Whether you’re wondering about the next stages of your academic career or want to know more about a particular professor, you may wonder what Professor Emeritus means. After all, without knowledge of Latin, the term isn’t self-explanatory. Plus, Professor Emeriti seem to have many of the same responsibilities as regular professors.
Simply put, “Professor Emeritus” refers to a professor who has retired from day-to-day teaching but maintained their position at their college or university because they were recognized for their significant contributions in their field of study. Professor Emeriti primarily serves as an academic advisor for graduate students and is encouraged to do their research or projects while freed from teaching responsibilities. Sounds pretty great, right?
Want to know more about what Professor Emeritus means and how one can receive a faculty appointment for this honorary title? Keep on reading!
What Does Professor Emeritus Mean?
Essentially, Professor Emeritus (or Professor Emerita, for female professors) is a term used to refer to respective retired professors who are recognized and honored by their universities for their notable contributions to academia. Aside from the special title, an Emeritus status gives distinguished professors many extra privileges.
In literal terms, Professor Emeritus refers to a retired professor who retains their status on an honorary basis. Being recognized as Professor Emeritus can be extremely tough, however, depending on the college level or university you work at. While there might be less competition at a local college, if you work at a nationally recognized institution like Princeton University or Cornell University, you may find becoming Professor Emeritus extremely difficult.
Where Does the ‘Professor Emeritus’ Term Come From?
The word Emeritus is a Latin term that means “to complete one’s service.” Recognizing someone as a Professor Emeritus means they are being given the honor of maintaining their title as a professor despite retiring from their institution.
The “Professor Emeritus” term became common because it is helpful for academic institutions. It allows them to recognize distinguished professors and encourages them to continue contributing to their field of study while also providing Emeritus faculty members the stability and reduced responsibilities often needed in retirement.
How Do You Become a Professor Emeritus?
Becoming a Professor Emeritus or Emerita is difficult in any circumstance, but if you’re working at an exceptionally competitive institution, you may find it highly challenging. At Northwestern University, for example, faculty members are only eligible for consideration for Emeritus status after ten years of continuous service and approval from the school’s dean, Provost, and Board of Trustees.
Of course, the requirements for becoming a Professor Emeritus (otherwise known as an Emeritus Professor) vary by institution. At Florida State University, professors are only considered for Emeritus status as a result of recommendations. This includes recommendations from the dean, academic department, and President after retiring from a tenured role.
Regardless of where you choose to become a Professor Emeritus, you’ll need to have a long history with the institution and make significant contributions to your field of study to be recognized as a Professor Emeritus. At some local institutions, however, you may find that the honor is given automatically, provided that you retire in good standing.
If you’re set on achieving Emeritus status, it’s crucial to research your own institution’s standards as soon as possible to improve your chances for success. At small and local institutions, as long as you’re committed to making significant contributions to your area of study, you may find it simple to be the “big fish in a small pond” and eventually be recognized as Professor Emeritus. At famous institutions, however, the competition may be much more significant.
What Are Professor Emeriti Expected To Do?
Professor Emeriti is expected to fulfill a few responsibilities once they’ve earned the title. These responsibilities include guiding the work of graduate students, serving as a student advisor in their department, and even continuing their research.
One of Professor Emeriti’s most fascinating and essential responsibilities is overseeing graduate students’ work. At such a complex and in-depth study stage, it’s clear that graduate students need significant support to succeed and stay on course. Professor Emeriti is responsible for helping their graduate students succeed through challenges like thesis defenses.
Also, Professor Emeriti are generally expected to serve as academic advisors for students in their department. Due to their significant experience in the field, Professor Emeriti has the insight necessary to help struggling students or those who have hit mental blocks in their course of study. By offering support and insights from their distinguished career in the same field of study, Professor Emeriti can effectively help their graduate students succeed.
Aside from working with students, Professor Emeriti usually continue some of their research. Due to the significant amount of time freed up by becoming Professor Emeritus, distinguished academics can commit themselves to projects like writing books or doing research in highly specialized areas.
Why Should I Become a Professor Emeritus?
There are plenty of reasons that becoming an Emeritus Professor is worthwhile, such as the incredible honor of earning the title and the privilege of continuing your life’s work with reduced responsibilities. The role does come with some significant expectations to worry about in retirement, though, and that’s worth considering carefully as you determine whether trying to become a Professor Emeritus is right for you.
One of the best reasons to become a Professor Emeritus is that it ensures you will continue to earn a full salary and benefits, even as a retired faculty. You will enjoy many of the same resources and privileges as a regular professor. You will have an incredible opportunity to continue working on your legacy with specialized research or even publishing in your work area. By working with young graduate students, you can help nurture future geniuses who may one day revolutionize your study area.
The Bottom Line
Becoming Professor Emeritus or Emerita is a fantastic opportunity, but one that is not easy to earn. Still, once you become an Emeritus Professor, you’ll be able to forge an incredible legacy for your life’s work — all while enjoying a salary and benefits that will help you retire peacefully.