Academia consists of many esteemed roles and responsibilities, such as professor, instructor, lecturer and associate professor, among others. The primary roles held by university faculty in academics include instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, lecturer, senior lecturer, master lecturer and then the administrative positions of dean, provost and department chair. All of these roles uphold the goal of higher education and excellence in learning that one might expect from a university.


Instructors teach students in a classroom setting or over Zoom or another remote learning platform. These educational professionals are responsible for designing a curriculum, creating lesson plans, choosing resource materials and making changes to the curriculum should they deem it necessary. Instructors are the primary point of contact for students when they need a demonstration of techniques or assistance with research, projects or experiments. They act as mentors for the student body and serve as academic advisors. In this capacity, instructors will provide guidance to students and offer advice on which courses will help them achieve their academic goals.

An instructor has extensive experience in the subject matter they are teaching. This requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in that subject or the equivalent of real-world experience. Most professionals with experience would possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but there are some instructors who have demonstrated a high level of success in their industries who may be hired on without a degree at all. Requirements for instructors vary depending on the level of experience. These professionals must be passionate about their subject matter and open to supporting their students. 

Instructors are responsible for preparing course outlines, descriptions and other materials related to the classes they are teaching. They are also in a position to provide a caring, inclusive and safe environment for their students as well as positive guidance. Good instructors act as role models for their students and help identify at-risk students who need specific academic support. 

Assistant professor 

Assistant professors help students in different subjects above the high school level. As the name of the position suggests, they assist the professor with specific responsibilities, such as supporting student success in the classroom or online. They help create a safe learning environment for students and all classroom efforts. Assistant professors are also responsible for outlining the expectations and objectives of the course and making sure that students have a clear understanding of both. They publish papers after conducting research in public and private colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning.

In addition, assistants are responsible for distributing the class syllabus according to the policies of the department and the educational institution. They help develop the curriculum for the course, and they also help plan lessons and assignments. An assistant professor will assess and grade student papers and tests, as well as plan lessons for in-class instruction or online.  

Associate professor

An associate professor usually has tenure, which means that they are free to pursue any studies or any conduct without the fear of losing their position. Associate professors can engage in research that may be in contradiction to popular opinion without repercussions, which makes it an enviable position. These tenured professionals will have gone through a grueling probationary period that can last years, and they can still lose their job for cause, just like any other employee. 

Associate professors are involved in three areas of academia: teaching, research and service. When they are not teaching classes, they are conducting research to be presented at conferences or published in educational journals. They must also perform administrative duties such as serving on committees for development, workplace safety and other important areas. 

Associate professors are mid-career academics who have achieved a level of proficiency in their area of expertise and have demonstrated significant contributions to the academic community. They should possess a mastery of their particular subject matter and demonstrate this through excellent teaching, research and scholarly contributions, in addition to service to the academic community.

These leaders in education should have excellent teaching and mentoring skills, as well as provide guidance and support to students and new faculty. They should be skilled at developing courses and curricula to meet students’ needs and be committed to student success.

Associate professors should have a track record of engaging in scholarly research, publishing their findings and presenting at conferences. They should be able to initiate, engage in and lead research projects and attract funding for research from internal and external sources. Most importantly, they should conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner in their research, teaching and service. Furthermore, they should be accountable and respectful of their colleagues, students and the institution.


Professors teach students at a level higher than high school and are responsible for creating a curriculum that meets the standards of the academic institution they work for. They also plan lessons and devise assignments and tests. Professors are in a position to act as a mentor to students and guide them toward the right courses for their professional and academic aspirations. They supervise students who are working towards their doctorate as well as perform research that helps advance their area of expertise. Professors are also responsible for serving on administrative committees related to policies, budgets and human resources issues such as hiring and promotion. 

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The various roles and responsibilities of the faculty in a university is one aspect of higher education an individual will learn when applying for an online doctorate in higher education. Accredited schools like Rockhurst University provide a comprehensive course designed to give those interested in moving up in their educational careers the proper direction. 

A university professor should have a combination of personal and professional traits that are essential to their success in teaching, research and service to the academic community. Traits such as expertise in their field of study are crucial for their positions. They should have a deep understanding of the subject matter they teach and be able to provide students with a comprehensive education.

Professors should also be able to communicate complex ideas effectively to students, colleagues and the broader public. They should be able to write and speak clearly and persuasively and adapt their communication style to suit different audiences. Respected professors should have a passion for their subject matter and a deep commitment to their role as educators. Their enthusiasm for their field of study can inspire students and foster a love of learning.

These individuals should conduct themselves in a professional manner both inside and outside the classroom. They should be accountable, reliable and respectful of their colleagues and their students, as well as have the ability to think creatively and develop innovative teaching methods that engage students and enhance their learning experience. This includes being able to adjust to different learning styles, adapt to changing technologies and be open to feedback and constructive criticism.


Lecturers provide instruction on a specific topic in a post-secondary setting such as a college or university. Lecturers aren’t necessarily full-time employees of a university, but they tend to work part-time or only teach one course. They review material for the course, provide an explanation for concepts and theories and demonstrate how to use any equipment or other tools that are essential for the course. 

The responsibilities of a lecturer include teaching several courses a semester as well as working with the department to ensure that their courses align with the broader goals of the program or department. They are also responsible for developing, preparing, updating and delivering lectures and in-class exercises such as laboratory tests, as well as grading exams and assigning and marking coursework.

Lecturers assess students at midterms and the end of the term and provide these assessments in writing to the faculty. When lecturers provide course feedback to the faculty, they examine the students and what they are learning and incorporate their findings into tangible feedback for the course. Lecturers should always maintain a professional demeanor and create a warm and positive environment for their students while also providing guidance and mentorship, including holding office hours to help students with questions. 

While not always necessary, some lecturers may also engage in research and scholarship activities. This may include publishing papers in academic journals, participating in conferences or workshops, or conducting research funded by grants. They also participate in departmental or university service activities. This may include serving on committees, participating in faculty governance and assisting with recruitment activities. Lecturers may also provide academic advising to students, helping them plan their course of study and selecting classes that align with their academic and career goals.

Department chair

Department chairs are part of the academic leadership of a university who play an integral role in promoting policies. They provide support to their departments and are responsible for the smooth functioning of the day-to-day happenings in the institution. Department chairs work very closely with their faculty members and promote graduate and undergraduate research and studies. These professionals provide guidance on new majors or degrees and assign various functions to their faculty. They also work closely with the other administrative leadership, such as the dean, to sharpen the vision of the institution and collaborate with the dean to act as a bridge between them and their department.  

The chair is responsible for consulting with faculty on any initiatives of interest and attempting to come to a consensus on them or, at the very least, a majority consensus. The department chair will also consult with their faculty often when performing their responsibilities and communicate the policies of the institution. This role is likened to a chief executive officer of a university that reports to the dean, who is the executive officer in charge of the college. The position is not full-time or permanent and normally extends to a period of less than a year. 

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The appointee of the chair should have a respected position in the college as well as the ability to perform at an executive level. They are responsible for generating ideas and initiatives as well as representing the college at institution meetings as well as national meetings. The chair is also in charge of personnel actions in their departments, such as promotions, dismissals, salary raises, tenure and appointments, in addition to overseeing the process. When the department needs to fill a position, the chair is responsible for searching for a suitable candidate and evaluating them. 

The department chair also provides mentorship and leadership to the faculty and students. They promote faculty development and guide all matters, such as academic honesty. Upholding the quality and reputation of the institution and the department is of utmost importance for the chair because they are the face of the department. 


Deans lead the respective chairs of departments and all the faculty members in their charge. These leaders are responsible for appointing chairs of the departments and approving all other hires for the college. They are also in charge of setting policies, overseeing budgets, fundraising for the college and taking on other administrative duties that come up at the college or university they are responsible for. 

These heads of schools are responsible for managing the finances of the faculties. They act as mentors to all of the staff members beneath them. They promote the organization, collaborate with supporters and supervise all staff members and students. The dean is responsible for keeping track of student attendance and flagging any issues that may occur before they become a major problem. Deans are also in a position to choose how many and which types of students their college or university will accept and review the admissions applications. 

A dean’s responsibilities include being available for in-person meetings with faculty as well as collaborating with faculty and students to bring more awareness of academic services. They should assist the president of the college with any community relations opportunities and serve as the advocate for all staff and college initiatives. 


The provost is typically considered the chief academic officer of a university and holds a senior leadership role responsible for overseeing the academic enterprise of the institution. 

They are responsible for academic planning and policy, where they work with other leaders in the institution to develop and implement overall academic policies and plans. Provosts are also responsible for the recruitment, retention and promotion of faculty members. They work with department chairs and other academic leaders to ensure that the institution has a quality faculty that meets the needs of the institution.

They oversee and manage all academic programs, including curriculum development and evaluation, while ensuring that the institution’s academic priorities are aligned with available financial and human resources. The provost also represents the university in public forums and in community outreach programs. They work to strengthen relationships with various stakeholders in the community, including alumni, businesses and foundations.

In summary

The roles and responsibilities of faculty members in a college are diverse and interrelated. One of the primary responsibilities of faculty members is teaching. They develop and deliver courses, design assignments, grade student work, provide feedback and often serve as mentors and advisors to students, offering support and guidance as needed. The courses taught by faculty members are often part of a broader curriculum developed and supported by the institution, with the input of the faculty.

Faculty members are often expected to conduct research and engage in scholarly activities. This includes publishing in academic journals, presenting at conferences and securing grants for their research. The research conducted by faculty members often informs their teaching and vice versa. They are also frequently involved in service to the institution, the profession and the broader community. This includes serving on committees, participating in governance, advising students and providing service to the broader community.

All of these roles and responsibilities serve to support the overall mission of the institution. By working together, faculty members contribute to a dynamic and engaged academic community that is committed to scholarship, teaching excellence and service. All members of a university faculty have one thing in common: their commitment to higher education and promoting their institution in a good light. From lecturer to provost, the roles and responsibilities of college faculty include creating a safe environment of higher learning for students and staff.