Question: Can you become a college professor with an EdD?

Answer: Yes — Earning a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree qualifies graduates to teach at the postsecondary level, at both two- and four-year colleges and universities. Like a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education, an EdD is regarded as a terminal degree in the field of education. While a master’s degree may be enough to teach at a community college or technical school, a doctorate is typically required in order to work at a four-year institution. Depending on what and where they intend on teaching, students may also need additional certifications and/or professional experience to qualify for certain postsecondary faculty positions.

There are a wide range of opportunities for students who possess an EdD and want to teach at the collegiate level. Many go on to work as professors in public or private colleges or universities, teaching undergraduate or graduate students in Education, Organizational Leadership, or related fields. There are different levels of professorship one might attain, each with its own set of responsibilities. For most, the goal is to eventually achieve tenure, moving up from the rank of assistant professor to become a tenured faculty member. Along with overseeing courses and conducting lectures, all of these positions typically involve spending time on research, with the goal of producing original scholarly work to be published in academic journals or other outlets.

Note: Many institutions also hire adjunct professors, instructors, and lecturers to teach both on-campus and online courses. These are typically not tenure-track positions and professionals in these roles may or may not conduct independent research in the field.

For more information on how to become a college professor, as well as the latest job outlook and salary projections for the profession, continue reading below.

How to Become a Professor

The requirements for becoming a college professor will vary based on subject and institution. However, there are several steps one typically must take:

  1. Earn an undergraduate degree (choose an area of specialization)
  2. Gain teaching experience
  3. Attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree
  4. Gain more teaching and/or leadership experience
  5. Complete a doctorate in education or a related field (e.g., EdD or PhD)

Students who want to work as postsecondary teachers will need to start by earning a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited college or university. At this point, it is also a good idea for them to decide on the particular field they want to teach in, and potentially gain some professional experience related to that subject. Students should then pursue a master’s degree in education or their area of focus, possibly while continuing to teach or work in their field in some capacity. During graduate school, many also take on a teaching assistantship. Graduate teaching assistants, commonly known as TAs, help with undergraduate courses and, in some cases, teach entire lectures by themselves. This experience will help prepare students for a doctoral program, where they can continue working as a TA, research assistant, or possibly even an adjunct professor while completing their doctorate.

As mentioned above, most four-year colleges and universities require professors to hold a doctoral degree. Earning an EdD would meet these qualifications, enabling students to pursue professor roles at nearly any institution. Some become part-time or adjunct professors, while others might take on full-time positions with the goal of eventually attaining tenure. Earning tenure at an institution basically means that professor is guaranteed a permanent position there and, according to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “can be terminated only for cause of under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.” It can take individuals up to seven years of working in tenure-track positions to finally reach tenure, which is bestowed upon them based on their research, teaching, and service to the institution. Most start out as an assistant professor, before being granted tenure and the title of associate professor, and eventually moving up the ranks to become a full-fledged professor.

When it comes to becoming a professor, however, there are several key differences between earning an EdD and a PhD. The EdD is primarily a practitioner’s degree, meaning the majority of students pursue this degree to take on leadership roles or advanced positions in educational settings, not academia. Those who end up teaching at the collegiate level usually do so after accumulating several years of professional experience in the field, then transitioning to share that knowledge with future educational leaders. For example, a superintendent of a public school system might pursue a teaching position after leaving their current role to teach courses in superintendence. A PhD, on the other hand, is more research focused, designed for students who want to work in academia as opposed to educational leadership. Students who earn a PhD typically do so to go directly into teaching or research roles after graduation.

Professor Career and Salary Projections

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) predicts a strong job outlook for postsecondary teachers over the coming decade, due to increasing enrollment in higher education nationwide. Based on bls.gov data, employment of both part-time and full-time professors is estimated to grow 11 percent in the U.S. between 2018 and 2028. This is much faster than the average projected for all occupations surveyed by bls.gov, which is around five percent growth over that time period.

In terms of salary, the latest data from bls.gov shows that postsecondary teachers earned a median annual wage of $78,470 in 2018. However, there is an incredibly wide range of earning potential in the field. According to the bls.gov, the lowest 10 percent of postsecondary teachers earned less than $39,760 that year, while the top 10 percent earned more than $175,110. One’s actual salary will depend largely on what and where they teach (including the location and type of institution), as well as how long they have been teaching. Looking at the different ranks of tenure-track positions, data from Glassdoor.com indicates that that average base pay for assistant and associate professors nationwide is $74,230 and $78,123, respectively. Meanwhile, full professors in the U.S. currently make an average of $92,477 a year.