Answers To “Do Professors…” Questions.

I thought it would be fun to keep a tally of “Do Professors” questions. When I was growing up, I did not know anyone who was a Professor. Growing up in a small Northern Ontario Town (Dryden), it was far from anyone that had a PhD.  Actually, now that I am a Professor (of Innovation and Strategy), I can completely understand. It was not that long ago that I was thinking about doing a PhD, but had no idea what it actually means to have one. I had so many questions about what it was like about being a Professor. Now that I am a Professor (just newly tenured – hurrah!), I thought I would answer some questions about what life is actually like as a Professor. I think this would be really helpful if you are thinking of going to graduate school, becoming a PhD, or if you are thinking going into academia (which is becoming a professor). This is all part of my r3ciprocity project – of giving back to others who might find this information useful because there were some many other people that helped me get through graduate school. If you want to help out with the r3ciprocity project, you are always free to send me an email. So, here it goes: Here are some answers to “Do Professors…” questions. By the way, I purposely choose funny or odd questions because these are not answered anywhere else on the inter-webs.

Do professors get drug tested?

No. We don’t. However, I suspect that there are some universities around the world that would want drug testing by their professors. I have not heard of any through the rumor-mill. Moreover, you have to ask yourself is what they will be testing for? The only drug that professors would be likely to take would be stimulants that help you focus. A large number of us drink coffee to stay awake or to make the day go by quicker. Although, it might be an interesting study to investigate the likelihood that professors would take stimulants pre- and post-tenure. 🙂

Do professors verify doctors notes?

Yes, we often will verify doctor’s notes or at least give strange looking notes to people that are more equipped to investigate these notes. But, like everyone else, how much effort we put into investigating doctor’s notes depends on how energetic we are that day.

Do professors actually check sources?

Yes, they do check sources. There are two problems here. First is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a big deal. Not only that, it degrades the quality of the class and your learning experience. Learning is hard, and we all like to cut corners on learning. It is the job of professors to make sure you don’t cut corners when you become a working professional. As an engineer, I treat this as if my life depends on it. And, making sure that university students actually learn something (like chemical engineers), is important to someone else’s safety. Second, is credit. Most professors have already put in a lot of work to get to where they are, and they value the credit they get from others.  Indeed, professors actually make a living from you citing their work. The more creditable sources that you cite, the more likely that someone is going to cite their own work. Without protecting this scientific norm, we can open up the gates of other people disregarding giving credit. Don’t think you will get caught? You have to check out this video on how professors check for plagiarism that I did:

Do professors actually read papers?

Yes, most professors do actually read the papers. However, occasionally, reading papers gets really boring. Moreover, it takes time and effort away from professors writing their own papers to get published. Publishing helps them maintain their job in academia. Thus, we tend to read through the papers as fast as we can, given the constraints of the task.   The amount of time that we spend reading student papers also depends on many different factors, such as the weight of the assignment throughout the semester, the timing of the assignment, and personal factors (how fatigued we are, or if we have other things going on in our life).

Do professors date students?

Occasionally, dating students does happen. However, most professors are pretty wise to prevent this from happening by setting barriers in place.  For example, there are pretty strict rules in place not to date undergraduate students, and we can lose our jobs. Really – it can happen. Not only that, you can be subject of rumor as ‘that person.’ Rather than be urban legend, most professors are really careful about relationship kind of stuff. It took a lot of work to get that professor position to loss it based on some scandal. The notion that a student and professor gets swept off their feet like in the movies is just not real – that is not how love works.   If a student does make a pass at a professor, 9 times out of 10, it will be rejected and will be quietly reported to senior faculty (department chair) to make sure things are ok with their job, or at least all rules and procedures are followed.   However, when professors are romantically interested they will wait until the student is completed their degree. Generally, it is so rare, that I am fairly comfortable saying that this does not occur with undergraduate students. It does occur more often with graduate students, but this is still rather rare. Of course, love happens at all ages.

Do professors answer emails on weekends?

Yes, most professors will check email on the weekends. We might look at the email to see if it is very important.   Do we answer the emails? It depends on what is happening in our lives at the time.  Also, in some parts of the world, the workplace might prohibit professors from answering emails after hours, unless they really want to answer those emails.   Thus, if you’re going to send an email to a professor on the weekend, you should expect a reply the following work-week. You will likely not get an email reply that day.

Do professors make a lot of money?

It depends on what you mean by a lot of money. Wages and salaries of professors are publicly available information in most states in the US, and provinces in Canada.  You are free to look up this information.   However, if you compare against what most people get in industry for the same education  an experience level, we are probably about 10-25% underpaid than what people in industry make.  In some academic fields, the disparity might even be larger. If you are interested in finding how what fields do better in terms of salaries, you so watch this video:   However, this is not a complaint. If you compare to the median salary in a country, many professors do ok, and have a pretty good living. Generally, the academic marketplace is such that professors make a comfortable living to live a reasonable life. You will really see a ‘rich’ professor driving around in a Bentley, but you will not likely see a tenure-tracked professor who is eating cat-food either.   That being said, If you’re interested in wealth accumulation, the wages and salaries of somebody often doesn’t predict their wealth accumulation when they are older. A bigger factor as to whether somebody becomes rich is whether they actually invest 10-25% of their salaries in reasonable mutual funds over their working-life. Unfortunately, it is rare that people invest over the course of their life, even for many academics. Thus, you might actually see rich professors, but they do not look rich or make a substantial sum of money. They are rich professors because they saved and invested their whole life. You have to watch the YouTube video to watch me discuss these issues in person. You will love it: Finally, I wanted to point out that this is part of my r3ciprocity project, in which I am building a sharing economy proofreading platform to get feedback on your writing to find freelance editors that are going to do a good job at your work. The principle behind the proofreading platform is based on reciprocity – give and take. In addition, I wanted to give back to graduate students because there are so many people that helped me out to get to graduate school, so I am accumulating resources of all of the different things that I have learned about graduate school and getting your PhD. Here are some interesting articles that I wrote that you should read:
  1. Why I am building a writing accountability software, and why this will matter for science.
  2. Should you get a PhD to fast-track your way to business executive?
  3. Is the GMAT easier than the GRE? And, why it does not matter.
  4. The best advice and tips to write your PhD Statement of Purpose To Get Into A Business School.
  5. Is 30 years old, too old to get your PhD?
 

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David Maslach

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