University professors and lecturers (NOC 4011)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

University professors and lecturers teach courses to undergraduate and graduate students at universities. Professors may also carry out research. This group includes department heads.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a university professor is like.

Common job titles
  • food sciences department chairman
  • food sciences department chairwoman
  • physics department chairman
  • physics department chairwoman
  • postdoctoral fellow
  • professor - chair / emeritus / emerita


In general, university professors and lecturers:

  • Specialize in a subject area such as biology, chemistry, women’s studies, sociology, literature, history, business administration or law
  • Teach one or more subjects to undergraduate or graduate students
  • Carry out research and publish their findings in monographs, articles, conference materials, scholarly journals, books and online
  • Direct research programs for graduate students
  • Prepare and give lectures and lead laboratory sessions or discussion groups
  • Prepare, administer and grade exams and assignments
  • Serve on faculty committees dealing with curriculum and degree requirements
  • Perform administrative duties
  • Represent their universities as speakers and guest lecturers
  • Provide consulting services to government, industry and individuals
  • Seek external funding for research and professional development, as necessary

Work environment

University professors and lecturers usually teach in classrooms on campus. Depending on the course, they may teach outdoors, off campus or online. They make good use of technology to support classroom instruction and to communicate with their students and peers.

University professors and lecturers may teach courses outside of regular daytime hours. In addition to teaching time, they must make themselves available to students during regular office hours. They have considerable flexibility in terms of scheduling their time for course preparation, grading and research.

Workload depends on the number of classes they teach, their administrative duties and their research work. In general, most professors work more than 40 hours a week, including evenings and weekends. Lecturers usually have by-the-course contracts and often work less than 40-hour weeks.

Every five to seven years, full-time professors are eligible for a sabbatical. This frees them from their regular duties for up to one year, allowing them to work on projects related to their field of expertise.

Insights from industry

Greater workloads, research responsibilities and educational requirements mean that university professors earn higher average salaries than lecturers.

There is a large pool of potential applicants since candidates come from all over the world. In addition, the elimination of mandatory retirement rules has meant that fewer jobs are becoming available. There is also a trend toward more fixed-term and part-time positions rather than traditional tenure appointments.

Nevertheless, there is a continuing shortage of university professors in engineering. For those in nursing and medicine who wish to both practise their profession and teach, part-time positions are also generally available.

The demand for professors is highest in the Lower Mainland and Victoria. Kelowna and Kamloops may also offer new employment opportunities.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Entry into a career as a university professor typically requires a significant record of research and publication. A graduate usually gains this experience by working as a research fellow/associate or by doing independent research, often while working as a part-time, untenured instructor at a college or university.

Applicants in certain fields, such as the humanities, can gain the needed teaching experience by working as sessional instructors.

University professors can progress from assistant professor to associate professor and eventually to full professor. Full-time professors typically receive tenure after a probationary period of five to seven years as an assistant professor. Associate and full professors may advance to senior administrative positions such as chair, dean, vice-president or president.

Additional resources