I know the Lecturer position is a purely teaching role (and can even be obtained with just a Master's degree). However, is the Assistant Professor role necessarily tied with research (or can it also be exclusively teaching as well)?

The reason I ask is because I have just finished a Master's degree and want to teach at the university or community college level. I believe obtaining a PhD will open up more doors at various universities and community colleges, and was wondering if that would enable me to land higher up academic positions that are exclusively teaching roles.

Any insight is highly appreciated!

1 Answer 1


The US, at least, is chock full of smaller colleges and a few universities that are devoted almost entirely to teaching. The phrase you are looking for is "teaching college" (or occasionally "teaching university"). The expectations for "scholarly activity" from the faculty at these institutions are much lower than at major research universities.

The downsides include:

  • Generally a higher teaching load. Count on at least twelve credit-hours per term.
  • A lack of money, space, time, equipment and assistance if you do want to do a little research.
  • No graduate students---these places generally only offer bachelor's degrees---and perhaps a less prepared or motivated undergraduate population from which to draw perspective research students.
  • Generally lower pay. Sometimes quite a bit lower.

Departments are sometimes smaller in size which means a good opportunity to develop a relationship with the major students and to mentor more than a few of them. To the degree that incoming students are less prepared but just as able you'll have a chance to really help them grow.

There have been some comments about the preparation of the student body: my "perhaps" above is a bit of a weasel word. Teaching colleges span a wide range of prestige and competitiveness, and their intake varies accordingly.

Some that are highly competitive and prestigious and are able to select a very able student body. I'll offer the opinion that the expectations at the most competitive teaching schools looks more like those of research universities than like those of a generic "teaching college", though you should pay close attention to these questions on a case by case basis. The breadths of expectations described by the people I met at a recent teaching workshop was staggering.

The incoming student body at my school are an interesting bunch. The range of preparation and ability is very broad, and we do have some students with real potential but in most cases there is a reason they didn't get into a more competitive school nearby.

Some breezed through secondary school never learning how to work at their schooling. Many are non-traditional students with heavy family commitments. Some have never been in an environment where learning was valued and have never found out what they are capable of in that realm. A few are determined slackers. Some are just not academically gifted and won't be going on to further schooling after they get the credential they are here for.

As I indicated above, I'm finding this a very rewarding environment but choices in students with the ability and motivation to engage in research are limited and the institutional support is limited.

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    "perhaps a less prepared or motivated undergraduate population": stress the "perhaps". Some teaching institutions have extremely good students, many of whom are destined to go to grad school, whereas some research institutions have no lack of poorly prepared and unmotivated students. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 5:34
  • Many small liberal arts colleges (SLACs) are primarily teaching. Carleton College in Minnesota is a good example.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 6:26
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    @MarkMeckes Though, I think the sort of place which has a more prepared or motivated student body will also expect a bit of research, with a special emphasis on work joint with undergrads. My general impression is that expectations for research at SLACs are steadily increasing (mostly just due to the supply of candidates who are good teachers and researchers who can't or would prefer not to get jobs at research universities). Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 7:00
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    @BenWebster: That's my impression, too. Nevertheless, one shouldn't assume a very strong relationship between research expectations and the quality of the undergraduates. Some large state schools (I won't name names) have very good research profiles (at least for certain departments) but notoriously mediocre students. Though I admit this point is moving farther astray from the OP's question. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 7:16
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    @MarkMeckes Certainly. I applied at Reed College, but didn't get the job. There is such a wide range in these institutions that I feel hard pressed to really cover it all in a brief post and tried to describe some kind of median teaching school. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 13:46

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