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College Professors Reveal What They Love (and Hate) About Their Jobs

Brittney Morgan
Brittney Morgan
Executive Director
Business News Daily Staff
Updated Jun 29, 2022

You may have gone to school for years, but have you ever stopped to think about what it's like to be on the other side of the lecture hall?

  • College professors often enjoy watching their students grow and learn, and many value mentoring their students.
  • Some college professors cite low pay and the increasing amount of work outside the classroom as frustrations.
  • 2020 survey data found that 25% to 40% of adjunct professors live below the poverty line. 
  • This article is for anyone interested in becoming a college professor or learning about the intricacies of their college educators’ lives.

Teaching, like most professions, comes with unique rewards (making a difference in people’s lives) and challenges (low pay and not-so-fun responsibilities like grading papers). We asked six professors what they love and hate about teaching. Whether you want to pursue a teaching career or simply appreciate what you learned from your college professors, you might find their perspectives interesting. [Related article: Should You Go Back to School for a Career Change?]

Sharon Bolman, University of Advancing Technology

Business News Daily: What do you do?

Bolman: [I teach] theater classes and film at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona.

BND: What do you love most about your job, and why?

Bolman: The best part of being a teacher is the interaction with the students. So often, they do not see their talent or don’t know how to direct it. It takes just a few suggestions to see your students bloom into professionals. I really enjoy the mentorship aspect of teaching. It’s very rewarding at the college level. [Related article: 5 Ways to Become a Better Mentor]

BND: What do you hate most about your job, and why?

Bolman: I don’t really hate anything about my job, but it’s hard to say goodbye to students when they graduate and leave UAT. I just hope they will return with a successful career and a wealth of stories to share with me!

TipTip: If you’re a recent college graduate or an established professional making a career change, check out our list of the best jobs you can get with your college major.

Kristen Lee Costa, Northeastern University

BND: What do you do?

Costa: I am the lead faculty for behavioral sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, where I teach undergraduate through doctoral-level students.

BND: What do you love most about your job, and why?

Costa: I have the privilege of teaching students from across the globe a wide variety of disciplines and life perspectives. I learn just as much from my students as they do from me. There is nothing more gratifying than supporting their development. I love helping them look at real-world problems of practice through a variety of lenses to become change agents. It’s incredible to watch them learn to be critical thinkers and apply their knowledge to make an impact. It’s also awesome seeing them grow personally. [Learn how to teach critical thinking in the workplace.]

BND: What do you hate most about your job, and why?

Costa: The demands of academia are not only proving challenging for today’s college students but for faculty as well. College/university faculty and administrations face immense pressure, increasing demands, and, in many cases, are doing the work of multiple people. During the academic year, there is often very little space to regroup. Also, the desire to publish and carry out a wide range of tasks can be both exhausting and exhilarating. It takes a lot of finesse to manage time well to avoid overstimulation and [not] become [burned out]. 

Did you know?Did you know?: ​​Unrealistic expectations and a lack of work-life balance are the leading causes of workplace stress. You may find your time management improves when you improve your work-life balance.

 

Kate McCauley, Marymount University and George Mason University

BND: What do you do?

McCauley: I am an adjunct professor at Marymount University and George Mason University in northern Virginia. I teach upper-class courses in the psychology department at MU and health promotions at GMU. I teach first-year seminar, group dynamics, and relationship health. Earlier in my career, I taught grades 7-12 English and 7-8 science in public and parochial schools. 

BND: What do you love most about your job, and why?

McCauley: I love the moments when students catch on! There are so many stories over the last 20-plus years where I get to witness the moment when the connection is made. The sparks fly, and the faces light up. Students’ confidence and competence grows, and I get to be a part of that. I love working with students through their majors and mentoring students both in school and after they graduate.

BND: What do you hate most about your job, and why?

McCauley: As an adjunct, I’m fortunate not to get caught up in university politics. The downside is the pay. I couldn’t support my family on this income, and I’m fortunate I don’t have to. None of my planning time, grading time or meeting time is paid for. I’m basically a contractor paid for piecework, [and] each piece is one class. Adjunct faculty is an entire story unto itself. [Learn the difference between independent contractors and employees.]

Did you know?Did you know?: In an April 2020 survey of 3,000 adjunct professors, 25% of respondents needed public assistance to cover their expenses, and 40% said they could barely afford basic household necessities. One-third of respondents had annual salaries under $25,000.

Julie Drew, University of Akron

BND: What do you do?

Drew: I am a tenured professor of English at the University of Akron in Ohio. I teach freshman through graduate students, and my courses are in writing, cultural studies, and film. 

BND: What do you love most about your job, and why?

Drew: My job is very satisfying in that I am very project-oriented. Teaching means that each semester is a finite project – this unique group of students, this material, and the unique cultural context in which I teach, and they learn. Every semester is different, and each semester is fully closed out, and another begins. I write novels as well as teach creative writing, and this work is also necessarily about an intensive project that has a beginning and end and the satisfaction of publication at the conclusion – one hopes! 

BND: What do you hate most about your job, and why?

Drew: The part of my job that is least satisfying is the increasing demand to translate teaching and learning in the humanities into numbers so that others can determine our success or failure. This is difficult to do, at best, and inevitably causes the loss of important aspects of what happens in the classroom as well as the depth and breadth of subject matter. We aren’t making widgets on an assembly line, and students are neither customers nor products. Professors are caught in a bind: We are experts in our discipline and dedicated, experienced teachers, asked to translate everything we do into numbers by people who are typically unfamiliar with both our discipline and teaching itself. [Related article: Should You Start a Business Without a College Degree?]

Chad Dion Lassiter, West Chester University and University of Pennsylvania

BND: What do you do?

Lassiter: I teach at West Chester University and the University of Pennsylvania. I teach both on the graduate level and the undergraduate level, and I teach social work majors. 

BND: What do you love most about your job, and why?

Lassiter: I love teaching, and for me, it is a calling and a passion. The love for teaching comes with ensuring that all my classes are student-centered and that the voices of the students are not only heard but appreciated. They have lots of intellectual property to share but oftentimes are lectured to, as opposed to being active participants in the change efforts. Moreover, I like training social work students to become social change agents and, ultimately, drum majors for justice. Furthermore, it is a thrill to observe firsthand the intellectual maturation process over the course of a semester, along with the long-lasting mentor and mentee relationship that is valued by both the student and myself. [Related article: How to Keep Your Passion and Career Entwined]

BND: What do you hate most about your job, and why?

Lassiter: On the graduate level, I dislike the fact that you only have them for those two years with regards to them obtaining their MSW [Master of Social Work]. Additionally, I dislike those students who do not read, who do not think deeper and more [analytically], and who are not active participants in the classroom process. There are also those students who refuse to challenge the course, themselves, their peers, and even the professor in an intellectual way. There are students who have potential, but yet they underperform and are academically lazy, yet they want you as the instructor to work harder than them. Lastly, I dislike when I am not teaching, and this has been a major challenge for me over the past 12 years when the semester ends. 

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: Among 2,003 college students surveyed in September 2021, three-quarters sought mentors, and two-thirds of students with mentors found their career advice helpful. Learn how to find a mentor.

MaryAnne Hyland, Adelphi University

BND: What do you do?

Hyland: I am a professor in the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. I teach undergraduate and MBA courses on human resource management

BND: What do you love most about your job, and why?

Hyland: I love helping students grow. For undergraduates, I see this the most with students who I see over the course of several semesters. After they take classes in their field, participate in campus events, and complete internships, it is rewarding to see them shine! For MBA students, it’s a bit different. They often have already started their careers or have well-established careers and are learning new skills. Being able to help working professionals better understand human resource management as it applies to their work environment is extremely rewarding for me. [Related article: Work Experience or Free Labor? Learn What Makes Unpaid Internships Legal]

BND: What do you hate most about your job, and why?

Hyland: One of the most difficult aspects of my job is that there is always more that I can do. Whether it is improving the content or delivery of a course or conducting research myself, the job is never done. I realize that this is not unique to my profession, but drawing boundaries on when to stop working is a challenge for me. 

Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit:

monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Brittney Morgan
Brittney Morgan
Business News Daily Staff
Brittney Q. Morgan is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, as well as a graduate of Drew University, where she majored in History. Her work can be found all across the web at Apartment Therapy, HuffPost, and more. You can also find her on Twitter at @brittneyplz.