The Duties of Professors at Colleges and Universities

    A member of our Board of Regents once calculated the amount of time that professors spend in the classroom. He used that number, and his assumption that professors only work at the front of a classroom, to conclude that professors of higher education only work about 200 hours a year.
     I was surprised that anyone charged with oversight of an academic insititution (or any institution) would have so little idea what their employees were doing. His remark prompted me to make the following list of things that college and university professors are required to do outside the classroom:

Work directly related to classroom teaching:

  • Prepare lectures for classes
  • Prepare syllabi for classes
  • Prepare labs for classes
  • Grade class assignments
  • Prepare exams
  • Give make-up exams
  • Grade exams
  • Calculate grades
  • Meet with students outside class for help
  • Integrate new learning into existing classes
  • Develop new classes

    Other work related to teaching:

  • Supervise and evaluate graduate student teaching
  • Evaluate teaching by colleagues
  • Lead field trips
  • Attend department colloquia

    Service to students:

  • Advise students regarding course selection
  • Counsel students on careers opportunities and choices
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs
  • Write letters of recommendation for students applying to graduate schools

    Teaching and supervision of graduate students:

  • Supervise graduate student research
  • Help graduate students with their research
  • Read, make suggestions to improve, and evaluate graduate student thesis proposals
  • Read, make suggestions to improve, and evaluate M.S. student theses
  • Read, make suggestions to improve, and evaluate Ph.D. student dissertations
  • Read and evalute written Ph.D. comprehensive exams
  • Participate in Ph.D. oral comprehensive exams
  • Participate in graduate student defenses

    Research Activities:

  • Write grant proposals for submission to funding agencies
  • Do ground-breaking verifiable and publishable scholarly research
  • Monitor spending from grants obtained from funding agencies
  • Maintain laboratories for faculty and student research
  • Write papers for publication in academic journals
  • Present research at meetings of scholarly societies to promote the University
  • Give presentations at other institutions of higher education
  • Read scholarly journals to keep abreast of new developments

    Service to one's field of study:

  • Edit academic journals
  • Review papers submitted to academic journals
  • Review grant proposals submitted to funding agencies
  • Serve on review committees of funding agencies
  • Serve on committees and in elected positions of scholarly societies

    Service to one's college or university:

  • Participate in departmental faculty meetings
  • Serve on departmental committees
  • Participate in departmental retreats
  • Serve in departmental administrative positions
  • Participate in or host faculty searches
  • Serve in Faculty Senate
  • Serve in University Council
  • Respond to information requests from administrators
  • Serve on university committees
  • Participate in University convocations
  • Participate in Commencement exercises

    Service to the public:

  • Respond to public queries in faculty areas of specialization
  • Perform public service in faculty areas of specialization
  • Give public lectures

    Oh, and by the way, teach.

    The point: Just as it takes months to make a two-hour movie or to prepare for a day-long courtroom appearance, the work behind the scenes at academic institutions goes far beyond what happens at the front of a classroom.

    Bruce Railsback (
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