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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISmxPVS5O2c.
Quick Facts: Postsecondary Teachers
2020 Median Pay $80,790 per year
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2019 1,329,900
Job Outlook, 2019-29 9% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 121,500

What Postsecondary Teachers Do

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

Work Environment

Most postsecondary teachers work in public and private colleges and universities, professional schools, and junior or community colleges. Most work full time, although part-time work is common.

How to Become a Postsecondary Teacher

Educational requirements vary by subject 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, and others may need work experience in their field of expertise.

Pay

The median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $80,790 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Projected employment growth varies by academic field.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for postsecondary teachers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of postsecondary teachers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about postsecondary teachers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Postsecondary Teachers Do About this section

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

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

Duties

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • 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
  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which courses to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving in-person, online, or hybrid delivery of course material
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Serve on academic or administrative committees, as needed

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 by degree field, such as history, science, or business. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar on a topic related to polynomials.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary, often based on the size of their employing institution. In large colleges or universities, they may teach courses, conduct research or experiments, publish original research, apply for grants to fund their research, or supervise graduate teaching assistants. In small colleges and universities or in community colleges, they may spend most of their time teaching courses and working with students.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (that is, they cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to devote a great deal of time on original research. Tenured professors must document their analyses or critical reviews and publish their research findings. They also may be expected to serve on college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, usually 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 a few students, or laboratories in which students practice the subject matter. Some teach online, either exclusively or in addition to providing live instruction.

Professors’ tasks also may include collaborating with their colleagues and attending conferences to keep up with developments in their field.

Information about postsecondary teachers who provide vocational training in subjects such as repair, transportation, and cosmetology is available in the profile on career and technical education teachers.

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

Postsecondary teachers often find it rewarding to share their expertise with students and colleagues. However, it may be stressful, especially for beginning teachers seeking advancement, to balance teaching duties with an emphasis on research and publication. At the community college level, professors are more likely to focus on teaching students.

Work Schedules

Most postsecondary teachers work full time, although part-time work is common. Postsecondary teachers who work part time may offer instruction at several colleges or universities. Some 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 an evening course at a law school.

College and university courses are generally during the day, although some are offered in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate students who have jobs or other obligations.

Academic calendars typically include breaks, such as between terms. The availability and type of course offerings during the summer vary by institution. Although some postsecondary teachers provide instruction in summer courses, others use the time to conduct research or engage in professional development.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers typically need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours but otherwise are free to set their own schedules.

How to Become a Postsecondary Teacher About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience.

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Typically, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree in their field. 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 Ph.D. or other doctoral degree in their field. For some specialties or for part-time positions, schools may hire those with a master’s degree or who are doctoral degree candidates.

Doctoral programs usually take several years to complete, and students typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to enroll. Most Ph.D. programs require students to write a doctoral dissertation, a paper presenting original research in their field of study, which they then defend in questioning from experts. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges may hire those with a master’s degree. However, some institutions prefer that applicants have a Ph.D.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience.

In some fields, such as health specialties, art, law, and education, hands-on work experience is especially important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of study.

In other fields, such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. Sometimes called a “post-doc,” this experience takes the form of a job that usually involves 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 at 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 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

Postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree often seek tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. Attaining tenure may take up to 7 years of progressing through the positions by rank: assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. The decision to grant tenure is based on a candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Some professors advance to high-level 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 conduct original research and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need to analyze information logically.

Interpersonal skills. Postsecondary teachers need to work well with others for tasks such as instructing students and serving on committees.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers must 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 be able to use technology for lessons or assignments.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good communication skills to present lectures and provide feedback to students.

Writing skills. Postsecondary teachers need strong writing ability 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 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.

Most postsecondary teachers work full time, although part-time work is common. Postsecondary teachers who work part time may offer instruction at several colleges or universities. Some 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 an evening course at a law school.

College and university courses are generally during the day, although some are offered in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate students who have jobs or other obligations.

Academic calendars typically include breaks, such as between terms. The availability and type of course offerings during the summer vary by institution. Although some postsecondary teachers provide instruction in summer courses, others use the time to conduct research or engage in professional development.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers typically need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours but otherwise are free to set their own schedules.

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

About 115,400 openings for postsecondary teachers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of postsecondary teachers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2020 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Career and technical education teachers Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts.

Bachelor's degree $59,140
Elementary, middle, and high school principals Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee all school operations, including daily school activities.

Master's degree $98,490
Instructional coordinators Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, implement it, and assess its effectiveness.

Master's degree $66,970
Postsecondary education administrators Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities.

Master's degree $97,500

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about postsecondary teachers, visit

American Association of University Professors

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

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm (visited July 10, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Monday, May 24, 2021

What They Do

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Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2019

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2019, which is the base year of the 2019-29 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2019-29

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029. The average growth rate for all occupations is 4 percent.

Employment Change, 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.