University professors and lecturers (NOC 4011)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

University professors and lecturers teach courses to undergraduate and graduate students and conduct research at universities. Department heads are included in this group.

Want to learn more? Watch this WorkBC Career Trek video and see what it’s like to work in this type of career.


University professor

People in this occupation:

  • specialize in a particular subject matter, such as architecture, biology, chemistry, anatomy, sociology, business administration or law
  • do research in their field of expertise and publish their findings
  • work for universities and other degree-granting institutions
  • must have an interest and aptitude for academic research and analysis
  • must be able to work independently
  • must be able to prepare, organize and deliver teaching materials effectively
Common job titles
  • food sciences department chairman
  • food sciences department chairwoman
  • physics department chairman
  • physics department chairwoman
  • postdoctoral fellow
  • professor - chair / emeritus / emerita


University professors and lecturers:

  • perform research in a field of specialization and publish findings in scholarly journals or books
  • teach one or more university subjects to undergraduate and graduate students
  • prepare and deliver lectures to students and conduct laboratory sessions or discussion groups
  • prepare, administer and grade examinations, laboratory assignments and reports
  • advise students on course and academic matters and career decisions
  • direct research programs of graduate students and advise on research matters
  • serve on faculty committees dealing with such matters as curriculum planning and degree requirements, and perform a variety of administrative duties
  • represent their universities as speakers and guest lecturers
  • provide professional consultative services to government, industry and private individuals

Special duties

University professors specialize in a particular subject matter such as: biology, chemistry, anatomy, sociology, business administration or law.

Work environment

University professors work in a range post-secondary education settings. Most teach within classrooms, although some may also instruct students in outdoor settings or off-campus, depending on the course.

Professors may teach courses outside of the regular day time hours. They have considerable flexibility in terms of scheduling time for course preparation, grading papers and exams or research. University professors may also maintain regular office hours, making themselves available to students.

The workload for professors depends on the number of classes they are teaching in any one semester, their administrative duties and the research they are involved in. In general, most professors work more than 40 hours a week, including evenings and weekends.

There is a trend towards more fixed-term and part-time appointments rather than traditional tenure appointments.

University professors use information technology for communication with students and other professors. Technology is also used to supplement classroom instruction, as the traditional “talk and listen" model of teaching evolves to become more interactive.

Faculty members may be required to seek funding for research or professional development outside of the university as an alternative or as a complement to funding from the university.

Every five to seven years, full-time professors are eligible for a sabbatical, which provides up to one year free from regular duties so that the professors may work on projects related to their field of expertise.

Insights from industry

Continued growth in the size of the traditional post-secondary age group (18- to 29-year-olds), combined with an increase in the number of jobs requiring higher education, will lead to continued demand for university programs.

The increasing numbers of retirements, coupled with the extensive education requirements, will continue to limit the available supply of professors in certain fields. Current shortages for university professors in Business Administration, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering are expected to persist over the next decade.

There are less severe labour pressures in nursing and medicine, as these programs have adapted their staffing models to include more practitioners teaching on a part-time basis. Nonetheless, shortages of full-time faculty remain in these programs.

University professors have been increasingly expected to have a significant record of research and list of journal publications to be hired into full-time positions (this varies by academic specialization).

The demand for professors will remain highest in the Lower Mainland and in Victoria, but new employment opportunities in Kelowna and Kamloops may arise.

Since this is an international occupation with professors coming from many other countries, there is a very large pool of potential applicants in this field.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Entry into a career as a university professor typically requires a person to have a significant record of research and publication during and after earning a PhD. Graduates typically gain this experience by working as a research fellow/associate or by pursuing independent research, often while working as a part-time, untenured instructor at a college or university.

Some academic specializations (e.g., the humanities) employ individuals as sessional instructors, which can help individuals gain teaching experience.

Progression from assistant professor to associate professor and eventually to full professor is possible, and is based on academic achievements. Full-time professors typically receive tenure after a probationary period of five to seven years as an assistant professor. Associate and full professors may progress to senior administrative positions, such as dean, vice-president or president.

Additional resources