Difference Between Professor & Associate Professor

A career in postsecondary education includes the ranks of associate professor and professor. They share some responsibilities, although there are differences in status and duties.

Comparing Professors to Associate Professors

Academic jobs are ranked based upon professional standards of scholarship depending on the field of study. The job of professor and associate professor both require a doctorate or other professional degree. A main difference involves the level of recognition; professors are nationally or internationally known and associate professors may be an authority in their field, but have not earned the notoriety of a full professor.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Professor Ph.D. or professional degree $85,446 13%
Associate Professor Ph.D or professional degree $75,495 13%

Sources: *Payscale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Professors vs. Associate Professors

Professors and associate professors both work in a college or university setting, but their responsibilities differ slightly. These differences lie in research quality, teaching and administrative functions, as well as rank. Both professors and associate professors have earned a terminal or professional degree, and are considered experts in their field. They may also both hold tenure, but have a difference in years of service or publications.


At most universities, professors are the highest ranked teaching position. This profession typically has job security and a somewhat flexible schedule. Professors have research, educational and administrative duties, and they also may have many people working for them. They supervise graduate students and pursue money to fund their research projects.

Job responsibilities of a Professor include:

  • Giving presentations at national and international conferences
  • Giving class lectures and evaluating student performance
  • Publishing research articles or books
  • Participating in faculty meetings and departmental planning

Associate Professor

Associate professors progress in their careers by establishing a name for themselves in a particular field of research. In addition to acquiring funding through grants, they prove themselves by the quality of their research. They must also show an ability to communicate the significance of their studies to society, through published materials and teaching. Associate professors also demonstrate service to the institution that employs them.

Job responsibilities of an Associate Professor include:

  • Representing their university at conferences
  • Teaching and mentoring students
  • Publishing their research
  • Serving on faculty committees

Related Careers

Those interested in the job of a professor may also be interested in a career as a university administrator. Their work includes managing one of various university or college departments, such as admissions or student life. Someone interested in science and pursuing a career as an associate professor may also consider work as a medical scientist. They conduct research, often in a university setting, and supervise student assistants.

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