Being a Professor at Harvard

Becoming a professor at Harvard can require years of outstanding contributions to the profession.
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A Harvard professorship is a dream job for many, but can become a reality for only a select few. According to Harvard's website, its professors have received their degrees from prestigious universities, and have published extensively in their chosen fields. In order to secure a job, candidates go through a competitive selection process, as well as proving themselves for seven or eight years before receiving tenure at the university. Only after the university has decided a tenured professor has demonstrated outstanding scholarship, service and teaching will he or she be granted the rank of full professor.

Prerequisites to the Application

    To be considered a qualified applicant for an elite professorship, you'll likely need a terminal degree to be competitive. These types of degrees can take a minimum of two years to complete, but most take significantly longer. Additionally, you'll want to publish extensively in your field, typically trying to make new contributions with your scholarship, as well as picking up teaching experience at the university level. Further, you'll need to stand out from your peers in order to receive positive recommendations from faculty members familiar with your work.

Applying for the Job

    In order to receive an interview, you'll first need to find a position open in your sub-field or specialization, an opportunity that may not come along often at Harvard. According to a 2012 article written by a professor at a prestigious university, hiring committees typically select from between six and 10 candidates, culled from hundreds of applications, to interview for any open position. For selective universities like Harvard, these candidates have made their applications stand out by publishing in highly regarded journals, as well as procuring recommenders who are well-known in their fields.

    Harvard University is extremely picky in selecting its tenured professors.

Tenure and Promotion

    In order to continue on your path to becoming a full professor at Harvard, you'll need to continue publishing, serving as a leader and teaching exceptionally well. You'll also likely want to publish a book or make another type of significant contribution to your area of study.

Career Growth

    A Harvard professor can have many different titles. A lecturer does not and will not have tenure, meaning that he or she has less security -- or potential security -- within the university system. An assistant professor is on the tenure track, but will be evaluated on the criteria outlined above after seven or eight years of service to the university. According to "The Crimson," Harvard's student newspaper, after this period, each assistant faculty member will present a dossier filled with publications, course evaluations, a resume, peer evaluations and research summaries for review. If approved for tenure, the applicant is promoted to associate professor. An associate professor can later become a full professor if he or she continues demonstrating excellence in scholarship, leadership and teaching.

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