Post-secondary educator: Learn more about the career

December 05, 2017 · 5 min read · By ASU Online

Pursuing a career in early childhood education can present a number of professional options. Many opt to work directly with children, but there is also a viable career path helping to shape the next generation of early childhood educators as a post-secondary teacher.


Specific post-secondary teacher roles depend on your level of education. Full-time, tenured faculty are typically required to have a Ph.D., while some adjunct or part-time professors work with a master’s degree. Either way, a master’s degree is a required step on the path to a doctorate.

Once you’re faculty at a college or university, you may be required to divide your time between teaching, working directly with students and conducting your own research. You need to be comfortable crafting a course syllabus, planning relevant lessons and assignments and possibly working with colleagues to develop a department’s overall curriculum. Since students will regularly come to you with questions that you’ll need to be able to answer confidently, it’s also important to keep up with the newest developments in early childhood education.

This is a challenging career choice that requires you to have full mastery of your specialized subject material, and pursuing a concentration in early childhood education can help give you the background needed to teach with authority. A master’s degree in a relevant field is essential to prepare for this position, and an Online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (Early Childhood Education) is a great place to start. ASU Online offers a flexible, fully online Master of Education in curriculum and instruction centered on early childhood pedagogy, community collaboration, technology, administration, policy analysis and advocacy. This degree can prepare you for the work experience you should have prior to looking into post-secondary educator positions.

Professor addresses classroom of students

A typical day for a post-secondary educator

Being a professor or faculty member at a college or university involves more than simply lecturing and teaching in the classroom. The amount of time you spend teaching can vary based on your institution. Part-time faculty or adjuncts, those working in small colleges or community college faculty will generally spend more time teaching classes and working with students directly. Faculty in larger colleges and universities may split their time between teaching and conducting their own research. Full-time professors, especially those with tenure, often spend the majority of their time on research and have the added obligation of serving on college and university committees.

That being said, the typical day for a post-secondary educator involves a combination of lecturing, office hours, research and professional development.

Effectively presenting lectures and developing in-class activities that engage students is the primary goal in the classroom. This can require varying amounts of pre-class preparation. Office hours allow you to work directly with students one-on-one to help them with their own research, assignments, dissertations or thesis papers. Conducting your own research for publication in scholarly journals or other relevant publications can involve running experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and examining source materials. In addition, you might spend time catching up on the latest trends in early childhood education by perusing professional journals or attending a professional conference.

A closer look at the professional landscape of a post-secondary educator

More than three-fourths of all professors currently employed have more than 10 years of experience in their profession, according to Payscale, so you most likely will need to spend time as an early childhood teacher or administrator prior to applying for post-secondary educator positions.

The average salary for all professors and faculty, according to Payscale, is $85,000. This is mainly influenced by a variety of factors including where you’re employed, the location of the institution and your previous work experience. Wages are also affected by the subject you teach. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for education faculty is $62,500.

Opportunities for college faculty are predicted to grow by 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, above the national average for all occupations, including opportunities for both full-time and part-time faculty. Growth is directly influenced by college enrollments that continue to rise as more students seek higher education to gain the additional skills and knowledge necessary to meet their career goals.

It’s also important to note that starting a career in academia as a professor or faculty member can open up additional opportunities for you within the field. Professors can become department chairs or even deans, among other options.

Becoming a post-secondary educator

Whether you need a Ph.D. or a master’s degree depends on where you’re applying for jobs and which job you target. Nearly all faculty have a master’s degree, and many adjuncts work with a master’s while completing their doctorate. In addition, work experience isn’t an official requirement for eligibility, but it can potentially give you an advantage. In this case, working as a preschool, primary or elementary school teacher could be a beneficial foundation.

While full-time opportunities are available for college professors, don’t rule out taking the route of an adjunct upon completion of your master’s degree. This part-time position allows you to teach at the college level while still having time to work a secondary job if you have other interests to pursue. Many colleges and universities are now hiring more part-time positions than full-time, so opting to be an adjunct could give you a better chance of working at the post-secondary level.

Among all the skills important to have as an educator, research skills, teaching ability and administrative skills rank among the highest. Other necessary qualities include:

  • Strong interpersonal skills to help you work well with others and communicate effectively with students and colleagues
  • The ability to present information to students in a way they’ll understand, regardless of learning style or experience with the subject matter
  • Critical thinking skills to challenge established theories, conduct original research and design experiments which you can then potentially publish using your polished writing skills


All of these qualities come together to help make you a more effective teacher and mentor to college students looking to pursue their own careers in early childhood education.

Learn more about your potential career as a post-secondary educator

No matter which avenue within early childhood education you wish to pursue, you can learn more about expanding your qualifications through the Online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (Early Childhood Education) program from Arizona State University. This advanced degree can help you develop specialized skills and advanced knowledge to confidently begin your career in early childhood education.



Professor helps students prepare for assignment in computer lab.


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