Depictions of professors in fiction: A bespectacled Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby ...

A professor is a teacher, usually in a college or university.

In Canada and the United States, the faculty of a college or university is organized hierarchically, ranging from teaching assistants, assistant professors, associate professors, to full professors. In most other English-speaking countries, equivalently senior academics to assistant professors and less-prestigious associate professors are generally known as "Lecturers", "Senior Lecturers" and "Readers", with professorships reserved for only the most senior academic staff. A Professor in these countries holds either a departmental chair (generally as the head of the department or of a sub-department) or a personal chair (a professorship awarded specifically to that individual).

Professors give lectures in their field of study, such as science or literature. They also do advanced research in their fields. Many Nobel Prize laureates are professors. After a professor retires from active teaching duties, they often continue to appear on faculty listings, designated as professor emeritus.

In theory, professors are free to hold and advance controversial views, as the faculty generally insists on academic freedom. Full professors are usually awarded "tenure". Generally, a tenured professor cannot be sacked except in the case of gross misconduct.

A visiting professor is a professor visiting another college or university to teach for a limited time.

In fiction, in accordance with a stereotype, professors are often depicted as being shy and absent-minded. An obvious example is the 1961 movie The Absent-Minded Professor.


"Lectures," said McCrimmon, "are our most flexible art form. Any idea, however slight, can be expanded to fill fifty-five minutes; any idea, however great, can be condensed to that time. And if no ideas are available, there can always be discussion. Discussion is the vacuum that fills a vacuum. If no one comes to your lectures or seminars, you can have a workshop and get colleagues involved. They have to come, and your reputation as an adequately popular teacher is saved."
(John Kenneth Galbraith, A Tenured Professor)

See also