College Class Instructor Education Requirements and Career Info

Sep 11, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a college class instructor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and teaching experience to find out if this is the career for you.

College instructors can pursue options teaching at community colleges, four-year colleges and universities. Those who earn a master's degree and acquire teaching experience are ideal candidates to enter this field, although they may be required to complete a doctoral degree to instruct at some postsecondary institutions.

Essential Information

In addition to teaching students at the community college, 4-year college or university level, college instructors might conduct research in their field and publish papers. Newly hired faculty typically begin their careers as instructors before moving on to become assistant professors, associate professors and tenured professors. College instructors need at least a master's degree, usually in their area of specialization, though most institutions require a doctorate. Almost all schools prefer instructor candidates who have some form of teaching experience.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements May need a teaching license
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% (for postsecondary teachers)
Median Salary (2018)* $78,470 (for postsecondary teachers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Experience Requirements

Aspiring college instructors gain valuable teaching experience through student teaching during graduate school. Teaching assistants, also known as TAs, often assist faculty members by working as aides or teaching undergraduate classes. Assistants often learn how to assemble lesson plans, grade homework, conduct lectures and other skills that help them later as college instructors. Other avenues for gaining college-level teaching experience can include tutoring, working as a substitute teacher and attending teaching workshops.

Career Information

Most instructors advance their careers by seeking a tenured position as a college or university professor. Tenured professors are ensured more extensive due process in termination proceedings, providing some measure of protection for professors teaching or researching unpopular or politically incorrect subject matter. Tenure is often granted based on classroom performance, length of employment, continuing education and research activity. Some 2-year colleges offer tenure to instructors who only have a master's degree, but 4-year colleges usually require tenure candidates to have doctorate degrees.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ( projects 'faster than average' job growth at a rate of 11% from 2018-2028.

A master's degree is the minimum level of education required to be a college instructor. Those interested in pursuing a career in this field should seek opportunities to acquire teaching experience and may be required to complete a doctoral degree. Jobs in this professional are growing at a faster than average rate.

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