Instructor vs. Professor

What's the Difference?

Instructor and professor are both titles used in the academic field, but they have distinct differences. An instructor is typically someone who teaches at a lower level of education, such as in a high school or community college. They may have a bachelor's or master's degree in their field of expertise. On the other hand, a professor is a higher-ranking academic position usually found in universities or colleges. Professors often hold a doctoral degree and have extensive experience in their field. They are expected to conduct research, publish scholarly articles, and contribute to the academic community. While both instructors and professors play crucial roles in education, professors generally have a higher level of expertise and are more involved in research and scholarly activities.


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Further Detail


When it comes to higher education, two terms that are often used interchangeably are "instructor" and "professor." While both play crucial roles in educating students, there are distinct differences between the two positions. In this article, we will explore the attributes of instructors and professors, highlighting their unique responsibilities, qualifications, and teaching styles.


Both instructors and professors have the primary responsibility of imparting knowledge to their students. However, the scope of their responsibilities may differ. Instructors typically focus on teaching specific courses or subjects within a department. They design lesson plans, deliver lectures, facilitate discussions, and assess student performance. On the other hand, professors often have broader responsibilities that extend beyond teaching. They may engage in research, publish scholarly articles, supervise graduate students, and serve on academic committees. Professors also have the authority to develop new courses and shape the curriculum of their respective departments.


When it comes to qualifications, professors generally have higher academic credentials compared to instructors. Professors typically hold a doctoral degree in their field of expertise, such as a Ph.D. or an equivalent terminal degree. This extensive education and research experience enable professors to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their discipline. In contrast, instructors may hold a master's degree or a bachelor's degree with significant professional experience in the subject they teach. While instructors may not have the same level of research expertise, they often bring valuable real-world insights to the classroom.

Teaching Styles

Teaching styles can vary between instructors and professors, influenced by their qualifications, experience, and personal preferences. Instructors often focus on practical applications of the subject matter, drawing from their professional experiences to provide relevant examples and case studies. They may emphasize hands-on activities, group work, and discussions to engage students actively. In contrast, professors may adopt a more theoretical approach, delving deeper into the foundational concepts and theories of their field. They may incorporate extensive readings, research projects, and academic debates to challenge students' critical thinking skills.

Classroom Dynamics

The dynamics within the classroom can also differ between instructors and professors. Instructors often have smaller class sizes, allowing for more individualized attention and interaction with students. They may have a closer rapport with their students, getting to know them on a personal level and providing mentorship. Instructors may also be more accessible outside of class, offering additional office hours or online communication channels to address student questions and concerns. On the other hand, professors often teach larger classes, making it challenging to have extensive one-on-one interactions with every student. However, they may still foster a sense of community by encouraging student participation, leading discussions, and organizing guest lectures by experts in the field.

Advancement Opportunities

Advancement opportunities can vary between instructors and professors. Instructors may have limited opportunities for career advancement within academia, as their primary focus is on teaching rather than research. However, they may have the chance to gain recognition and respect within their institution through their teaching excellence and student satisfaction. In contrast, professors have a clear path for advancement, starting from assistant professor, then associate professor, and finally achieving the rank of full professor. Advancement for professors is often tied to their research productivity, publication record, and contributions to their field. They may also have the opportunity to secure tenure, providing job security and academic freedom.


While instructors and professors both contribute significantly to the education system, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. Instructors focus primarily on teaching specific courses, often bringing practical experience to the classroom. They may have smaller class sizes and a closer rapport with students. On the other hand, professors have broader responsibilities, including research and curriculum development. They typically hold higher academic qualifications and may teach larger classes. Understanding the differences between instructors and professors can help students and aspiring educators navigate the academic landscape more effectively.

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