becoming a professor

You are a senior researcher, post-doc or already professor and you are looking for a professorship. Find below some basic information about how to proceed.


Universities have professorships with research and teaching activities. Universities of applied sciences have professor positions as well although with emphasis on teaching activities.


  • To apply for a professor position at a university, you usually need a PhD and several years of recognized research experience.
  • In German speaking countries, it is usual to make a teaching thesis (Habilitation) after the PhD to become a private lecturer (Privatdozent, PD). A Habilitation is, however, not always required, even if it is sometimes considered as an advantage for the application procedere.
  • At universities of applied sciences, a PhD is not necessarily required. Customs and laws might vary from country to country. Depending on the field, experience in industry and/or experience in applied sciences is demanded instead.
  • Besides research and managing tasks, you will often have teaching duties. Having teaching experience is therefore often an advantage.


  • Ordinary or extraordinary professor (university): Permanent position and head of a research group at a university.

  • Assistant professor, tenure track professor (university): Temporary position: The professor has to work for approximately five years before a decision is made on whether he or she should become an ordinary professor and a permanent position.

  • Grants for professorships: Some countries resp. science foundations have launched professorships limited in time: They offer young researchers grants to establish an independent team to implement a research project. The duration of these subsidies depends on the specific programmes (normally 3-6 years). To apply, you usually need a PhD and several years of recognized research experience.

  • In the UK, the steps of an academic career leading up to a professorship have the titles "lecturer", "senior lecturer" and "reader". Such university positions can be either permanent (usually with the opportunity to seek promotions to the next levels as the research career progresses), temporary (e.g. if funded by a specific budget) or "tenure track".

  • Professor at Universities of applied sciences: Permanent position with emphasis on teaching.

How long?

Ordinary or extraordinary professorships are usually permanent positions. However, temporary positions have been created recently, e.g. assistant professors, tenure track positions, etc (see above). Depending on the university, the duration of the contracts and the conditions may vary.

How much?

The salary varies from place to place: from 2000 US$ for an assistant professor to more than 15000 US$ per month for an ordinary professor. The salary must be indicated in the contract of employment. Often, it can be negotiated.

How to proceed?

Open professor positions are announced in national and international newspapers, journals and on job portals (e.g. scientific job portal of The job ad indicates how to apply and which documents (CV, publication list etc.) you have to join.


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