Business professors work in community colleges and four-year universities
Teaching Careers Updated March 20, 2018

Business Professor: Job Description and Salary Information

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Business professors help business leaders shape the future of our world.

As researchers, business professors study the intricacies of entrepreneurship and write articles that help CEOs and their management teams imagine new ways to address complex problems.

As instructors, business professors show students how to think globally, collaborate and put their ambitions to work on productive solutions to difficult business challenges. If you become a business professor, you’ll be giving students an intellectual foundation to create innovative new management techniques and scale up previously unimaginable technologies around the world.

This guide provides an overview of what it takes to become a business professor, including the prerequisite education, likely income, and advantages and disadvantages of this career. Browse through the article or use the following links to skip forward to what you’re looking for:

At-a-glance
> Business professor job description
> Who makes a good business professor

Types of business professors
> Community college business professor
> Four-year college or university business professor and graduate school business professor

Professional development
> Continuing education
> What kinds of programs can help business professors?

Related careers
> Jobs beyond teaching

Best of the web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: business professors

Community college business professor Four-year college/university/
graduate school business professor
Minimum education Master’s degree; doctorate preferred Doctorate
Estimated annual income $73,500 (BLS)
$72,000 (Houston Chronicle)
$99,170 (BLS)
$112,686 (Salary.com)
$91,078 (Glassdoor.com)

Business professor job description

A business professor instructs college students in a variety of subjects that will help them manage or start a business. Business professors teach their students the specific knowledge required to earn certificates, diplomas and degrees offered by business and management programs at institutions of higher learning. These institutions include community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, graduate schools and technical schools.

Business professors help prepare and present course materials, develop syllabi, give lectures, assign homework, supervise testing and skill assessments, and provide career guidance. They also attend faculty meetings and may help school administration with events and fundraisers.

Business professors teach courses on many subjects relevant to good business practice, including finance, accounting, leadership, business administration, supply chain management, ethics, human resources, marketing, labor relations and operations research.

Who makes a good business professor?

Someone who is:

  • Analytical and inquisitive by nature
  • People-oriented
  • Outgoing
  • Respectful of diversity
  • Good at communicating with others
  • Patient and resourceful
  • Good at motivating and inspiring students
  • Organized and careful about time management
  • Devoted to learning
  • Able to express ideas precisely in writing and in oral presentations
  • Highly knowledgeable about economics and business
  • Qualified with an advanced degree in an education-related field, or a field related to the business

Interested in becoming a business professor?

Check out this video to get a better sense of what you’ll encounter if you pursue a career as a business professor.

Different types of business professors

Business professors’ duties depend on their employer. The next sections will break down the differences in working for a two-year community college versus a four-year college/university that may include an MBA program. Keep in mind you may move between multiple employment arrangements throughout your career as a business professor.

Community college business professors

These professors work at local or regional two-year colleges, which are typically called community colleges, junior colleges or city colleges.

Continue reading to learn more about community college business instructors

What community college business professors do

Community colleges award associate degrees and give students the education and credits necessary to transfer to four-year institutions to complete a bachelor’s degree. At the community college level, business professors teach fundamental business principles and introductory to intermediate courses in subjects such as management, accounting and finance.

Here are some of the main responsibilities of a business professor working at a community college:

  • Developing course materials such a syllabus, tests, homework, handouts, activities, project assignments and essay/presentation prompts
  • Lecturing undergraduates on topics such as leadership, finance, accounting, administration, supply chain management and ethics
  • Grading students’ essays, exams, quizzes and homework
  • Holding regular office hours to answer questions and provide guidance
  • Advising students on projects, presentations and proposals
  • Keeping up-to-date on relevant publications and business news
  • Attending faculty meetings
  • Going to professional conferences

As a community college business professor, you may also be expected to teach students writing skills related to corporate communication such as business plans, grant proposals and other important business documents.

Educational and certification requirements

At minimum, community college business professors must have a master’s degree in business or a similar field. Getting hired as full-time faculty at a community college can be very competitive, so having a doctorate in education or a relevant field such as economics can give you a leg up on the competition. And having real-world experience working in business, especially management positions, is a huge plus.

Income projections

Here are a couple of estimates of what you might earn as a full-time business professor at a community college:

  • BLS: $73,500
  • Houston Chronicle: $72,000

Full-time faculty at community colleges generally command higher salaries than adjunct professors, who are paid by the course and don’t always receive benefits. For more about the difference between full-time faculty and adjunct professors, check out our article on community college instructors.

Pros and cons of being a community college business professor

These are the key advantages and disadvantages of becoming a community college business professor:

Pros

  • Teach students who are dynamic, enthusiastic and eager for opportunities
  • Rewarding to educate many first-generation college students, often from immigrant families
  • Focus more on teaching and inspiring students and less on research and bureaucracy
  • Flexible hours and opportunities to take time off

Cons

  • Less prestigious than working at a university
  • Lower pay than professors at four-year colleges/universities/graduate schools
  • Many teaching positions at community colleges are adjunct, meaning lower pay, few benefits and little job security

Business professors at four-year colleges and universities

Business professors employed by four-year colleges and universities teach courses, conduct research and publish academic papers and books.

Continue reading to learn more about university-level business professors

What business professors do at four-year colleges, universities and graduate schools

Business professors teach courses in business at universities and other four-year institutions of higher education. They also carry out research in a specialized area and publish their findings in journals, reviews and books.

While business professors may specialize in a particular area of research such as the global financial system or entrepreneurship in developing countries, they will probably teach courses outside their area of concentration as well. This teaching load is especially true earlier in a business professor’s career, when they will frequently teach many introductory courses to undergraduates.

If you teach exclusively at a graduate school, you may be responsible only for advanced courses or courses focused in your area of speciality.

Here’s a closer look at the three main set of responsibilities — research, teaching and faculty management — for a business professor working at four-year colleges, universities and graduate schools.

Teaching

Business professors’ teaching duties typically include:

  • Teaching introductory and general business courses to undergraduates, and advanced courses to graduate students and upper-level undergraduates
  • Setting overall instructional objectives for each course
  • Delivering lectures
  • Leading conversations and discussions at the close of lectures
  • Creating and updating the curriculum and each course’s syllabus, content and instructional methods
  • Selecting and leading a team of teaching assistants
  • Maintaining regular office hours to answer questions and provide guidance
  • Advising students on appropriate coursework

In some cases, professors may lead teams of teaching assistants who help with many key tasks. Business professors use their discretion in deciding how closely to manage their assistants. The following tasks may be directly handled by teaching assistants:

  • Moderating classroom discussions
  • Obtaining materials and supplies such as textbooks
  • Assembling course materials such as homework assignments and handouts
  • Supervising student research projects
  • Grading students’ exams, quizzes, homework and papers

Professors are ultimately responsible for the quality of education and classroom experience their students receive. Therefore, they often intervene directly in some of these tasks, especially supervising classroom discussion and assigning final grades.

Research

A business professor’s research duties usually include:

  • Closely examining the inner workings of a real-world business
  • Performing quantitative and qualitative research
  • Applying for grants to gain external funding from corporations
  • Establishing and leading a team of research assistants, who may double as teaching assistants
  • Analyzing data and developing theories based on it
  • Writing articles, books or other original materials based on research findings
  • Reading extensively to keep up with changes in business research and education
  • Enhancing the university’s reputation by speaking engagements at conferences, publishing editorials in the media and giving outside advice to executives and boards of directors

Faculty management

Business professors are frequently involved in the management and community engagement of the institution that employs them. Here are some examples of what that may entail:

  • Participating in the faculty evaluation process, including providing input on the admission of new professors
  • Mentoring newly hired faculty members
  • Serving on advisory boards, hiring committees and ad hoc committees
  • Participating in the Faculty Senate
  • Taking part in commencement or other ceremonies
  • Advising their department on the designation of learning outcomes, administrative measurements and student evaluation standards
  • Collaborating with faculty colleagues and administrators in developing program standards, spelling out policies and selecting textbooks

Business professors are often uniquely suited to serve in administrative positions at colleges and universities. If you are successful as a business professor and enjoy faculty management and support work, seeking an administrative position can be a path toward career advancement and a higher salary.

Educational and certification requirements

Earning a professorship at a university or four-year college can be an enormous undertaking. At minimum, you will have to complete a PhD or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) that demonstrates your commitment to research and inquiry in the field of business administration and management. Getting a full-time faculty position at a college or university also requires that you publish original research and earn the respect and admiration of your colleagues.

Most schools also want business department faculty or staff to have real-world business experience. If you have a particularly notable track record working in the business world, you may be able to sidestep some of the other requirements. If you do not have a business background, you will probably have to take foundation master’s courses in business.

Income projections

Business professors at four-year schools usually earn significantly more than their counterparts at community colleges. Here are a handful of annual salary estimates for business professors:

  • $99,170 (BLS)
  • $112,686 (Salary.com)
  • $91,078 (Glassdoor.com)
  • $66,700 to $185,600 (AACSB)

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business lists salary averages for business instructors through business professors, broken down by discipline and job title for new hires and all faculty.

Pros and cons of being a business professor

Consider both the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a business professor at a four-year college or university

Pros

  • Full benefits for health insurance and retirement security
  • Tenure-track position, with an opportunity for long-term job security
  • Ample opportunities for research and outside consulting
  • Publish your findings in prestigious journals and books
  • Get to teach students with a passion for learning and achievement
  • May be able to take on a leadership role at a college or university
  • Plenty of time off for vacation or a second career

Cons

  • Probably responsible for joining a committee and attending many extra meetings and professional events
  • Can be frustrating to work within bureaucratic institutions like universities
  • Academia can be highly competitive, with a “publish-or-perish” norm
  • Many years of advanced education are required
  • Lower pay than many executive positions in the corporate world

Professional development for business professors

If you are serious about becoming a business professor, start thinking about how to improve your career prospects and develop your skills and connections. Many schools want business department faculty or staff to have real-world business experience. Starting a business or a non-profit of your own is a big plus, especially if the organization you initiate becomes a significant success.

Another road to follow is completing an internship at a business or a non-profit. This will give you a good start to a career in business and allow you to network and make connections that will help you find a job as a business professor in the future.

In addition to work experience and education, special certifications/training and volunteer work experience will greatly enhance your resume. Some examples include earning CPA or CFRE credentials or working for Americorps or in the Peace Corps.

You should also consider getting involved in a professional organization like the National Business Education Association (NBEA) or the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA). These groups offer conferences, workshops and other opportunities to get involved in the world of business and management education.

Your ultimate goal is to become a tenured business professor. The publishing requirements for tenure are exacting, with most prestigious journals accepting only a small number of papers submitted.

You may also seek career advancement to become a department chair, dean or other administrator. This would mean performing more administrative duties and/or relaying the concerns of the Business Department to the university at large.

Benefits of continuing education

To become a business professor at any level, you must pursue an MBA at minimum, and probably a PhD or a DBA.

What kinds of programs can help business professors?

Concordia University-Portland offers online graduate degree programs that can help prospective business professors sharpen their skills and prepare to work for more selective schools and universities:

MEd in Educational Leadership
EdD in Educational Administration

These programs guide enrollees to cultivate executive leadership traits such as critical thinking, creative problem solving and informed decision-making. Coursework emphasizes communication and collaboration, teaching students how to make a virtue of complexity and embrace innovation, imagination and invention.

By completing this type of program, you will improve your abilities as an educator while also deepening your knowledge of leadership and administration. Both leadership and administration are crucial subjects to master if you want to succeed as a business professor.

Jobs for business professors beyond teaching

With additional education or certification, business professors may become librarians, instructional coordinators or an educational administrator at a college or university.

Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment, and some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.

Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to a subject like curriculum and instruction, and they may be required to have a teaching or educational administrator license.

Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.

Education consultant: Business professors can become education consultants if they want to tackle challenges in a variety of schools and education systems. You’ll probably need an advanced degree in an education-related subject.

Education policy analyst: With an advanced degree in an education-related subject, business professors can become policy analysts and examine big-picture issues affecting education nationwide.

Education administrator: To become an education administrator, you will need years of experience and a master’s degree in an education-related field, such as education leadership.

Best of the web: our favorite business professor blogs, websites and Twitter handles

The web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent business scholars and educators. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.

Favorite business professor websites and blogs

Favorite business professor Twitter handles

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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