Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Being a Professor

Not knowing what I want to be when I grow up, I’ve been looking into teaching.  And during my research into what life might be like as a professor, I was a bit surprised to learn that life as an associate professor, or the mid-career stage of teaching, isn’t as glamorous as I had imagined.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an informative and insightful article on what life is like for many professors after they receive tenure.  I, mistakenly it seems, thought that life would be great.  After all, you’ve just received tenure – the ultimate reward for all those years of labor, research, teaching, and grinding away.  Tenure, it seems, should be the good life.  But often it’s not.

Read the whole article here. 

I think this article further supports my infant, but maturing belief that any vocation can appear beautiful, illustrious, seductive, and exciting from an observer, but in reality is far from that dreamy fairytale I too often imagine.


  1. One thing the article never mentioned was home life. Most of the professors interviewed were women, who typically wait until receiving tenure before starting a family. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a correlation between starting a family and reduced job enjoyment, especially if exhaustion is a factor.

  2. That's a possibility, but I think the main source of disappointment arises from expectations. And you know this first hand: a Ph.D. spends enormous time, energy, and resources to not only get the degree, but to get tenure. And then what? They've achieved their goal (of getting tenure) only to be somewhat let down.

    "This is it?", many ask. It's as if the "achievement", they thought, would be an end unto itself, but it's not, at least not for some. Many find contentment a hard thing to live with. I know I do.

    I believe we should learn to be a little more content. At the end of the day, what does all our striving and labor gain us? Not much, sadly.