The Full Scope of Professorship

Is passion for research and/or teaching enough to become a professor?

I always like to ask my students what they would like to do after their Masters or PhD. I see it as my role to mentor them along the way, and I also enjoy just talking to them about the subject.

Sometimes, I hear the following answer:

“I want to become a Professor, Isabelle!”

That always impresses me – not the fact that they want to be a professor, but the fact that they have a clear idea of their future.

Remember – you’re talking to someone who didn’t know where she wanted to go until she finished her postdoc.

When I ask them what they mean by ‘being a professor’, I often hear an answer that includes these aspects:

  • I want to do research, or/and

  • I like teaching

But being a professor involves far more than researching and teaching.

A professorship comes with many other responsibilities and tasks. This is something that many young researchers overlook. They may see how busy professors are, but they do not fully understand why.

In today’s NextMinds newsletter, we’ll be looking at the many tasks and responsibilities that come with being a professor. We’ll also discuss why it’s important to be aware of them if you’re interested in following a traditional academic path and becoming a full professor.

(Hint hint: this has something to do with frustration)

Research Leadership

Directing their own research group(s) or lab(s), developing and overseeing major research projects, and guiding the research strategy within departments or faculties.


Crafting and delivering high-quality courses that integrate the latest research insights, ensuring students are exposed to cutting-edge knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Handling examinations, marking, supervising assignments, etc. (with the help of PhD students)

Curriculum Development and Evaluation

Designing new courses and programs, updating existing curricula to reflect current knowledge and pedagogical practices, and evaluating program effectiveness.

A professorship also means taking roles such as director of a program degree or member of the exam committee.

Supervision of PhD students and Postdocs

Providing supervision, mentoring and oversight for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, guiding them through their projects and career development.

Research Funding Strategy

Strategically securing funding for research projects through grants and partnerships, emphasizing the development of long-term funding relationships and large-scale project financing.

Governance and Strategic Planning

Participating in or leading bodies responsible for making key decisions about the direction of the department, faculty, or university, including strategic planning, financial oversight, and policy development

Manuscript Editing and Supervision

Providing detailed feedback on the manuscripts of PhD students and colleagues, aiding in the refinement of their research for publication.

Participation to Conferences

Attending, presenting at, and organizing national and international conferences to share research findings, network with peers, and stay abreast of developments in the field.

Committee Involvement

Serving on and contributing to thesis committees, education committees, and various governance bodies, playing a crucial role in upholding academic standards and contributing to the strategic direction of the institution

Peer Review and Editorial Work

Serving as reviewers for academic journals and grant applications, as well as taking on editorial roles in leading journals or book series, which contributes to maintaining the integrity and advancement of the field.

Outreach and Community Engagement

Building bridges with the wider community to enhance public understanding of scientific and academic work.

Actively engaging with schools and high schools to promote the excitement and value of higher education and research, aiming to inspire future generations.

International Collaboration and Partnerships

Fostering and leading international research collaborations, which may include organizing international conferences, workshops, and being part of international consortia.

Engaging with industry, government, and non-profits to apply research and establish new partnerships.

Technology Transfer and Commercialization

Working with university technology transfer offices to patent discoveries, collaborate with industry partners, and contribute to startups or spin-off companies that bring academic innovations to the market.

Administrative Tasks and Administrative Leadership

Handling a wide range of administrative responsibilities, such as:

  • Answering hundreds of emails,

  • Attending dozen of meetings,

  • Overseeing bureaucratic processes related to team members’ welfare, such as leave management and policy adherence,

  • Managing conflicts,

  • Managing urgent and unexpected tasks (e.g., a pandemic – hopefully this doesn’t happen every month),

  • Etc.

As you can see, there are a lot of responsibilities that a full professor has to take on, leaving very little time for the actual ‘research’ that many early career researchers interested in a professorship really want to do.

This can lead to frustration and the feeling that we can never find the time to focus on research-related tasks. On the other hand, it also means that being a professor is never boring: there are so many different tasks that every day is completely different!

Curious to know more about the pros and cons of following a traditional academic career path?

Stay tuned. This will be the subject of one of the next newsletters!

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