A Professor delivering lecture to the class

Learn the Difference among Academic Titles: Doctor, Professor, Lecturer, Assistant Professor, and More!

If you are confused like me about various academic titles then this article is for you. Earning a degree or certification is the first step to becoming an academician but for earning a specific academic title, a dedicated set of academic accomplishments is required. In this article, we’ll explore the various academic titles available and discuss how they’re earned and used.

Doctor vs. Professor:

Doctors and professors can be easily differentiated from one another. A doctor is an honorary title that is conferred upon an individual after completing a doctoral degree in any field of study. Doctors are individuals who have achieved the highest level of academic achievement in their field of study.

On the other hand, Professor is an academic job title given to an individual employed by the University as a Professor. In addition to teaching, professors are often tasked with other academic responsibilities like doing research work. supervising and assisting students in their research projects, and reviewing theses. Professors are often more authoritative than Doctors in a university setting.

For becoming a professor, one must have completed his/her Ph.D. and have extensive knowledge in their field. But, however, not all professors have a Ph.D. degree. In fields such as fine arts, social work, and law, many professors will have an MFA, MSW, or JD (respectively) rather than a doctoral degree. Some professors of medicine are practicing physicians with a doctor of medicine (MD) who teach part-time, while other professors have a doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.).

In summary, both academic titles are attained after an in-depth and highest knowledge in respective study fields. We often use these closely-related academic titles interchangeably but there is a clear distinction between the two. So, it is important to understand the distinction between Doctors and professors to give them their due respect.

Lecturer vs. Professor:

Like academic titles of  Doctor and Professor, there is also an obvious difference between a lecturer and a professor but this difference is largely based on the educational background and duties.

Professors must have a Master’s Degree, Ph.D., or any degree related to their field higher than a college diploma. In addition, they are usually appointed to a tenure-track professorship and focus on both teaching and research. In contrast, lecturers have a more flexible educational requirement since they usually have careers in their field outside of the academe. Moreover, lecturers may not have teaching experience but they are invited to share their insight with students as expert professionals in the field. While visiting professor is referred to as a professor that teaches a specialization upon invitation of the concerned institute.

Similarly, a college or post-graduate teacher may be addressed as Mr. Smith, Dr. Smith, Professor Smith, or simply John. It is up to the college teachers to decide if they want to uphold classroom formalities or drop all the honorifics and go on a first-name basis with their students.

A lecturer in the class - Professors and Lecturers are most well-known academic titles

In conclusion, while both the academic titles may  be considered teachers, the former refers to individuals hired by the university solely to teach undergraduate courses whereas the latter typically requires a postgraduate degree and focuses on both teaching and research.  

Other Academic Titles:

In addition to the above-mentioned academic titles and roles, you may also have come across other academic titles like Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, and Adjunct Professor.

Instructors are academics that usually teach introductory-level classes or some specific courses. They have no academic career plan and usually have a lower pay scale than lecturers and professors.

Assistant Professors are younger professors who have recently completed their PhDs and are in the process of establishing themselves in their field. They are usually on a lower pay scale than Associate and Full Professors and are expected to conduct research, teach classes, and work on other departmental activities.

Associate Professor is a mid-career title and these academics have usually achieved some sort of recognition for their research and teaching, and are usually expected to take on more leadership roles within their departments.

Full Professors are experienced academicians who have achieved the highest rank within their academic institution. They are usually the most experienced researchers in the department and are expected to take on the most administrative duties.

Adjunct Professors are typically part-time professors who are hired to teach specific courses. They are usually paid less than full-time professors and may not be required to do any research or administrative duties.


In conclusion, several academic titles can be achieved in higher education. A Doctor is the highest level of achievement and can be achieved with a doctorate degree. Among the academic titles, Professor is the most well-known one. Professors have earned their doctorates and have a strong record of research in the field of study.

Lecturers are usually employed on a contract basis and are responsible for teaching courses and providing feedback in the form of grades. Assistant Professors are usually on the tenure track and may teach classes and conduct research. Finally, Adjunct faculty members are employed on a part-time or temporary basis, and typically teach one or two courses each semester. Understanding the differences between these different academic titles can help you decide which career path you would like to pursue.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the difference between a doctor and a professor?

A doctor is someone who has completed a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., while a professor is someone who teaches at a college or university. Doctors typically focus on research, whereas professors not only teach but also conduct research and publish their findings in academic journals.

What is a lecturer?

A lecturer is an instructor at a college or university who teaches a particular course or subject. Lecturers may have a master’s degree or a doctorate, but they typically do not have the research requirements and scholarly publications necessary to be considered a professor.

What is an assistant professor?

An assistant professor is someone who has been hired by a college or university to teach at the undergraduate level. This person typically holds a doctorate degree and may be involved in some research projects, although this is not always the case. In many universities, assistant professors are in the process of working toward becoming full professors.

What is the difference between a professor and an associate professor?

The primary difference between a professor and an associate professor is experience. A professor usually has more experience than an associate professor and may have held the position for longer. Additionally, professors typically have more responsibility in terms of teaching and research.

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