Teaching and Education

7 Steps on How to Become a Professor in the UK

Professors are important because they teach students and do advanced research in their field. Being a professor can be a very satisfying career. If you want to become a professor in the UK, it’s good to know the requirements and how to improve your chances.

So, you might now wonder, how to become a professor in the UK.

Here’s a quick overview: Get an undergraduate degree, do a PhD, get experience in teaching and research, then apply to the jobs for teachers (professor.) Show your skills in a strong application and keep learning in your career.

In this article, we’ll talk about what professors do, where they work, how their careers progress, ways to become a professor, and the important skills you need.

University professor communicating with his students in a hallway.

What Does a Professor Do?

Professors usually teach students at universities and may also give advice. They spend time teaching students and doing research. Their research often involves studying information related to their subject and sharing their discoveries at conferences.

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Sometimes, professors look for outside funding to support their research, allowing them to collaborate with other experts and access additional resources. Some professors also participate in research projects with public and private organisations, contributing to strategic planning in their field.

Close-up of concentrated university math professor looking at chalkboard

Responsibilities of a Professor

Professor jobs have many duties, such as teaching students, giving advice, and doing creative research. When teaching, they make sure students get a good education and can use what they learn in their jobs. Professors also do research, work with other professors, and guide students. With these various roles, here are some main things professors do:

Curriculum Development:

  • Professors create the plans for what they teach (curriculum).
  • They design these plans based on what their students need.

Research Engagement:

  • Professors study and explore topics in their subjects.
  • They share their discoveries at conferences, both locally and internationally.


  • Professors connect with other academics by attending conferences.
  • They share knowledge and learn from their colleagues.

Professional Development:

  • Professors represent their universities at events.
  • They grow professionally through experiences and conferences.

Meeting Participation:

  • Professors take part in meetings about academic matters.
  • They discuss ways to enhance the learning experience for students.

Training and Mentoring:

  • Professors help junior lecturers, associate professors and academics grow.
  • They encourage them to take on more responsibilities in the future.

Student Recruitment:

  • Professors may be involved in selecting students for programs.
  • They ensure the right students are chosen for different courses.

Academic Advising:

  • Professors offer career advice to students throughout their university education.
  • They address any academic issues students may face.

Inclusivity Promotion:

  • Professors, being senior academics, create an inclusive culture.
  • They ensure fairness and equality among students, regardless of talent, race, or origin.

Professor pointing at something with a wooden pointer at chalkboard

7 Steps on How to Become a Professor in The UK?

To start a career as a professor, follow these simple steps as a guide to enter the academic field.

Complete an Undergraduate Degree

First, complete your bachelor’s degree, which is necessary for advanced studies (postgraduate). To become a professor, choose a bachelor’s degree related to the field you want to teach. Aim for a good grade, like at least a 2:1, to improve your chances of getting into top-notch PhD programs.

Pursue a PhD

Professors usually need a Ph.D., which stands for a doctorate of philosophy, in their specialised field from a respected institute. Getting a PhD takes around eight years of education (higher education careers) and ensures that professors are very knowledgeable in their subject. While working on your PhD, you might teach as a university lecturer, gaining teaching experience. Also, you can start doing research by writing a dissertation as part of your Ph.D. program.

Habilitation (Optional)

In some fields, especially humanities and social sciences, habilitation may be required for professorship. This involves submitting a substantial body of published work and delivering a public lecture demonstrating your expertise. Check with your chosen university or field to determine if habilitation is necessary.

Portrait of smiling university professor with crossed arms standing in the library

Take Advantage of Teaching and Research Opportunities

Make the most of chances to teach and do research. To become a professor, it’s crucial to gain a lot of experience in these areas. So, actively seek teaching and research opportunities to develop these skills. You can do visiting lecturer jobs in the UK or be part of a research team at a university for a few years. Building up experience on your resume increases your likelihood of getting a professorship as you move forward in your career.

Build an Impressive CV: Highlight Teaching and Research Achievements

As you progress in your academic career, focus on building a strong CV. Highlight your teaching experience, research projects, publications, and any contributions to your field. Consider presenting your findings at conferences and collaborating with fellow academics to enrich your profile.

Apply for a Professorship

Apply for a job as a teacher (professor) when you have enough teaching and research experience. Being a professor is a top-level position in universities, and these roles are often competitive. Universities usually announce professor positions within the institution first and then publicly. If you work in a lecturer position or as a researcher while aiming for a professor job, you might hear about openings early. The application process may include various mock lectures, evaluations and interviews to make sure you’re a good match for the position.

Continuous Professional Development: Stay Current

Once you secure a career after teaching (professorship), the journey doesn’t end there. Commit to continuous professional development by staying informed about advancements in your field. Attend conferences, engage in collaborative research projects, and seek opportunities for further education to ensure your knowledge remains current and relevant.

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Female teacher with wooden pointer explaining mathematical equations in classroom

Key Skills Required to be a Professor

Professors mostly teach university students. They are responsible for improving students’ skills and shaping their views to help them become valuable members of society with good jobs. Certain important skills that professors should possess include:

  • Written Communication Skills: Professors spend much of their time teaching and guiding students. They need good writing skills to create academic papers and articles, ensuring clear and concise communication of research findings. This skill is vital for guiding students effectively.
  • Research Skills: As a professor, strong analytical skills are crucial for engaging in thorough academic and subject-based research. Developing these research skills is essential for success in the academic field.
  • Public Speaking Skills: Professors must communicate effectively when addressing students and delivering lectures. Strong public speaking skills are necessary to engage students and help them understand complex concepts.
  • Organisational Skills: Professors require organisational skills to manage their duties successfully and teach in a structured manner. This includes delivering coherent and cohesive lectures and creating databases of research materials for collaboration with colleagues and students.
  • Patience: Demonstrating patience and maintaining a calm demeanour is crucial for professors. This professionalism is particularly important when engaging in long-term research projects, advising inexperienced students, and delivering prolonged lectures.
  • Time Management Skills: Successful professors are adept at managing their time efficiently. They must handle various responsibilities, including research, teaching degree-level students or more, advising, and attending conferences within the allotted time frames. Punctuality in lectures and seminars ensures students benefit fully from their education.

Professor explaining subject to students

Work Environment

Professors mostly work in university lecture halls, classrooms, and their offices. They may also attend conferences or represent their institute at international academic events. Typically, professors have a standard eight-hour workday, but some may work in the evening, depending on their schedule.

The work hours for professors can vary based on their class schedules. They might have lectures or seminars in the morning, some free time in the afternoon, and another lecture in the evening. Some days may involve multiple consecutive lectures, while others may have only one. When not teaching, professors handle various responsibilities like:

  • Grading essays and assessments
  • Meeting with students and colleagues
  • Planning lectures
  • Designing courses
  • Attending meetings
  • Conducting research activities

Visiting professors usually come to the university only for their lectures and may work part-time elsewhere.

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Career Progression (Professor’s Salary in the UK)

Professors usually get regular increases in their salaries. Some professors stay in the role throughout their careers, while others may choose administrative positions like becoming a dean or heading a department. Those who create globally recognised research papers often get promoted.

Professors typically work in colleges or public universities. In the United Kingdom, the average yearly salary for a professor is around £74,210.


1. How hard is it to become a professor?

Becoming a professor is challenging, requiring a PhD, extensive research, and teaching experience, with competition for positions in academia making it a demanding and competitive path.

2. How do you get a professor title in the UK?

The “Professor” title in the UK comes with a senior academic position, not just education. You earn it through a PhD, postdoctoral research, strong publications, and, ultimately, promotion within a university. It’s not just a fancy title; it’s a hard-earned badge of academic leadership.

3. How long does it take to become a professor?

There’s no guaranteed timeline, but becoming a professor in the UK typically takes at least 10-15 years, assuming a typical undergraduate degree followed by a PhD and postdoctoral research. Remember, this is just an estimate, and the actual time can vary depending on your field, funding, university expectations, and career trajectory.

4. Is a PhD worth it in the UK?

In the UK, the worth of a PhD depends on career goals. While valuable for academia, it also enhances skills, increasing employability in various sectors, with diverse career paths for graduates.

5. What are further education jobs in the UK?

From teaching teens to guiding adults, further education in the UK offers roles like lecturers, trainers, advisors, or support staff, shaping learners across diverse fields.

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, the journey of “How to Become a Professor in the UK” involves obtaining an undergraduate degree, pursuing a PhD, gaining teaching and research experience, and applying for professorships.

It’s important to grasp the ins and outs of the academic world, acknowledge the importance of titles like ‘Professor,’ and be open to chances for personal and professional development.

Although the journey may differ for each person, the dedication to ongoing learning and making valuable contributions through research is crucial in reaching the respected role of a professor in the UK.

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