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Instructor vs. Professor: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on December 31, 2023
An instructor is a teacher or trainer in various contexts, while a professor is an academic teacher, often with a high rank in a university.

Key Differences

An instructor is typically someone who teaches or trains in a specific field, often at educational institutions or training centers. A professor, however, is a higher-ranking academic teacher, usually employed by a university or college, often involved in research.
Instructors can operate in various educational settings, including schools, colleges, or specialized training facilities. Professors are primarily found in higher education institutions and are often required to have a doctoral degree.
An instructor's role may focus more on teaching and practical training. In contrast, a professor's role includes not only teaching but also conducting research and contributing to scholarly works.
Instructors may or may not hold advanced degrees, depending on their field and the requirements of their position. Professors usually have extensive academic qualifications and experience in their field of expertise.
The term "instructor" is often more general and can apply to various teaching roles, while "professor" is a specific academic title that comes with certain qualifications and responsibilities in a university setting.

Comparison Chart

Employment Setting

Various educational and training settings
Primarily universities and colleges


Varies, not always requiring advanced degrees
Usually requires a doctoral degree

Primary Role

Teaching and practical training
Teaching, research, and academic contributions

Academic Rank

General term for teachers, no specific rank
Higher academic rank in educational institutions

Field of Operation

Can teach in a wide range of subjects
Typically specialized in a specific academic field

Instructor and Professor Definitions


Can be a teacher in schools, colleges, or specialized institutes.
She's an English instructor at the community college.


Often involved in conducting and publishing research.
Our biology professor is leading a study on marine ecosystems.


Not necessarily holding a high academic title.
The fitness instructor has a certification in personal training.


A high-ranking academic teacher in a university.
The professor published a groundbreaking research paper.


A person who teaches a specific subject or skill.
The yoga instructor led a calming session.


Holds a doctoral degree or equivalent qualification.
The history professor at our university has a Ph.D. in Ancient History.


Often associated with training in practical skills.
Our driving instructor is very patient.


Engages in scholarly teaching and academic duties.
The professor is advising several doctoral students.


Focuses on delivering knowledge or skills in a specific area.
The ski instructor showed us the basics of skiing.


May hold a tenured position in a higher education institution.
She became a tenured professor last year.


One who instructs; a teacher.


A college or university teacher who ranks above an associate professor.


A college or university teacher who ranks below an assistant professor.


A teacher or instructor.


One who instructs; a teacher.


One who instructs; one who imparts knowledge to another; a teacher.


A person whose occupation is teaching


Do instructors conduct research?

It's less common; their primary role is teaching or training.

What qualifications do professors typically have?

Professors usually have a doctoral degree or similar qualifications.

Do instructors need a specific degree?

It varies; some instructor positions require specific degrees or certifications.

Do professors have administrative responsibilities?

Often, especially if they hold senior positions.

Can an instructor also be a professor?

Yes, if they meet the qualifications and are employed by a university.

What subjects can professors teach?

Professors teach specialized subjects, often in their field of research.

Is being an instructor a full-time job?

It can be, but many instructors work part-time or on a contractual basis.

What defines an instructor?

An instructor is a teacher, often focused on practical training.

Are all university teachers professors?

No, there are different academic ranks, and not all are professors.

Can a professor teach in non-university settings?

Yes, but they are typically associated with universities.

Can professors have careers outside academia?

Yes, some professors engage in consulting, writing, or other professional activities.

How does one become a professor?

Through advanced education, research experience, and academic achievement.

Are instructors involved in policymaking in education?

Generally, they focus more on teaching than on administrative roles.

What is the main focus of an instructor's role?

Teaching and providing practical training in their subject area.

What skills are important for an instructor?

Strong teaching abilities, expertise in their subject, and often practical skills.

Is experience important for instructors?

Yes, practical experience is often key in instructional roles.

Do professors need to publish work?

Yes, publishing scholarly work is a significant part of a professor's career.

Can instructors be found in online education platforms?

Yes, many instructors teach through online courses and platforms.

Are all professors tenured?

No, tenure is granted to professors after a certain period and upon meeting specific criteria.

What role do professors play in academia?

They are key in teaching, research, and contributing to academic knowledge.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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