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In the Pokémon universe (at least the video game and anime universes), protagonists generally study under a Pokémon Professor. The professors give the protagonists their first Pokémon and some general advice before sending them on their journey. In-universe, it seems that being a Pokémon Professor is an actual career path for someone with a strong interest in Pokémon who doesn't necessarily want to become (or can't become) a Champion.

Over and over, we've seen protagonists rise from humble beginnings as a new Trainer to becoming the Champion of their region, but have we ever seen anyone become a Pokémon professor or learned what the typical requirements are for becoming one? For example, are Professors usually former Champions who have achieved additional glory or is becoming a professor a completely different career path to Trainer? If I am one of those typical children who is being groomed to start out on a Pokémon journey on my tenth birthday but I want to be a Professor instead of a Trainer, do I still go on the journey or do I instead enroll in my local university's Pokémon Studies program?

  • Are there Pokémon Universities where someone can formally study for a PkmnD (Doctor of Pokémon) degree and then apply for appointment to a professorship?
  • Are Pokémon Trainers with enough badges permitted to sit some sort of Professor's Exam, upon passing which they switch from being a Trainer to being a Professor?
  • Are professors appointed by their predecessor based on whatever arbitrary criteria they choose to apply (the Mr. Miyagi's Dojo model)?

Just to be clear, I'm asking this question from an in-universe perspective, rather than about any "Pokémon Professor" designation that a real person in our own universe might be able to earn at card game tournaments or purchase by mail-order from Nintendo. Answers from any Pokémon media are acceptable (e.g. games, anime, etc.).

It is, of course, tempting to assume that the use of the word "professor" implies that they earn their positions in the same way that professors in our own world do (earning an advanced degree, publishing research, getting a faculty appointment at a university), but we are talking about a SFF universe where tweens are allowed to wander the countryside alone and battle each other with creatures that spout fire and deliver powerful electric shocks. It's quite possible that "professor" is simply the closest English word to approximate a concept, career, or professional certification that doesn't exist in our world. If the original Japanese word used in the anime, video games, etc. provides more clarity as to what a "professor" is or does, that is certainly relevant.

Another way to approach the question is whether becoming a Pokémon Professor is something that one can do intentionally as a career goal by following a fairly well-defined career pathway (e.g. earn a PkmnD degree at a university, complete a PostDeoxys, publish papers that demonstrate either the discovery of one new Pokémon species or five new moves, etc., and then apply for appointment to a professorship at a university), or is professorship something that just sort of "happens" to those whose prowess in Pokémon reaches beyond great into the legendary? Are Professors considered Professors because they completed the steps for appointment as Professors, or are they Professors because their Pokémon skillz are just so mad leet that others start socially addressing them as such?

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    "Celadon University is referred to several times in the anime. In Chikorita's Big Upset, Nurse Joy mentioned that she studied a degree in Pokémon psychology at Celadon University. In Fossil Fools, it was revealed that Professor Oak used to teach there, and Foster was one of his top students." - m.bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Celadon_University
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2021 at 13:13
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    I believe the only person we've seen "become" a Pokémon Professor is Sonia, in Sword and Shield - she seems to get recognised as a Professor simply by publishing a book on her findings about Zacian, Zamazenta and Eternatus, and the history of Galar.
    – Showsni
    Oct 21, 2021 at 1:00
  • @Show I thought of that too, but it doesn't really show everything else that went into her journey. Are there supplementary materials (e.g. anime, comics, etc.) that describe her career in more depth? For example, has she been working in Magnolia's lab since she was 10 or is she a washed-up former trainer who gave up halfway to the semifinals and enrolled in City College of Wyndon's PkmnD program? Oct 21, 2021 at 18:42
  • 3
    Those who can’t catch ‘em all, teach. Sep 5, 2022 at 7:24
  • Have a tree-themed name.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 11, 2022 at 18:02

1 Answer 1

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"Professor Sycamore was a student to Professor Rowan two years before moving to Kalos. He later studied at the Tower of Mastery in the hopes of learning to wield Mega Evolution, but decided that he was not strong enough, and left to become a Pokémon Professor."

Pokémon Wiki, Professor Sycamore.

This shows that there can be a sort of Mr. Miyagi Dojo Model upbringing to becoming a professor, though it’s definitely not the end-all-be-all.

Also here’s an interesting little trivia thing about Professor Oaks: In Red, Green, Blue & Yellow, Professor Oak was going to be a person that would battle you after you beat the champion. He would have a Tauros, Exeggutor, Gyarados, Arcanine and the starter that opposes your First partner Pokémon at its final form. It was cut from the game and it can only be accessed through hacking or glitches.

Anyhow in response to one of your questions, “do I still go on the journey or do I instead enroll in my local university's Pokémon Studies program?“, in my opinion you could do either. Becoming a Pokémon Professor seems to be rather the same as becoming a Pokémon Researcher. It seems “Professor” is a distinction to ground-breaking, well-established researchers to me. You can probably do any number of things to become one; from studying in a Pokémon university like Celadon’s or doing an internship at a Pokémon lab, writing papers from doing observation-based scientific studies in relation to Pokémon. Professor Oak himself was once a competitive trainer, so I do not believe you would have to be bound to any studies— at least not immediately— to become a professor later on.

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