What Do Professors Do?


Job Responsibilities of Professors

Unlike high school teachers, teaching classes is not the primary job of a professor. Professors have many professional responsibilities in addition to teaching. In the UH math department, the responsibilities of a typical tenured or tenure-track faculty member are usually allocated as 40% Research, 40% Teaching, and 20% Service. Moreover, the teaching responsibilities include many more activities than just teaching classes.

To give you some idea of what professors do, here is a brief description of typical activities included in the areas of Research, Teaching, and Service.





Most professors work 60 hours per week or more to keep up with their responsibilities, and they also have to travel frequently. Many do all of this while trying to balance a family and home life. Although most professors love their jobs, many of them are overworked and at certain times they may be tired, stressed, or overwhelmed. Be aware of what they do, and how hard they work, and be considerate of their time when you deal with them.

Remember the above list of activities (which, mind you, is just a partial list) when you wonder why professors act so busy, or why they aren't always available, or why they are not free to meet with you if you stop by their office unannounced or outside of Office Hours.

When classes aren't in session (e.g., during summers or breaks) it doesn't mean professors aren't working. It means they are working on their other professional obligations --- often parts of their job that are difficult to do when teaching a class, or activities that require large, uninterrupted periods of time (such as large research or writing projects). These are very important parts of their job that sometimes have to be put on the back-burner while classes are in session.

If you ask professors to do extra work beyond what they are already doing for the class (e.g., create a practice exam, hold a review session, write up solutions to homework, post their lectures online), sometimes they have to say no. It's not that they don't want to help you. Sometimes it is the case they actually do not have time to do these things for you. Maybe they even have to make a decision between spending time with their family versus doing the extra work you have asked of them.

If you want to get an idea of what activities a particular professor is involved with, take a look at their website. Most professors will often have a copy of their Curriculum Vitae (CV) on their website, which lists their publications and activities.








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