How to Become an Adjunct Professor

HBEU03A career in higher education as an adjunct professor offers the opportunity to shape the lives of college students of all ages who may be seeking degrees for first-time careers, for advancement opportunities in current careers, or for the competitive edge they need to enter new careers. Adjunct professors are also known as postsecondary teachers or guest lecturers, and typically only work part-time, either on campus or from their home offices, providing online instruction or facilitation.

 In the 21st century, there no longer appears to be any standard description of a “traditional” college student. Decades ago, most students planning to attend college did so immediately after high school graduation, placing them in their teens to early 20s, and comprising the largest percentage of college students. Today, however, middle-aged and older first-time or returning students equal or often surpass the number of younger students. This presents a challenge for the adjunct professor who must learn to address college students of virtually all ages, perhaps from 18 to 80, as well as varying learning styles.
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The minimum degree for entry-level adjunct professor jobs is a master’s degree for community college instruction, but most colleges and universities now require a terminal degree, which means you must have a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Education (EdD) degree, or sometimes an Education Specialist (EdS) degree is acceptable. In addition, you must have course work and experience in the particular subject matter (such as literature, math, science, or other relevant subjects).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS) projects a 17 percent job growth rate for postsecondary teachers between 2013 and 2020, about as fast as average among other industries, and potentially higher rates for adjunct professors, especially online.

How to Become an Adjunct Professor

In order to become an adjunct professor, you will need a minimum of a master’s degree in your respective field for positions in community colleges; otherwise, you will need a doctorate degree. Either degree level will usually need to be in the subject matter you would be responsible for teaching or facilitating. This may involve a commitment of 4 to 6 years, depending on your current educational level and whether you take traditional or online classes.

Your degree program will allow you to choose an area of specialization, in addition to subject matter areas. For instance, you may choose from concentrations such as curriculum and instruction, higher education leadership, instructional design for online learning, postsecondary and adult education, or training and performance improvement.

Valuable skills and qualities necessary for adjunct professors include effective listening and communication skills, both in writing and speaking; critical-thinking skills; and instructional skills, especially for making concepts understandable for students. For those who plan to provide online instruction, you must also possess technical skills and be technologically literate.

How Online Education Can Help

Adult learners seeking degrees to become adjunct professors typically already keep busy with jobs or careers, and often have the demands of relationship or family obligations to meet as well. If this describes you, don’t give up your dream of pursuing that degree! Online education provides a convenient and flexible format that is more conducive to earning a degree even as you maintain your lifestyle and its relevant obligations.

Keep in mind, however, that most online postsecondary teaching degree programs, regardless of specialization, also have mandatory residency requirements, as well as fieldwork hours.

Whether studying for your master’s or doctorate degree, typical courses for a secondary teaching degree program leading to adjunct professor opportunities might include the following:

  • Educational research methods
  • Advanced teaching methodology and assessment
  • Advanced curriculum and instruction
  • Emerging technologies and multimedia for instruction and curriculum
  • Adult learning theories

Our staff here at Web College Search looks forward to helping you choose the right school and degree program to meet your needs. All you have to do is fill out our convenient sign-up form on our site, and this will allow you to receive full information about the school/s you are potentially interested in attending.

It’s also very important to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and then apply to the school/s with postsecondary teaching degrees that can lead to adjunct professor opportunities. Bookmark our site so you can return whenever you would like to peruse our helpful articles and other resources. May your educational journey lead you into an adjunct professor position so you can help prepare other college students to enter their own new careers.

Considerations for a Career as an Adjunct Professor

It is important to keep in mind that since adjunct professors only work part-time, there are typically no benefits and no tenure opportunities offered. Also, due to the impending Affordable Care Act – if it comes to fruition – many schools will continue to cut back on hours (under 30 per week) and course loads for adjunct professors in order to avoid having to pay for health insurance.

Yet, according to the writer of an editorial piece for the Concord Monitor, “adjuncts now teach more than 70 percent of all college courses. Without them, higher education would be even less affordable.” Adjunct professors generally also receive compensation based on per student/per course rates, rather than hourly wages.

The editors of Adjunct Professor Online emphasized also that adjunct professors receive lower compensation because of their part-time, non-tenured status, and share no administrative duties or research responsibilities. This, however, can be a “blessing in disguise” because without those obligations, many adjunct professors work in virtual positions providing online instruction for several colleges or universities, effectively increasing their compensation to full-time or more than full-time pay.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide details for strictly part-time adjunct professors, you may get an idea of potential earnings by considering half of these rates, based on the May 2012 statistics for varying general categories of full-time postsecondary teaching and related positions as follows:

  • Postsecondary Teachers: median annual wage of $62,390, with lowest 10 percent earning $29,120, and highest 10 percent earning $134,120.
  • Postsecondary Education Teachers: median annual wage of $59,350, with lowest 10 percent earning $32,030, and highest 10 percent earning $104,920.
  • Education, Training, and Library occupations: median annual wage of $51,240, with lowest 10 percent earning $19,940, and highest 10 percent earning $71,070.

The job outlook for postsecondary teachers overall, according to the BLS, is about as fast as other industries, with about a 17 percent growth rate in job openings between 2013 and 2020. This translates to about 2,061,700 positions by 2020. The tenured opportunity for postsecondary teachers is competitive, but since more academic institutions are implementing the adjunct route for greater numbers of courses, there will be increasing opportunities for adjunct professors to find employment, especially online.

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