Professors of genetics at colleges and universities teach, perform research, and handle administrative responsibilities. Professors may teach at the undergraduate or graduate levels, or both. Undergraduate teaching involves class lectures, small group seminars, and hands-on laboratory sessions. Professors evaluate students based on their performances on examinations, essays, and laboratory work, and may also work individually with students to advise them about their college careers or to mentor them in independent laboratory studies. Graduate teaching provides advanced instruction in the field of genetics, usually in smaller classes. Professors also act as mentors to graduate students, providing a supportive environment for conducting research.
Research is an integral component of professorship. Professors apply for grants to fund genetic experiments, perform original research, analyze the results, and submit their findings for publication. They must keep current with the published results of other scientists in the genetics field by reading journals and books, attending the conferences of professional societies, and interacting with other researchers. In addition, professors must fulfill administrative responsibilities, including participation on departmental and faculty committees that consider issues such as courses of study for students (curricula), budgets, hiring decisions, and allocating resources.
Most genetics professors at four-year universities hold a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in a specialized area of genetics or molecular biology. Earning a Ph.D. first requires completion of an undergraduate bachelor's degree. The student must then complete graduate school, typically consisting of about three years of advanced coursework and two to three years of original, independent laboratory research. The results of this research are written up in an extensive report, called a dissertation.
The career path of a college professor can be described as a rise through four levels: instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. Instructors are either completing or have already earned their Ph.D., and are beginning their teaching careers. They usually spend about nine to twelve hours a week teaching. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor, lists the average instructor's salary as $33,400. After instructors have taught for several years, their teaching, research, and publications are reviewed by their academic institution. If found satisfactory, they are eligible for promotion to the position of assistant professor. Assistant professors also teach nine to twelve hours weekly, but are more likely to lecture in large undergraduate courses. They are expected to conduct research projects and publish their work. Assistant professors earn approximately $43,800.
With continuing success in research and teaching responsibilities, a professor can obtain the position of associate professor. These faculty members spend fewer hours on undergraduate teaching (about six to nine hours a week), and are likely to lead graduate classes and advise graduate students on their dissertation projects. They can expect to make about $53,200 yearly. Promotion to full professorship is based on the quality of one's research and reputation with the field. Teaching is less emphasized, usually occupying only three to six hours per week. Professors take an active role in the research projects and dissertations of doctoral candidates. Further advancement opportunities include positions in administration such as department chair, dean of students, or college president.
College professors may work at public or private institutions. They generally teach for nine months of the year, allowing them to work in other environments as well. Instructors may teach additional classes, act as consultants to private, governmental, or nonprofit organizations, or author publications in their field of expertise. The ability to make one's own schedule, conduct original research, teach and mentor students, take paid leaves of absence, and have access to campus facilities makes professorship an attractive and competitive choice for motivated individuals.
see also Educator; Geneticist.
Regina M. Carney
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook: 2000-2001 Edition. Bulletin 2520. Washington, DC: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000.
Wright, John W., and Edward J. Dwyer. The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries. New York: Avon Books, 1990.
The career of college professor is based on a commitment to lifelong learning. Most college professors in the plant sciences have earned a Ph.D., a degree signifying expertise in a specialized subject area such as agronomy, plant pathology, or molecular biology. An individual wishing to become a professor typically completes four years of college, usually majoring in biology or a related area such as botany, biochemistry, or genetics, and receives a bachelor's degree. This is followed by additional college courses, usually over a four-to six-year period, that result in the Ph.D.
College professors typically have duties involving teaching, research, and service. Most professors teach several courses during the academic year. Some may be introductory courses having hundreds of students, while others may be advanced courses having only a few. Some courses are taught in the classroom where the professor may lecture or lead discussions. Other courses are taught in the laboratory or on field trips, where the professor teaches students to collect specimens , operate instruments, make observations, and analyze data. Associated with teaching are related activities such as meeting with students during office hours, preparing lectures, writing exams, and grading student work. In addition, most professors in the plant sciences are expected to do research. This may involve conducting experiments in the laboratory or field, collecting specimens throughout the world, analyzing data using the computer, writing results for publication in professional journals, and working in the library to learn about the work of others. Finally, most professors are expected to perform services such as advising students, serving on college committees, participating in national organizations that focus on teaching or research, and serving as a resource person at the community, state, or even global level.
In the United States, the college professor may work in a community college, a four-year college, or a university. In a community college, a professor's emphasis is on teaching. In a four-year college, the emphasis is usually on a combination of teaching, research, and service. In a university, an institution consisting of several colleges, the emphasis is usually on research.
When a person with a Ph.D. is hired, it is usually at the rank of assistant professor, a temporary position lasting approximately six years. At the end of this period, based on the person's accomplishments in the areas of teaching, research, and service, he or she is promoted to associate professor and receives tenure, a condition that provides employment for life. Based on continuing accomplishments, an associate professor may be promoted to full professor. In 1999 the average annual salary for assistant professors was approximately $42,000, for associate professors $51,000, and for full professors $65,000.
Regardless of academic rank and where employed, college professors frequently mention the ability to interact with students as one of the greatest rewards of their profession. In addition, they enjoy the freedom to conduct research on topics of their own choosing, to make discoveries that contribute to scientific knowledge, and to generally participate in a lifelong learning experience.
see also Agronomist; Food Scientist; Physiologist; Systematics, Plant; Taxonomist.
Robert C. Evans
American Association of University Professors. "Ups and Downs: Academic Salaries Since the Early 1970s." Academe 85, no. 2 (1999): 26.
U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1998-1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998.
College and university professors have satisfying careers because they work in an intellectually stimulating environment and with people who want to learn more about the world around them. Professors need to have many qualities and skills such as excellent teaching abilities, inquisitive minds, a love of learning, and a willingness to dedicate their lives to their profession.
Science professors need to have a great deal of education. A bachelor's degree (bachelor of science or bachelor of arts) is earned after completing a minimum of four years of college. A master's degree can be earned in about two years of study. To teach in a college or university, the minimum requirement is a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in one of the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, or geology. The doctorate is primarily a research degree, which takes three to five years to complete, depending on the topic which is chosen for research. The research topics in science are sharply focused and require experimental study in the field or a laboratory on a subject that has previously never been explored.
In addition to these three degrees, it is common for professors to have post-doctoral ("post-doc") experience doing research full time for one or more years before they are accepted for a position as a professor.
A professor may teach a variety of courses, which is for many the most exciting part of this career. Usually professors teach two to four courses per semester. Each course requires a great deal of preparation by reading much material about the subject, especially new discoveries, and designing ways to teach the materials so that the students understand it well. Professors are expected to advise students about courses and careers available to them. Faculty members are required to conduct research and publish the results in journals. However, not everything that is written by a faculty member gets published in a journal.
Faculty members make decisions on a wide variety of subjects, such as the curriculum, the selection of new faculty members, the cultural events on the campus, the supervision of athletic programs, and many more topics. Often, faculty members provide service to their professional organizations and to the community by serving on boards and councils.
Students can prepare themselves to be a professor by doing extremely well in school, reading and studying a great deal, and getting to know professors and their work.
see also High School Biology Teacher
Orin G. Gelderloos