Postsecondary Teachers


Quick Facts: Postsecondary Teachers
2017 Median Pay $76,000 per year
Typical Entry-Level Education  
Work Experience in a Related Occupation  
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 1,314,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 15% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 197,800

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Postsecondary Education Career, Salary and Education Information

What postsecondary teacher Do

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

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postsecondary teachers

Duties of postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area

  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills

  • 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

  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses

  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work

  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals

  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field

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 that specialize in a degree field, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, publishing original research, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, 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 just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors read scholarly articles, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional conferences to keep up with developments in their field. A tenured professor must do original research, document their analyses or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use the Internet to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors use email, phone, and video chat apps to communicate with students, and might never meet their students in person.


Work Environment for postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary teachers held about 1.3 million jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up postsecondary teachers was distributed as follows:

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary: 233,500

Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary: 122,500

Business teachers, postsecondary: 104,200

English language and literature teachers, postsecondary: 84,600

Education teachers, postsecondary: 74,500

Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary: 67,900

Biological science teachers, postsecondary: 62,300

Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary: 60,900

Engineering teachers, postsecondary: 47,600

Psychology teachers, postsecondary: 46,900

Computer science teachers, postsecondary: 39,700

Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary: 35,000

Communications teachers, postsecondary: 34,100

Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary: 31,800

History teachers, postsecondary: 26,900

Chemistry teachers, postsecondary: 26,300

Law teachers, postsecondary: 21,200

Political science teachers, postsecondary: 21,200

Sociology teachers, postsecondary: 17,900

Physics teachers, postsecondary: 17,600

Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary: 17,300

Economics teachers, postsecondary: 16,500

Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other: 15,300

Social work teachers, postsecondary: 14,900

Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary: 13,100

Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary: 12,600

Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary: 11,500

Architecture teachers, postsecondary: 9,500

Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary: 7,100

Environmental science teachers, postsecondary: 6,900

Library science teachers, postsecondary: 6,000

Geography teachers, postsecondary: 5,000

Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary: 2,200

The largest employers of postsecondary teachers were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private: 39%

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state: 37%

Junior colleges; local: 12%

Junior colleges; state: 6%

Many postsecondary teachers find their jobs rewarding because they are surrounded by others who enjoy the subject they teach. The opportunity to share their expertise with others is appealing to many.

However, some postsecondary teachers must find a balance between teaching students and doing research and publishing their findings. This can be stressful, especially for beginning teachers seeking advancement in 4-year research universities. At the community college level, professors focus mainly on teaching students and administrative duties.

Classes are generally held during the day, although some are offered in the evenings and weekends to accommodate students who have jobs or family obligations.

Although some postsecondary teachers teach summer courses, many use that time to conduct research, involve themselves in professional development, or to travel.

Work Schedules for postsecondary teachers

Many postsecondary teachers teach part time, and may teach courses at several colleges or universities. Some may 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 a law school class during the evening.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule to prepare for classes and grade assignments. They may also spend time carrying out administrative responsibilities, such as serving on committees.


How to Become a postsecondary teacher

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught 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. 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 doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years to complete, and students must already possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree before enrolling in a doctoral program. Doctoral students spend time writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, some fields have more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, law, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve 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 in 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 they 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

A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure-track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time professors.

Some tenured professors advance to 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 challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need to apply analyses and logic to arrive at sound conclusions.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to 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 teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good verbal skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.


salaries for Postsecondary teachers

The median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $76,000 in May 2017. 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 $39,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $170,160.

 

Median annual wages for postsecondary teachers in May 2017 were as follows:

Law teachers, postsecondary: $104,910

Engineering teachers, postsecondary: $98,360

Economics teachers, postsecondary: $98,350

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary: $97,870

Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary: $87,420

Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary: $87,380

Physics teachers, postsecondary: $87,340

Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary: $86,140

Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary: $81,580

Political science teachers, postsecondary: $81,430

Business teachers, postsecondary: $80,300

Architecture teachers, postsecondary: $80,050

Computer science teachers, postsecondary: $78,630

Biological science teachers, postsecondary: $78,240

Geography teachers, postsecondary: $78,040

Chemistry teachers, postsecondary: $77,190

Environmental science teachers, postsecondary: $76,360

Psychology teachers, postsecondary: $73,770

Sociology teachers, postsecondary: $73,080

History teachers, postsecondary: $72,690

Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary: $72,230

Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary: $71,260

Library science teachers, postsecondary: $70,940

Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary: $70,910

Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary: $69,590

Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary: $66,930

Communications teachers, postsecondary: $66,510

Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary: $65,010

English language and literature teachers, postsecondary: $64,910

Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other: $64,480

Social work teachers, postsecondary: $64,370

Education teachers, postsecondary: $64,020

Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary: $60,400

In May 2017, the median annual wages for postsecondary teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state: $79,340

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private: $77,170

Junior colleges; local: $76,890

Junior colleges; state: $56,030

Wages can 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.

Many postsecondary teachers work part time. They may work part time at several colleges or universities, or have a full-time job in their field of expertise in addition to a part-time teaching position.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule to prepare for classes and grade assignments. They may also spend time carrying out administrative responsibilities, such as serving on committees.


Job Outlook for postsecondary teachers

Overall employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 26 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 for postsecondary teachers

There are expected to be more job opportunities for part-time postsecondary teachers since many institutions are filling vacancies with part-time rather than full-time teachers. There will be a limited number of full-time tenure-track positions and competition is expected to be high.

Some fields, such as health specialties and nursing, will likely experience better job prospects than others, such as those in the humanities.

Employment projections data for Postsecondary Teachers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 1,314,400

Projected Employment, 2026: 1,512,200

Change, 2016-2026: +15%, +197,800


Careers Related 

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. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage all school operations, including daily school activities. They coordinate curriculums, oversee teachers and other school staff, and provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, coordinate its implementation with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities. Their job duties vary depending on the area of the college they manage, such as admissions, student life, or the registrar’s office.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Career and Technical Education TeachersBachelor's degree$55,240
Elementary, Middle, and High School PrincipalsMaster's degree$94,390
Instructional CoordinatorsMaster's degree$63,750
Postsecondary Education AdministratorsMaster's degree$92,360

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm