon qualify for tenure. However, at some institutions (including Harvard and Princeton), associate professors are untenured and only rarely promoted to tenure.