Distinguishing Between Instructor & Professor

Instructor vs Professor

Two terms often encountered by students are instructor and professor. While the generic term “teacher” is commonly understood as someone who teaches, instructor and professor are also frequently used. In a sense, a professor is an instructor, as they both teach students. However, a professor is a senior teacher in a college who has numerous other responsibilities, whereas an instructor can be anyone from a person teaching at a motor driving school to a senior faculty member explaining complex physics concepts to college students. In this article, we will discuss the differences between a professor and an instructor.


An instructor is someone who provides instructions. This is why we have instructors for various activities such as hot air ballooning, skydiving, scuba diving, and other outdoor adventures. In these endeavors, the instructor’s role is to guide participants and keep them safe by avoiding certain actions and activities. The instructor not only provides practical training but also ensures the safety and security of those they train.

However, the term “instructor” is not limited to outdoor and thrilling activities. A simple teacher in an elementary school can also be referred to as an instructor. Interestingly, even a senior faculty member in a college or university can be called an instructor. Therefore, a professor, which is a very senior rank and title for a teacher in a college, can also be considered an instructor.


Professor is the highest title a teacher can attain when joining a college as a faculty member. Most colleges and universities hire teachers who have completed their thesis or have obtained a doctoral degree. The starting title in a college as a faculty member is assistant professor, although the person is not actually someone’s assistant. Assistant professors have no tenure, meaning they are not permanent. Their performance as a teacher is evaluated by an independent team. After teaching for 4-5 years, if they are promoted, they receive tenure and the higher rank of associate professor. After another 5-6 years of teaching, an associate professor may be promoted to the rank of professor. Therefore, professor is the highest title for a teacher in a college or university.

Key Takeaways

  • An instructor can be anyone who guides or instructs, from a school teacher to a bungee jump instructor.
  • Even teachers in colleges and universities can be referred to as instructors, so a professor can also be considered an instructor in general terms.
  • Professor is the highest possible rank or title for a faculty member in a college or university, while the term “instructor” is more generic.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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