Lecturer Vs Professor: What Makes Them Different?

Do you wonder why some of your instructors are called professors and why others aren’t?

Maybe you’re interested in teaching students at the postsecondary level and you need clarity about who a lecturer and a professor are, this article will help you.

It is easy to confuse them to mean the same thing. After all, they both teach at colleges or universities. But there are notable differences between them.

Understanding their differences in hierarchy and role can help you decide exactly what you’d love to do as an educationist. This article explains the differences between a lecturer and a professor in detail.

Who is a lecturer?

A lecturer is an instructor who teaches undergraduate students at a college or university. Unlike secondary school teachers, they do not need a degree in education nor do they need a postgraduate degree like professors to teach.

They are basically experts in their field who have a knack for passing knowledge. Lecturers may work on a full-time or part-time basis. But they mostly work part-time combining teaching with their primary career.

What is a professor?

A professor is an educational expert with years of experience teaching students at a college or university. They are specialists in an area of study demonstrated by their extensive research and authoring of several academic papers, theses, or books.

A professor is the highest level of qualification as an instructor in education. They basically work full-time and need a Ph.D. or master’s degree. There are basically four levels of the professorship.

Types of professors

1. Assistant professor

These are the least of all professors. At this stage, they may be on the tenure track but still working on it. So they try to do a lot of research and publish papers as they can to get tenure.

An assistant professor may stay at that level for 5 to 7 years before getting tenure. Plus, they aren’t eligible for sabbaticals or any administrative positions.

2. Associate professor

They rank below a full-time professor and they have tenure and enjoy good pay. You can refer to them as mid-level professors.

They have greater experience than assistant professors and are eligible for work leave every seventh year of their employment.

3. Full professor

A full professor is the most senior university educator. Their work experience ranges between 12 years and more. They are well respected with a lot of scholarly publications to their names.

They are also more involved in administrative activities and may serve as heads of their department and committee chairmen.

4. Professor emeritus

These are professors who are retired or about to retire. The title comes with no extra responsibilities or pays raises. It is simply an honor bestowed on any professor the school deems fit.

To celebrate a professor’s transition into the rank, another senior professor emeritus may publish a festschrift which is a collection of scholarship in honor of the professor’s contribution to the field.

Differences between a lecturer and a professor

Below are some of the notable differences between a lecturer and a professor:

1. Educational background

If you’re considering becoming a professor, you’d need a master’s degree or Ph.D. degree. However, a Ph.D. degree gives you more advantages and may be compulsory in some universities and colleges.

Whereas lecturers have flexible educational requirements. What’s more important is their level of expertise in their field and at least a bachelor’s degree. So, in a way, they are more focused on applied studies than theory.

Some schools may require a minimum of a master’s degree but most can create an exemption for lecturers with great talents and achievements.

2. Responsibilities

A major difference between a lecturer and a professor is their duties at work. Often, lecturers do not teach more than one course per academic year. Also, they do not have to work full-time.

On the other hand, professors’ responsibilities may include making top decisions in their department, designing a curriculum for a course or degree program, acting as an academic advisor to students, and developing multiple courses for teaching.

Professors may work overtime because they may have to attend additional meetings and provide support to students during office hours.

3. Tenure track

Tenure track refers to lifetime job security that academic professionals can earn over the course of their careers. The basic qualification for this is demonstrating exemplary work performance and undergoing multiple tenure reviews.

Since most lecturers work part-time and barely work towards academic publications, they do not receive tenure track.

Whereas professors work towards getting a tenure track so they can enjoy job security for the rest of their careers. They commit their time, effort, and energy toward academic work.

By producing multiple academic publications adding to existing knowledge in their field and going through regular constant tenure reviews, professors are able to achieve their goals.

4. Academic rank

Academic rank refers to the level of expertise and authority of educators in the academic terrain. Of the seven levels of academic rank, lecturers rank the least in the United States.

The reason is that lecturers typically work on a contract or part-time basis. They do not contribute to academic work through research and publications.

Conversely, full professors are the second highest in rank only behind retired professors. Becoming a professor isn’t an easy feat. It involves earning a doctorate degree and publishing scholarly works.

By publishing a lot of research papers, professors are able to demonstrate expertise in their core subjects and gain recognition in the academic community.

5. Salaries

The annual median salary for lecturers is $60,351 while professors earn $75,782. But overall, lecturers may earn much more than a professor because they can work part-time in more than one institution.

Lecturers may also take on other jobs or businesses to boost their income while professors may not have the opportunity to work elsewhere.

However, their income rises as they rise in rank. For instance, an associate professor earns better than an assistant.

6. Class limitation

Many lecturers do not have postgraduate degrees as such they are allowed to take only undergraduate students. Teaching graduates would require advanced education and knowledge.

Professors on the other hand can teach both master’s and Ph.D. students. They even have enough expertise in their core subjects to teach professional courses.


Do lecturers work full-time?


Most lecturers work part-time, around 12 hours per week. However, many of them have other part-time or primary jobs that they do.

Do professors earn much?


A full-time professor earns an annual salary of $102,402 while an associate professor earns $79,654 which is way above the average job salary in the US.

Do you need a degree in education to become a lecturer?


Most lecturers do not necessarily need a degree in education to teach at a higher institution. They are basically employed based on their level of practical experience and achievement in their field.


While the article establishes that a lecturer is an instructor who doesn’t necessarily need a master’s a Ph.D. degree to teach, the meaning differs across countries.

In Britain for instance, a professor refers to what Americans call a department chair while a lecturer is close to what Americans call a professor.

That said, you may be able to identify which of your instructors is a lecturer or professor from their discussions. A lecturer may refer mostly to his experience while professors may reference some of their published research papers.

Additionally, whether you have a lecturer or professor as your teacher you can be sure that they are well-vetted by your university or college as qualified teachers.

You may also be interested in reading the articles on how to become a research professor.

I hope this article helped. Thanks for reading.