Professor Vs. Teacher: Discover the Difference

When you think of a teacher, what comes to mind? A professor? What’s the difference? A professor and a teacher are both responsible for helping students learn—but their roles are different.

Professors are scholars who have dedicated their lives to research in a particular field. Their work is often published in journals and books that other scholars and students use. They hold positions at colleges and universities, teaching classes and conducting research in specialized fields.

Teachers, on the other hand, focus on teaching students directly. They might specialize in one subject area or teach across multiple disciplines. However, their primary job is to help students learn the material so they can pass tests and move on to the next level of education.

Here’s a quick guide to the difference between a teacher and a professor. Read on to learn more.

Professor

What is a professor?

A professor is an academic title and usually refers to someone who serves as a teacher in post-secondary education. Professors are experts in their fields and use their knowledge to help students learn about the world around them.

A professor is usually a researcher and has earned a Ph.D. Professors often have their research teams and receive funding from private companies or government agencies.

Professors have earned their degrees through years of school and hard work. They’ve also spent years studying to become experts in their fields. Thus, they can provide students with insight into topics they may not be familiar with.

SEE: Find out what professor emeritus means

Benefits of being a professor

If you’re thinking of becoming a professor, you should know that the benefits are many.

For one thing, professors are usually more specialized in their field of study than teachers. Teachers often have to cover a range of subjects, but professors generally focus on just one area of study or sub-field within that area. 

For example, suppose you’re studying English literature at university. In that case, you might have a professor specializing in modern literature or an older period like Victorian literature—and that’s all they teach.

Professors also tend to be more experienced than teachers at the college level. They’ve been around longer and have seen more students come through their classes. They know what works and what doesn’t regarding teaching styles and materials.

Furthermore, they may even have authored some books or articles on their topic (which could be handy for your research paper).

Finally, professors have more freedom than teachers when designing their syllabi. Consequently, this means they get paid more money per hour worked (on average) and have more flexibility.

What are the responsibilities of a professor?

  • Speaking or lecturing on particular subjects
  • Give students tasks and assignments.
  • Publish study guides or textbooks
  • Hold office hours and grade students’ academic performance
  • Make a curriculum for different courses
  • Conduct studies and research in their area of expertise 
  • Lead or supervise internships and work studies
  • Provide students with course recommendations
  • Leadership roles in the educational sector

What are the educational requirements to become a professor?

To become a professor, you need to have a Ph.D. (or doctorate), which requires at least eight years of study and research. You must also have published your research in academic journals or submitted it for publication. After you’ve earned your Ph.D., you can teach at colleges or universities as a professor.

Professors also have other responsibilities beyond teaching classes and grading papers. They must be active within their communities by attending conferences or lectures at other schools or universities about their particular field of study.

What is the salary of a professor?

On average, a professor’s salary is higher than a teacher’s. College professors are generally categorized as assistants, associates, and full professors. Associate professors tend to be full-time, introductory professors with terminal degrees at the beginning of their tenure. 

A full professor is tenured at the senior level, whereas associate professors are mid-level tenured professors. The American Association of University Professors reports that full-time professors in the U.S. made an average of $143,823 in 2021. Assistant and associate professors earn less than this amount.

Teacher

What is a teacher?

On the other hand, teaching is an occupation that involves educating students at all levels of education. A teacher works with children and teenagers to teach them how to read, write, and spell so that they can grow up into adults who can get good jobs someday. 

Teachers are also responsible for helping children learn about different cultures worldwide. Teachers do this so that students can appreciate all kinds of people without being prejudiced against anyone based on their religion or skin color.

A teacher typically has less power than a professor. They must follow strict rules set by administrators and state laws regarding what they can teach and how they should teach it.

SEE: Explore reasons why teachers are important 

Benefits of being a teacher

A teacher helps their students become better versions of themselves, which makes all the difference. It’s a gratifying career, not just because of money. You get to be there for the next generation and might even see your students do great things.

Teaching also allows you to help people who need it most. Maybe you’ll be able to reach someone who needs your help and make their life better. Being a teacher can help get students interested in something they would never have been interested in otherwise.

You can also help students start community service, go back to school, or get along better with their parents. There are so many ways that being a teacher can impact someone’s life—which can last for years after you leave your classroom.

A teacher is more than just someone who goes around telling other people stuff—they’re also someone who cares about their students’ lives beyond the classroom. 

SEE: Find out if being a teacher is worth it

What are the responsibilities of a teacher?

  • Providing instruction in their respective grade levels and topic areas
  • Preparing assignments and lessons
  • Communicating with instructors of special education or teachers at other grade levels
  • Preparing kids for necessary, standard exams
  • being present at presentations for teacher enrichment
  • Engaging with certain students

What are the educational requirements to become a teacher?

Teachers usually have an undergraduate degree in education or teaching, which takes 4-6 years of studying and training at a college or university. A teacher is often required to complete an internship with another teacher before they start working on their own. 

Teachers work directly with students in the classroom and help them learn new skills through direct instruction and activities like lectures and demonstrations.

What is the salary of a teacher?

High school teachers make an average of $61,000 a year, while middle school and elementary school teachers make around $59,000. A graduate degree might lead to higher annual pay for teachers.

SEE: Explore reasons why teachers should be paid more

Key Takeaways 

  • The requirement to be a teacher is a bachelor’s degree or a certificate of teaching awarded in the country. In contrast, you must have a doctorate to become a professor.
  • A teacher teaches various subjects in a school (primary and secondary). In contrast, a professor teaches in a college or university.
  • Teachers may teach anything. In contrast, professors are specialists in a particular field.
  • The salary of a professor is higher than that of a teacher.
  • Teachers do not need research. Professors spend a long time on research.

FAQs

How do professors and teachers differ in terms of workplace environments?

Professors are researchers, while teachers are not. Professors spend most of their time teaching and researching, while teachers spend a significant portion of their time teaching alone. Teachers work in a more structured environment, whereas professors work outside of that structured environment in their research. 

What do professors and teachers have in common?

Professors and teachers have a lot of things in common. They both work to educate children and adults. Both professors and teachers are responsible for student learning in their respective roles. 

Can anyone be a professor?

Yes, anyone can become a professor by meeting all the requirements. However, being a professor is highly competitive and falls within the top tiers of academic occupations. 

Final Thoughts 

It’s not uncommon for students to confuse the two. After all, a professor and a teacher teach classes and give grades, but their roles are quite different. Professors are experts in a particular subject and often have advanced degrees. 

On the other hand, teachers don’t need to be experts in the subject they’re teaching—they only need a bachelor’s degree. So if you are going to school or are just about to head off to your first-semester class, and aren’t sure whether you have a professor or a teacher for your next class, now you know.

You can also learn more about the job roles of a paraeducator.

Thanks for reading.