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Teacher vs. Professor: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 21, 2023
A teacher educates students at various levels, often in K-12 settings, while a professor instructs at the college or university level.

Key Differences

A teacher is a general term used to describe an individual who educates and imparts knowledge to students. This profession can span various educational levels, from kindergarten through high school and sometimes beyond. The role of a teacher involves creating lesson plans, assessing student performance, and fostering a conducive learning environment. On the contrary, a professor is typically associated with tertiary education, instructing students at colleges or universities.
Professors are often required to have advanced degrees, such as a Master's or Ph.D., in their specific field of expertise. In addition to teaching, professors at many institutions are also expected to conduct research, publish scholarly articles, and contribute to their academic community. Whereas a teacher, especially in K-12 settings, might not have the same emphasis on research or scholarly publishing but is more focused on the pedagogical aspect of education.
While both teachers and professors play pivotal roles in the realm of education, their responsibilities and settings can differ considerably. A teacher, for instance, might deal with younger students and a more standardized curriculum. In contrast, a professor typically handles mature students and might have more freedom in curriculum design, especially in upper-level courses.
Furthermore, the titles and ranks in academia vary and can include assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor, each with its own set of expectations and responsibilities. On the other hand, teachers can have titles like elementary school teacher, high school teacher, or special education teacher, indicating their specialization or the age group they handle.
In essence, while both teachers and professors aim to educate and inspire students, their roles, responsibilities, and settings distinctively set them apart.

Comparison Chart

Educational Setting

K-12 schools, sometimes colleges
Colleges or universities

Degree Requirements

Bachelor's or Master's in Education typically
Often requires a Ph.D. or terminal degree

Main Responsibilities

Teaching, grading, classroom management
Teaching, research, publishing, academic service

Age Group of Students

Children to young adults
Mostly young adults to adults


Pedagogy and curriculum adherence
Specialized subject matter, often with research emphasis

Teacher and Professor Definitions


An individual who imparts knowledge to students.
The teacher prepared a lesson on the solar system.


A senior educator often involved in research.
The professor received a grant for his groundbreaking study.


A professional responsible for student learning.
The teacher's feedback was crucial for student improvement.


A tertiary level educator with a specialization.
The professor's seminar on molecular biology was well-received.


One who instructs in a school or classroom setting.
The teacher spent extra time helping students after class.


An academic rank in higher education.
After years of research, he was promoted to full professor.


A person trained to educate others.
She became a teacher because she loved inspiring young minds.


An academic instructor at a college or university.
The professor wrote a book on Renaissance art.


An educator guiding students' academic growth.
As a teacher, he believed in hands-on learning experiences.


A scholarly expert in a particular academic field.
As a history professor, she traveled to many archaeological sites.


One who teaches, especially one hired to teach.


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


What qualifications does a professor typically have?

Professors usually have a Ph.D. or a terminal degree in their field.

Can a teacher also be a professor?

Yes, if they teach at a college or university level.

Do teachers need certifications?

Yes, in many places, teachers require certifications or licenses.

Is a high school teacher's role different from an elementary teacher's?

Yes, they handle different age groups and curriculum complexities.

What is a teacher's primary role?

A teacher's main role is to educate and guide students.

Can teachers and professors have assistants?

Yes, teachers might have aides, and professors can have teaching assistants.

Do all teachers have a degree in education?

Not always; some might have degrees in their subject areas.

Do professors typically teach graduate students?

Yes, especially in programs offering master's and doctoral degrees.

Are both teachers and professors essential for education?

Absolutely, both play pivotal roles at different stages of the educational journey.

How does a professor differ from a teacher?

A professor instructs at the college/university level and often conducts research.

Is tenure a feature for professors?

Yes, many institutions offer tenure to professors after a probationary period.

How do professors contribute to their academic fields?

Through research, publishing, conferences, and academic service.

Are there specialized teachers for subjects?

Yes, especially in middle and high schools.

Who handles classroom discipline more, teachers or professors?

Teachers, as they deal with younger students, often handle discipline.

Are professors involved in research?

Often yes, especially at research universities.

Can professors choose what courses to teach?

To some extent, but it often depends on departmental needs.

What are the ranks in academia for professors?

Common ranks include assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor.

Do teachers create their curriculum?

They often follow a set curriculum but can add their instructional style.

Do teachers need ongoing training?

Yes, many regions require continuous professional development.

Are professors' salaries higher than teachers?

Generally, professors, especially at research institutions, earn more.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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