What Does Professor Emeritus Mean?

Professor Emeritus is a title given to a former full-time faculty member who has retired from active teaching, research, or administration.

The title indicates that the person has retired from full-time academic work but continues to teach occasionally part-time.

It is a reasonably easy word to understand when you know its meaning. It is not a title for employment but a recognition of a person who has achieved excellence in their field of study.

Read on to learn more about this prestigious title.

What Does Professor Emeritus Mean?

Professor Emeritus is a title for retired professors who have been exemplary. In many universities, professors do not need to retire but can continue working as long as they desire. 

However, if they have been awarded the title of professor emeritus, they do not teach or conduct research at the university. They often give lectures or participate in seminars on special occasions.

This coveted title indicates that a person has fulfilled their duties as a teacher and researcher and is no longer actively participating in academic activities. But they still associate with the university through an honorary position or office related to research work.  

Such office may be Head of Department/Department Chair/Chairperson, Dean Research Institute/Center for Advanced Studies, etc.

Why Is Emeritus Status Important?

The Emeritus status is important because it indicates that someone has played a significant role in their field and contributed significantly to academic life.

If you have ever had a professor considered an “emeritus”, you know how important this title can be. 

Emeritus status is important because it allows professors to continue working in their field without worrying about whether or not they will receive payment. This can also help them keep up with research and other obligations related to their position. 

Emeritus professors often have a lot of experience, so they need to be able to continue doing what they do best.  If a professor becomes emeritus, they won’t have to worry about losing their job if they take time off from teaching or research. 

This also gives them time for other things, like volunteering for organizations and writing books/articles about what they’re studying.

What Academic Function Does Professor Emeritus Serve?

1. To act as an advisor

The professor emeritus often advises new students on succeeding in their academic careers. 

Professors usually have a lot of experience in their field, so it is easy to pinpoint any problems and help the students with their academic problems.

Typically, the professor serves in an advisory capacity and directs and oversees the work of graduate students.

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2. Directs and oversees the work of graduate students

The professor emeritus is the university’s representative of the outside world and has a significant role in guiding the graduate students.

They must help students find their way in the new environment and advise them on how to conduct their research.

The professor must give careful attention to graduate students’ teaching to ensure they can do well in their studies. Supervising their study progress also includes allocating resources, thesis defenses, and other aspects so that they can become good researchers after graduation.

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3. Conducts research in a specialized area or writes a textbook

A professor emeritus is a retired academic who continues to teach and research. Typically, the professor serves in an advisory capacity and directs and oversees the work of graduate students.

The professor emeritus may conduct surveys and research in a specialized area or write a textbook.

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4. Participate in scholarly publications 

In a university setting, professor emeritus can be very important; they are often the people who initially place their students in the rotation.

These professors are scholars who often have a far greater understanding of their discipline than most on the job. 

The role of professor emeritus is to serve a distinct function in the academic community. Most emeriti professors have been tenured and tenure-track faculty members who take a reduced class load and dedicate their time to scholarly pursuits. 

Others may publish papers in journals or give presentations at professional meetings while continuing research work.

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What are the Conditions to Become a Professor Emeritus?

Professor emeritus is one of the highest forms of recognition a professor can receive. It comes with several privileges, including a private office and access to university facilities.

Still, it also carries the responsibility of maintaining a high level of service and leadership.

To become a professor emeritus, you must make it to the age of around 65 years to be considered for this honor.

Additionally, you must have taught as a tenured professor for ten or more years to be eligible for emeritus status.

You must also be able to demonstrate a commitment to teaching and mentoring younger scholars. In some cases, the emeritus position may be based on recommendations.

Once these requirements are met, an application will be put forward by your department chair to the dean’s office.

If approved, you will be considered for a formal interview with the provost’s office, where they will discuss your qualifications and legacy. If all goes well, your request will be sent to the president’s office for final approval. 

What are the University Expectations of Professor Emeritus?

This title is a distinction for distinguished academics who have retired from a full-time teaching role at a university but retain ties to their alma mater.

University expectations for professors’ emeriti vary widely. But generally, they will maintain an active presence on campus, be a resource and mentor for students, and participate in the academic community’s life.

They may also serve as advisors or consultants for research projects or individual students.

A professor emeritus is a tenured faculty member who has retired from active teaching, research, and service.

As such, they retain a full salary and benefits package while enjoying considerable freedom to pursue interests outside the university. 

Furthermore, professors emeriti often join administrative committees or serve as department chairs when they leave full-time employment.

The term “professor emeritus” may not be applicable in all universities. Sometimes, it is set aside for senior professors who make it to retirement age but continue to teach occasionally or participate in university governance.


Do emeritus professors receive a salary?

Yes, emeritus professors receive payments. Emeritus professors, however, usually make half as much as they used to, with an average salary of about $46,000 a year.

Can an emeritus professor supervise a graduate student?

 Yes. An emeritus professor may supervise or evaluate graduate student research and teaching.

Are all retired professors emeritus?

No, not all retired professors become emeritus.

An emeritus professor is a faculty title for individuals who have served as full-time faculty for more than three years without interruption of service.

They are entitled to the use of this designation and a small stipend for living expenses.

Can an emeritus professor lose his title?

Yes, in unusual instances, a contradiction can result in the University withdrawing an emeritus professor’s title.

Final Thoughts 

It seems as if many of us graduated from schools where the word emeritus was tossed around quite freely. And though I didn’t pay much attention to the fine print, I noticed that it’s commonly abbreviated as Prof. Emeritus.

So what does professor emeritus mean? 

Well, it’s safe to say that “emeritus” means “retired”. When you call someone a professor emeritus, it means they are a retired professor (which makes sense since a professor usually connotes one who is actively teaching).

A professor emeritus is essentially just that: a professor who has retired. Usually, they will have spent several years as a teacher at their school.

Professor emeritus status is granted in one of two ways. 

Either the university gives it to the professor or the faculty votes for a faculty member to become an emeritus. The title is to honor a retired faculty member of exceptional distinction and achievement.

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Thanks for reading.