College and university professors have satisfying careers because they work in an intellectually stimulating environment and with people who want to learn more about the world around them. Professors need to have many qualities and skills such as excellent teaching abilities, inquisitive minds, a love of learning, and a willingness to dedicate their lives to their profession.
Science professors need to have a great deal of education. A bachelor's degree (bachelor of science or bachelor of arts) is earned after completing a minimum of four years of college. A master's degree can be earned in about two years of study. To teach in a college or university, the minimum requirement is a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in one of the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, or geology. The doctorate is primarily a research degree, which takes three to five years to complete, depending on the topic which is chosen for research. The research topics in science are sharply focused and require experimental study in the field or a laboratory on a subject that has previously never been explored.
In addition to these three degrees, it is common for professors to have post-doctoral ("post-doc") experience doing research full time for one or more years before they are accepted for a position as a professor.
A professor may teach a variety of courses, which is for many the most exciting part of this career. Usually professors teach two to four courses per semester. Each course requires a great deal of preparation by reading much material about the subject, especially new discoveries, and designing ways to teach the materials so that the students understand it well. Professors are expected to advise students about courses and careers available to them. Faculty members are required to conduct research and publish the results in journals. However, not everything that is written by a faculty member gets published in a journal.
Faculty members make decisions on a wide variety of subjects, such as the curriculum, the selection of new faculty members, the cultural events on the campus, the supervision of athletic programs, and many more topics. Often, faculty members provide service to their professional organizations and to the community by serving on boards and councils.
Students can prepare themselves to be a professor by doing extremely well in school, reading and studying a great deal, and getting to know professors and their work.
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Orin G. Gelderloos
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