This is What it Takes to Become a Professor in Top Universities

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college professorsI have posted articles about how student’s can get admit in Top Universities. But, have you ever wondered what does it take to become a professor in Top Universities?

Unless professors are top notch, schools don’t get to become Top Schools right?

I came across this interesting answer in Quora for the question

What does it take to get an academic job with tenure in the top 20 universities in the USA?

Here’s the answer as posted by Igor Markov, EECS Professor at Michigan

How to become a professor at a top university

Here are the selection criteria for these interviews, roughly in the order in which they are applied.

  1. Your research area (and your research) must be at least somewhat in fashion.
  2. You need to apply to universities that would consider candidates in this area   (even in an area such as machine learning, not all universities have active faculty search in any given year). Applying blindly for three years in a row is probably not a good idea, but I can’t speak for every university here.
  3. You need a convincing publication record.
  4. Your resume needs to show at least something impressive (won competitions/awards, wrote highly-cited papers, developed software used by Dalai Lama every day – you get the idea :). This is more critical for the top 10 schools.
  5. You need strong letters. This is often a function of #3, #4 and personal connections.
  6. You need to be an expert on some topic in high demand from students. In many cases, this is implied by 1, but solid track record in building SW or HW systems, a solid understanding of convex optimization, and so on, can qualify as well.

For #2, it helps greatly to have a proponent among faculty at a particular institution. As an example, I personally “resurrected” a faculty application a few years back and asked that it be considered. Even though I was not on the hiring committee, the candidate was interviewed and hired. In another case, my written evaluation after the candidate interview was the only one with a strong opinion (this is rare) and may have contributed to the decision to hire that person.

To do well on the interview, you need soft skills.

  1. Figure out what to present at your seminar, to which level of detail, how to motivate it, and how to convince the audience that everything checks out. Your seminar needs to demonstrate vision/perspective and ideas for future research.
  2. Work hard to prepare a good talk.
  3. When giving the talk, make it look easy.
  4. Be articulate.
  5. Handle questions from the audience (about your talk) well.
  6. One-on-ones: know when to speak and when to listen.
  7. Handle one-on-one questions (about you and your research) well. Be ready to describe your research succinctly and defend it from (not so) friendly attacks.
  8. Try to find shared interests with faculty. Most of the people you will talk to will not be in your field. Can you keep them interested?
  9. Recall some experiences/thoughts that you can describe if asked about your teaching record and interests.

To be offered a tenured position, you must have significant teaching experience. Even the most accomplished industry luminaries are often given a year or two, when hired as professors, to establish their teaching credentials before they are given tenure.

Next : This is What It Takes to Complete PhD Degree

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