Featured Schools

    Claflin University
    Lake Erie College
    Lesley University
    Notre Dame College

Signup for email updates!

Email signup

Postsecondary Teacher career

Career Description

A Postsecondary Teacher instructs students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. Most of these students are working toward a degree, but many others are studying for a certificate or certification to improve their knowledge or career skills. Postsecondary teachers include college and university faculty, postsecondary career and technical education teachers, and graduate teaching assistants.

Common Work Tasks

  • Form lesson plans, present material to students, respond to students learning needs, and evaluate student progress
  • Teach several different related courses in their subject
  • Give lectures to several hundred students in large halls, lead small seminars, or supervise students in laboratories
  • Prepare lectures, exercises, and laboratory experiments; grade exams and papers; and advise and work with students individually
  • Read current literature, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional conferences
  • Conduct research to expand knowledge in their field by performing experiments; collecting and analyzing data; or examining original documents, literature, and other source material; publish findings in scholarly journals, books, and electronic media
  • Use computer technology, including the Internet, e-mail, and software programs
  • Post course content, class notes, class schedules, and other information on the Internet
  • Serve on academic or administrative committees that deal with the policies of their institution, departmental matters, academic issues, curricula, budgets, equipment purchases, and hiring
  • Mentor students and help them find internships or employment upon graduation

Other Job Titles

Postsecondary Teachers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Professors
  • College or University Faculty
  • College Instructor
  • Vocational Education Instructor

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Four-year colleges and universities usually require candidates for full-time, tenure-track positions, to hold a doctoral degree. However, they may hire master’s degree holders or doctoral candidates for certain disciplines, such as the arts, or for part-time and temporary jobs. In 2-year colleges, master’s degree holders fill most full-time teaching positions. However, in certain fields where there may be more applicants than available jobs, institutions can be more selective in their hiring practices. In these fields, master’s degree holders may be passed over in favor of candidates holding Ph.Ds. Many 2-year institutions increasingly prefer job applicants to have some teaching experience or experience with distance learning. Preference also may be given to those holding dual master’s degrees, especially at smaller institutions, because they can teach more subjects.

Certification and Licensure
  Training requirements for postsecondary career and technical education teachers vary by State and subject. In general, career and technical education teachers need a bachelor’s or graduate degree, plus at least 3 years of work experience in their field. In some fields, a license or certificate that demonstrates one’s qualifications may be all that is required. These teachers may need to update their skills through continuing education to maintain certification. They must also maintain ongoing dialogue with businesses to determine the skills most needed in the current workplace.

Postsecondary teachers should communicate and relate well with students, enjoy working with them, and be able to motivate them. They should have inquiring and analytical minds, and a strong desire to pursue and disseminate knowledge. Additionally, they must be self-motivated and able to work in an environment in which they receive little direct supervision.

Obtaining a position as a graduate teaching assistant is a good way to gain college teaching experience. To qualify, candidates must be enrolled in a graduate school program. In addition, some colleges and universities require teaching assistants to attend classes or take some training prior to being given responsibility for a course.


The median annual salary for a Postsecondary Teacher is $62,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $123,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $33,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of postsecondary teachers are:

  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $72,690
  • Junior Colleges - $71,130
  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $64,410
  • Technical and Trade Schools - $61,340
  • Business Schools and Computer Management Training - $60,110

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  23%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 382,000
  • Employment 2006 : 1,672,000
  • Employment 2016:  2,054,000
Ask An Expert: Real Questions, Expert Answers

Ask your Question