Recently I returned briefly to my ancestral home and spent time with various relatives. I’ve described these experiences before. The women cook, the men sit and drink and talk about war and religion. All of the men have been in the military and/or are ministers (some both).
I have also complained before about how my family thinks I am kind of a loser relative to my brother, who is in the military. I was reminded of this again (and again) on my recent visit.
Army Uncle: So, you don’t seem to have been promoted in a while. What is the next rank you could attain if you are ever promoted again?
FSP: Professors only have 3 ranks: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. I’m a Professor.
Army Uncle: So you have no more opportunities for advancement? You’ve gone as far as you can go with your career? That’s it until you retire?
FSP: I can advance in my career without getting new titles every few years. As a Professor, I'm still doing research and making advancements with that.
Army Uncle: Huh.
I can see how, from the outside, being a Professor (as in, full Professor rank) might seem like a career plateau with no major expectations and no major changes until retirement, and there are surely some professors who coast along from promotion to retirement. Most of us, though, are still interested in our work, pursuing new ideas and research directions, obtaining research funds, advising graduate students and postdocs, and "advancing" in our careers in terms of the discoveries we make and, yes, the recognition we get for doing so.
I am glad that we don't have dozens of promotions and titles, though I am considering inventing some that professors can use in discussions with non-academic family members. For example, I think that given the length of time since my promotion to Professor.
13 years ago