Frequent Flyers and a Different Slant on Job Security

According to, the definition of  job security is “Freedom from the fear of dismissal or job loss.” In academe, the traditional definition of job security has been the tenure awarded position. In recent years, with fewer tenure track teaching positions being offered, it would seem that job security for the adjunct or contingent faculty member might be negatively affected as well. On the contrary, this is when it can be helpful to be a Freeway Flyer who teaches for two, three, or more colleges and college campuses.

Dependence on one college for income as a part-timer can be a tough way to make a living. Obviously, higher education has been facing,  and will continue facing, challenges in terms of funding and enrollment—at least in the near future. This affects everyone, of course. For example, a part-time instructor always has to worry about a class filling, because if it does not, there may not be another class offered to him or her. Also, part-time instructors will be the first ones to be “bumped” if a full-time instructor with a contract needs another course.

Here’s where the Freeway Flyer needn’t worry: if a class does not work out for an instructor at College A, there may be a class at College B or C that might work out. Keep in contact with department chairs or administrative deans and let them know you are interested in hearing about other classes or sections that might become available. In some cases, this might result in being assigned a class at the last minute, but the flexibility this requires is one of your strong suits. Also, being able to take over a class with very little notice demonstrates that you are the go-to adjunct, the one on whom they can depend.

Having a friendly working relationship with a department chair or dean can be helpful in other ways. For instance, if I am bumped from a class at one of my colleges, my department chair at this school always gives me first pick of classes for the next semester, or will even offer me an extra class.

Of course, this means that your schedule might change drastically from semester-to-semester, as might the particular classes you will be teaching. One semester, you might think you are working second shift because you have so many night classes. Another semester, you might only have to teach two days a week, but both of those days start at nine in the morning and finish at nine in the evening. But, this is also part of the fun of being an adjunct at multiple colleges: every semester is different and it never gets old. That is okay with you, though. If you wanted a 40 hour a week job with the same schedule every week, you would not have gone into teaching in higher education.

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