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What Does an Assistant Professor Do?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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In their first few years of teaching, university professors are often known as assistant professors. These teachers may be attempting to establish themselves as potential candidates for tenured professorship, and thus may have a very full docket of responsibilities beyond simply teaching classes. In the course of a day's work, an assistant professor may teach courses, spend time on research projects, serve on faculty committees, and serve as an advisor to students.

Teaching is naturally an essential part of an assistant professor's job. Newly minted as professionals, an assistant professor often teaches between two and four classes per semester. These classes might include introductory survey courses for freshmen, multi-disciplinary classes with fellow professors, and advanced, specialty courses in the professor's area of expertise. Teachers may also spend much of their time preparing lectures, writing the syllabus for a class, and grading papers and tests.

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In the competitive world of university teaching, an assistant professor must often work hard to establish him or herself through research. Since most new professors have recently completed a dissertation or thesis, they may choose to continue their research on the same topic; others may choose to branch off in a different direction, choosing a new area of research in their field. As they produce papers, conduct experiments, or perform field research, an assistant professor may devote considerable time to finding scholarly journals that will publish their findings. By distinguishing themselves in the research field, assistant professors often hope to favorably impress the tenure review board at their university.

In their pursuit of a permanent teaching profession, assistant professors may also be expected to serve on faculty boards and committees. These committees allow faculty members to work together to enhance the reputation of the school, improve student life, and provide exciting new programs for the institution. Working on a faculty committee is often a good way for an assistant professor to give back to the school, while indulging a passion for a scholastic pursuit.

Assistant professors can often be very valuable resources for students. Since many were students themselves quite recently, they may have a better understanding of the challenges and trials current students face. As an advisor, an assistant professor can help freshman plan out their degree program, aid struggling students, and serve as a mentor for seniors or graduate students completing a thesis. While the demands on the time of an assistant professor can be enormous, serving as a student advisor can give a professor the chance to make a significant impact on the lives and futures of promising scholars.

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