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What Does a Clinical Professor Do?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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A clinical professor is a member of faculty or other teaching institution who is specifically appointed by the employer to instruct professional students in a clinical way. Generally, these professionals are seen as more practically oriented than some other types of professors whose jobs may be more focused on theory and research. Because of the very different approaches required for theoretical research and clinical practice, schools have begun to designate professors as clinical professors when they mainly teach practical method as opposed to theory.

In different job roles, clinical professors may do different things related to a specific department of a school or university. For example, a clinical professor in a medical department will teach clinical practice in medicine. Clinical professors are very much in demand for medical departments because so much of the student base requires particular instruction in clinical practice, from outpatient surgery and more major surgical methods, to clinical care on an ongoing basis. In other fields, such as law, a clinical professor will apply the same specific practical knowledge in that industry to their instruction. Using the example of the legal field, a clinical professor would focus on practical aspects of working through various local court systems, or building relationships with clients, rather than theoretical or abstract work such as future trends in litigation or legislation.

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Clinical professors can be full-time or part-time jobs. These jobs may not be tenured the same way that other professor jobs are, but employers might use a range of concessions to attract prospective staff members to these positions. Some professionals point out that a job as a clinical professor can have an varying impact on a future career as an academic. Generally, an experienced clinical professor will be in demand for their demonstrated ability to teach skills, where so much of the future careers of students depends on these clinical skills. Depending on the arrangement with their employers, such professionals may also be likely to engage in active practice, of medicine or law for example, in addition to their teaching duties.

In addition to teaching classes, a clinical professor may pursue other tasks that other professors generally include in their job descriptions. This includes doing research in clinical fields. The role of a clinical instructor may include both lecture-based classes and practical clinical labs, where clinical professors use their experience and skill to demonstrate actual performance of clinical tasks. Some academics describe clinical instructors as “teaching by example,” where others are likely to teach mainly in didactic methods based on text, or statistics, and research.

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