The Difference Between Teaching Vs. Research Institutions for Future Faculty

This blog post shares information I have collected over the years from attending professional conferences and from my network. The goal is to outline a roadmap for those interested in becoming professors or faculty. This is one of a series of blog posts covering this topic.

Types of Academic Institutions

If you are considering becoming a professor, it is first essential to know the types of academic institutions you can apply to and the different responsibilities you will have in each one. There are two types of institutions:

  • Research
  • Teaching

Research Institutions

These include New York University, Colombia University, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Stanford University, etc. Faculty at these institutions are required to do the following:

  • (50%) Carry out research and typically publish at least three scientific articles per year in a science journal
  • (30%) Bring in a significant amount of funding to the university by applying for grants
  • (10%) Engage in service to the university. Service includes participating on committees such as a hiring committee or overseeing a student club.
  • (10%) Teach courses

It is important to note that once a faculty member wins enough grants, universities typically reduce their teaching load so the faculty member can shift their focus to research more.

Teaching Institutions

Teaching institutions include community colleges and four-year universities with barely any graduate programs. In New York, teaching institutions include Brooklyn College, Farmingdale State University, Adelphi University, etc. Unlike research institutions, where the focus is on research and winning grants, the focus of faculty at teaching institutions is to teach well.

Faculty at community colleges dedicate approximately 80% of their time to teaching, with the remaining 20% to service. Research is not required. Grant writing to bring funds to the university for developing student-focused programs is encouraged for faculty. 

Despite not being required to carry out research, some faculty at community colleges still do for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

  • Retain the skills learned during their doctoral program
  • Contribute to their field
  • Would like to keep the possibility open to applying to a research institution

Four-year teaching institutions, on the other hand, require their faculty to engage in (10%) research, (30%) service, and (60%) teaching. However, the amount of research required is much less than that of faculty at research universities. Faculty at four-year teaching institutions must typically publish only one scientific paper every three years.

How to Distinguish between Teaching vs. Research Institutions?

It is easy to distinguish which institutions are teaching vs. research focused by looking at the number of graduate programs available. Teaching institutions tend to have barely any master’s degree programs and no doctoral programs. Research institutions, on the other hand, have a wide range of master’s programs and several doctoral programs.

If you would like further information on the research level the institution carries out, refer to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The Carnegie Foundation classifies institutions. You can determine which institution is teaching or research-focused by clicking on the following link.

Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI)

It is scarce to find a minority working as a professor at an academic institution, and research shows that because of this, minorities are underperforming academically. Therefore, as a Latina, my goal has been to teach at institutions where most students are underrepresented because I can make the most significant impact. 

Suppose most students are minorities at the institution. In that case, it will be granted a designation such as a minority-serving institution (MSI). These include the following:

  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI)
  • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions (AANH)
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI)
  • Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI)
  • Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI)
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU)

Click on the following link for the 2022 list of MSIs to determine if the institution you are interested in applying to mainly serves minorities.

Next Steps

Based on the above information, I designed the following flow diagram to help you decide which type of academic institution to pursue.

Teaching vs. Research Institutions

What's Next?

The following blog post will discuss the benefits of pursuing a career in academia.

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Stephanie Taboada

Stephanie Taboada

The author of this post is an Assistant Engineering Professor and a Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate with industry experience. As a Latina and a STEM professional, Stephanie is passionate about incentivizing Hispanics to pursue STEM. Read Stephanie's blog to understand the opportunities that exist in STEM for underrepresented groups. Follow her on social media to know when the next blog posts.

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