If you have a deep passion for chemistry and a strong interest in shaping the lives and minds of students, you may make an excellent chemistry professor.
Professors are able to make abstract principles come alive through lectures, and they have a keen interest in furthering their students’ knowledge in the lab. They have great patience for working with students of different abilities and backgrounds. And they demonstrate independence, initiative, innovation, and leadership.
Typical Job Functions
Teaching allows you to share your passion for chemistry with others. Any chemistry professor must have in-depth knowledge of chemistry and chemical concepts, with particular expertise in a specific field. Professors must be interested in expanding their own knowledge and working with students on research projects. Typical activities of a chemistry professor include:
- Giving lectures, conducting discussions, and guiding students in labs
- Preparing for classes
- Developing and grading tests
- Working with students outside of class
- Researching, and possibly publishing their findings
- Attending professional conferences
Competition for tenure-track positions at the college and university level is intense, with many institutions relying on adjunct or part-time faculty and graduate students to make up a larger share of staff than in the past.
Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions (PUI)
A main focus for PUI chemistry professors is teaching students how to conduct research properly. They also typically conduct and publish scientific research. They generally start as an assistant professor and, after six years of successful employment, are considered for tenure.
Professors at Research Institutions (R1s)
R1s are universities that engage in the highest level of research activity. Professors at these universities spend more time with graduate students engaged in basic or applied research. Their work involves helping students grow their own knowledge, sharing expertise, and advancing the field of chemistry through research.
Professors at Community Colleges (CCs)
Professors at CCs focus predominantly on teaching. Most CCs offer introductory courses for students who may transfer to four-year schools. Many CCs also have technical programs, which offer career curriculum leading to an associate’s degree in an applied science.
If you are interested in becoming a chemistry professor, be certain to check specific requirements in your state and region, and those of individual colleges and universities. Typically, minimum requirements are:
- Two-year Colleges: Master's degree for full-time teaching positions
- Four-year Colleges and Universities: Doctorate degree for full-time, tenure-track positions