Lecturer vs. Professor – What’s the Difference?

Lecturer vs. Professor - What's the Difference?

We know what teachers are, and we’ve all had them in some way. Whether it’d be in high school, in college, or at home. The truth glows that majority of us are not aware of what a person’s complete back story is in everyone walking on Earth, including whoever our teachers are or were. Normally, we perceive them as someone who guides our way through a subject or course; if not, teachers lead us on learning some of the fundamental tools for life. “Teacher” is the general term, but there are specific types of teachers out there that we may get easily confused about. In regards to not knowing much about the person who thought you Psychology 101 or Art History in college, we may think on the surface that they’ve just had some high educational background somewhere or that they’ve struggled hard with their studies and now ‘poof!’, “he’s currently our lecturer” or “she’s a well-respected professor here.” Lecturers and professors are both teachers. Both indoctrinate us on how to do things and properly guide us in those familiar struggles of finding our way of doing things. And so how can we know if we are referring to someone, like a teacher, correctly? Or rather, how can we distinguish what type of a teacher they are or were in your institution? We know it’s a minute detail to fuss and wonder about. Still, it would be great for us to fleetingly discern the differences between these two educational paths: Lecturer vs. Professor

What’s a Lecturer?

Like professors, lecturers also teach in college. They can both teach undergrads and postgrads. They do not require a Masters’s or Ph.D. to teach. They may be able to teach a course, but because they’ve got enough education and a lot of experience in the field or possess knowledge related to that field. Whilst they’re teaching, they pursue other careers other than what they’re currently teaching in university. They are not in the tenure-track, meaning they aren’t striving to get promoted or permanently employed at their university to further research and teach topics like what professors, on the other hand, would do. Lecturers usually have more load than tenure-track faculty members, but they do not have any research obligation. Since lecturers have a pursuit of their own outside teaching in college, whether it’d be a daytime job, business venture, or even pursuing a Masters in another field, they normally would only have to work part-time at the college or university they’re assigned to.

An example of a lecturer is someone who teaches basic Japanese in college because he is fluent in it, he has a certificate. He is a natural at teaching others, but he only works part-time because he has another duty: being a lab technician in some other place. If we’re confused about how we’re going to address lecturers or adjuncts in college, we may address to them respectably as Sir or Ma’am as they would prefer that you do not call them “professors” because of the big difference and they would usually only refer to themselves as a ‘staff’ member.

The Difference Between Professor and Lecturer

The professor is now on the higher ranking compared to the lecturer. A professor is on the tenure track and has already done some publishing-related to their field of expertise, whereas a lecturer is not required to publish papers in the first place. There is an academic ranking from university-level lecturer to the honored and retired professor as a top. The professor rank is the highest step on the tenure track. The first step, the one preceding, is the associate professor and the rank goes up in the path of the tenure track. Lecturers and adjuncts are not on the tenure track.

Explaining the Tenure Track

The tenure track is the path towards becoming a full professor. It is apparent around universities in the U.S. and Canada. Lecturers and adjuncts in the institution are not on the tenure track. You become an assistant professor first, and then you will be promoted to associate professor until finally, you become a “full professor.” This path is taken because of the strive towards academic freedom, which means you can study and teach students anything you want to teach them. It also provides security, such as a lifetime paycheck, as you can’t ever be terminated from the university once you are tenured to full unless, of course, there is a good reason.

To become a professor is not easy; it is definitely an excruciating prospect, as one like me can imagine. Not everyone decides to go on the tenure path so easily. When you’re an assistant professor, at first, you will have to wait six years before going through a tenure review. If all went excellent, you are promoted to associate professor. Whilst you’re teaching students as an associate professor, you will continue to work on many research projects and publish your work for scholarly journals. After seven years later, this is when you get another chance to go through the tenure review process again along with other competitors, and if it all turns out successful, this is when you’ll be promoted to the full professor rank.

What’s a tenure review?

The tenure review is when people in the department, alongside the college’s dean, review your overall accomplishments as an assistant professor or associate professor. It is a known nerve-racking moment for those who strive to be in the highest rank. They will look through your tenure dossier, which will present your records of teaching, awards and recognition, and the services you have provided for the university, including external letters of recommendation. The way they evaluate you, whether or not you’ll get promoted, is based on how amazing you are at publishing your findings. Other criteria that they use include:

  • Ability to find someone or other organizations to fund you
  • Your teaching prowess
  • Your service to the university
  • Your overall involvement in other school activities like leading organizations, speaking or taking part in conferences, or providing a word of important advice in student organizations.
  • Another criterion included is whether you will generally ‘fit’ with the professor’s position based on your area of research or what an educational institution may specifically need. Are your accomplishments in line with what this college is looking for? If yes, great.

What are the responsibilities of a lecturer?

  • They show up to class and share the topics that are part of the course they teach. Of course, this will include monitoring and grading students.
  • They illuminate what it’s like to be living in the real world by incorporating or relating career and work experience as guides for students.
  • They advise students who need assistance about the topics that they’re teaching.
  • They may assist with their college’s extra activities or support their college.
  • Provide the students with additional tools to learn more in the course other than presenting normal lectures.

Average Salary of a Lecturer: According to the American Association of University Professors, lecturers earned $56,712 in 2017. This is because they work part-time while they pursue another line of work.

What’s a Professor?

Professors are more into the field that they are teaching. They’ve been tenured until finally being promoted to the full professor, who is a hard-earned spot. They’ve done a lot of research and publications in their field of mastery; they’ve taught many students and served the university well. They work full-time unless they’re pursuing their Ph.D. They continue to teach whilst furthering their careers in the same area they are teaching. Since they have been academically appointed as professors or specifically tenured professors, the university can’t fire them. It is like, in a way, a guaranteed post. They continue to study within their field of expertise at the institution and aim to someday contribute something new and worthwhile to the study that they are in.

Professors are delighted in sharing to students about their published studies because they can do it as a professor of the institution. Professors are academic thinkers who challenge the way students currently think. They further study existing ideas so that new ideas are created for students to debate and work on and develop their own fresh idea while simultaneously exercising how to think. Professors, therefore, help open more realms of knowledge that we still have yet to know about.

What are the responsibilities of a professor?

  • Teach variety courses in their field of expertise, which may even involve the use of scientific methods. 
  • Advise students in educational or professional means.
  • Be attentive to what goes on in the administration and other colleges.
  • Come up or Create the syllabus that will be followed throughout the course.
  • Present lectures and other creative instructional strategies that promote fun in learning.
  • Monitoring students’ progress and grading, of course.

Average Salary: Professors earn $102,000 according to the American Association of University Professors’ report. Associate Professors earn an average of $79,000 while assistant professors earn an average of $69,206.

Countdown of Academic Ranks in the United States:

  1. Adjunct Professor / Lecturer

These are employed, often part-time in college, as teachers in a particular field that they specialize in, but they do not engage in or are required to do any research and publishing work for the institution. They are on a limited-term contract, but even with a college degree, they can still use their skills to teach extensively.

  1. Research Associate

They help with research; they usually have more than just a post-graduate degree. They usually already have a Ph.D., which makes them highly equipped and adept at gathering and organizing data from primary and secondary sources. In university, they are scholars who must show excellent skills in research.

  1. Senior Instructor

These are faculty members who have the responsibility of providing additional assistance in teaching. They also provide work in the curriculum development and support the monitoring of the course flow throughout the entire semester.

  1. Assistant Professor

The Assistant Professor rank first steps on the tenure track. These are full-time faculty members who also teach whilst they are required to research in their field. Since this rank is already on the tenure track, people in this position usually have doctorate degrees, but not all assistant professors have a doctorate. Instead, they would hold an MFA or master’s degree. So you can’t address them as “Dr.,” but rather you can address them simply as “professor.”

  1. Associate Professor

These are tenured faculty members who have accomplished the tenure review after being in an assistant professor’s rank. This position means an increase in salary and an increase in duties that involved administrative load and committee membership that are only for those who are tenured. They are still expected to teach whilst they engage in research and attend academic conferences. They are also expected to play an active role in the act as a service for the educational institution.

  1. Full Professor

A professor is someone who teaches at a university or any college-level subjects. They must hold a post-graduate degree. They teach students whilst they research, intending to have them be published and recognized. They may have teaching assistants, not assistant professors, the checking or grading for them,, but they are still the ones who provide an accurate assessment of their students’ understanding of the topics they’ve t them. A professor is a faculty that has been tenured or promoted successfully. This is a very high place to be.

  1. Distinguished and Retired Professor a.k.a Professor Emeritus

This is a title given to the tenured professors who have accomplished a lot and are highly recognized in their field of study or their work over their careers. They receive awards that gave them the title “in the highest level” in the university over the non-tenured faculty members and staff.


Lecturers and professors work in the same place, but they are very different; I only know that now. We used to think we can use these terms nonchalantly to address people in school, but it turns out there are two very different career paths.

Lecturer vs. Professor – What’s the Difference?

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