Thinking about becoming a college professor and pursuing an academic career? Well, there are some very worthwhile advantages to being a professor. However, an academic career is a huge commitment, so you need to be aware of the disadvantages of this career choice as well. In many ways, being a professor isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle choice.
* The pay. Being a professor pays much better than it used to, and professors in the sciences get paid pretty well. But if you consider the years you put into graduate school, the pay is ridiculously low. Starting pay for liberal arts professors in the United States typically is in the $35,000 – $55,000 range.
* Lack of jobs. In some fields, job prospects are better than others. But in many fields, jobs are incredibly competitive and hard to come by.
* Lack of geographical choice. Professors generally don’t get much choice in where they live. You move to where the jobs are. This is especially difficult if you have a working spouse and a family.
* The years of schooling. Six plus years of graduate school is a long time.
* The hours. Yes, your schedule is flexible, but you also have to work long, long hours. Unlike many jobs, you don’t get to leave your work and your job at the office. It’s truly like being a student with an endless homework assignment.
* The stress. “Oh my God, will I get tenure? Will my book ever get published? Will that journal accept my article? Will I get the grant? Will I meet that deadline? Will my colleague down the hall stop hating me because I have a different view on Kant than he does? And back to the most stressful question of them all: will I ever get tenure?” You get the idea.
* The politics. All jobs come with politics, but things that professors quibble over can be incredibly petty. Professors may hate each other because they have a different opinion about a theory. Professors may hate each other because their graduate advisers hate each other. And professors can be very jealous of each other’s success. And that doesn’t even touch the issue of college-wide politics, or the politics between the school and the state.
* The nutjobs. You’ll meet plenty of fabulous people in academia, but you’ll meet others who are truly nutjobs. And some of these nutjobs are tenured nutjobs, so they have power and you’re stuck with them.
* The ivory tower. You’re required to write articles that are so filled with jargon that only 73 people can understand them. You talk about important issues with your students and wonder if what you do makes a difference at all.
* The scrutiny. Academia is not for the thin-skinned. There’s always someone evaluating you, especially if you don’t have tenure. You’ll accumulate a collection fo rejection letters from journals, publishers, and conference paper reviewers. And, of course, there are teacher evaluations. Now, thanks to college professor ratings websites, the whole world can have access to the opinions of a student who thinks you’re a moron.
* Unmotivated students. Now, they’re not all unmotivated. But a certain percentage of your students are going to do as little work as possible to get by. They’ll attend class sporadically and turn in papers that are not even spell-checked. And there will always be students in class who aren’t listening to a word you say and simply do not care about this topic you are so passionately trying to teach them. There’s a lot of anti-intellectualism in the modern world, and some of your students will reflect that.
* Whiny students. “What do you mean, I got a C? You gave my friend a B and she wrote it the night before! The other professor who teaches this class doesn’t assign this much reading! The reading is so hard! It’s not fair that you take attendance! My printer stopped working and I can’t turn my paper in! I need an extension! The study sheet is too long! The study sheet is too short! Why won’t you make us a study sheet? This class is so hard and I’m suffering so unbelievably much!” You get the idea. They’re not all like that, but there will be days when you feel like you are teaching kindergarten.
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Advantages of being a professor
# Rewarding work. Most people choose to go into academia because they find the long hours rewarding. You get to share your knowledge and insights with classrooms full of students, and change the lives of some of them. You get to write about topics that interest you greatly.
# Meaningful work. Some people choose academia in part as an alternative to the corporate world. Teaching and writing can feel a whole lot more meaningful than making a corporation richer.
# You get to use your mind every single day. Professors don’t push papers (or at least not many). They don’t have to do mindless projects for middle management. You get to spend your days with ideas, and with people with whom you will share those ideas and gather new ones.
# You get to write. If this doesn’t sound like an advantage you, you may want to point your career search elsewhere (and not stick around for graduate school)
# A flexible schedule. Professors work hard, but they also have a fair amount of choice about when they work. If you have a family, you can schedule some of your work around them.
# Travel! Professors frequently go to academic conferences to deliver papers and to network with others in the field. Many universities pay for all the trip expenses. Yes, you’ll be plenty busy at the conference, but you’ll still have time to get to know the city.
# Summer break and long vacations. Not many careers come with long breaks for Thanksgiving and the holidays and summers free. Now, you probably will do plenty of work during these breaks, especially writing, but you can also take advantage of some much needed free time. Professors also get periodic sabbaticals, where they are relieved from all duties except to work on an extensive writing project.
# Fabulous people. Yes, some of the people you’ll meet in academia are nutjobs. But you’ll also meet fascinating and brilliant people from all over the world.
# Job security (someday). Yes, earning tenure is no easy feat. But once you have tenure, you’re set! Few other careers offer this possibility.
# Prestige. Well, maybe not tons of prestige. But your mom can proudly tell all her friends, “My kid is a professor!”
Read more at Suite101: Advantages to Being a Professor: Academic career information about the advantages to becoming a college professor http://www.suite101.com/content/professor-career-advantages-a11127#ixzz18eyFNC95