Difference between teacher and lecturer

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The terms teacher and educator are very similar and are often used interchangeably. This is especially true in the United States, where the word lecturer can take on several meanings. A description of the differences in the terms is below.

  1. Definition

A teacher, sometimes called a school teacher or an educator, is a person who helps others acquire knowledge, competences or values, whether informally or formally. Informally, the term can describe anyone outside of the formal education environment that helps another learn. Often, individuals will describe family members as their first teachers in life. Formally, teachers are paid professions that work in a school. The term refers to educators in the K-12 range as those who work with universities are often referred to as professors.[i]

The definition for lecturer is a bit more broad and confusing since it has different meanings in different countries and even in the United States, different academic institutions use the term differently. In the UK and Ireland, the term refers to someone holding an open-ended, tenure-track or tenured position at a university. It describes someone in the early stage of teaching. In many other countries, the term describes any academic expert without tenure that may be hired on a full-time or part-time basis. The title typically requires a doctorate or an equivalent degree.[ii]

In the United States, the generic use of the term lecturer is to signify anyone who teaches at a university but is not eligible for tenure and has no research obligations. At most institution, the term does not distinguish between a full-time or part-time staff member. In the US, a lecturer commonly needs a master’s degree or above. Many institutions hire lecturers instead of tenure-track professors simply because of the lower cost. And yet, in other institutions, the term lecturer or distinguished lecturer refers to a position similar to an emeritus professor, describing a temporary position for visiting academics that will serve for a term or a year. The University of Chicago has also used the term senior lecturer to describe an individual that they consider to be a professor or other individual with high prestige, but that lack the time to commit to a tenure-track position.[iii]

  1. Regional difference

There are differences for both terms around the world. With teachers, almost all countries require that they have been educated in a university or college. Additionally, most governments require certification before an individual can teach. Despite these norms, some countries will allow those with only a high school education to teach elementary school. Australia allows each state or territory to dictate their education guidelines. Canada has uniform requirements that all teachers hold a Bachelor’s Degree, and in many instances, it must also include a second degree, such as a Bachelor of Education. France and Germany hire teachers as civil servants that are recruited either by a competitive exam or in special university classes. Ireland requires that teachers be registered with the Teaching Council while in Scotland they must register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. England requires a bachelor’s degree, completion of an approved teacher education program and licensure. In the United States, each state regulates licensure individually. In public school, teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree and be certified in their state. Charter schools do not require certification.[iv]

While the term for lecturer was previously defined for the United States, there are other regional differences around the world. In Australia, a lecturer, when used informally, refers to anyone that conducts lectures at a university or anywhere else. If the term is used formally, it signifies an academic rank that goes from associate lecturer, to lecturer, to senior lecturer to associate professor and finally, professor. In India, a lecturer must first pass the National Eligibility Test, and then the position they hold is similar to an associate professor in the US which is usually a tenure track position. In France, a lecture master a lower academic rank than university professor. In Israel, the term has a more generalized meaning, similar to the term academic in the UK. In Sweden and Denmark, a lecturer is similar to an associate professor in the US, while in Norway it is someone who may teach in a secondary school or a high school. In Poland, it typically signifies an individual that teaches foreign languages.[v]

  1. Salaries

The salary range for teachers also reflects many regional and national differences. Salary is based upon the civil servants’ salary index scale in Germany. In Canada, they make between $40,000 and $90,000 annually, while in England, the range is between £20,133 and £41,004. Scotland’s teachers make between £20,427 to £78,642. Ireland pays teachers between €27,814 and €52,423. The United States is notorious for paying teachers lower salaries than other countries, though this seems to have improved some recently. In 2007, the national median salary was $52,000 for high school teachers, though this figures varies by state with South Dakota only paying high school teachers $35,000 while New York paid $71,000. Elementary school teachers are paid less, with a national median of $39,259.[vi]

Since the term lecturer can refer to an incredibly wide range of positions, the salary is even more variable. However, for a full-time university lecturer, the salary would be substantially higher than a teacher. In 2011, lecturers teaching law earned an average of $108,760 with the top ten percent earning more than $187,000. Other subjects with atypically high salaries are economics, health science and medicine. Those that teach arts classes average around $72,660, while math lecturers earn $74,460 on average. These figures are based on salaries at universities, and those that lecture at junior colleges typically earn substantially less.[vii]

Author: Rikki Roehrich

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