Get A "Real Job?" Teaching Part-Time IS A Real Job!


by Linda Lyle
For nearly a decade, I worked as a full-time part-time adjunct. Translation: I worked part-time for multiple schools so that I had the equivalent of a full load. A merger between the technical school and the community college where I had been working cut my class offerings in half, so I had to go further afield to look for classes, like two counties away with a commute time to make L.A. proud. Soon, low enrollment and in-fighting cut into my already reduced class offerings until I had to go find a “real” job.
jobA “real” job, as people like to put it, is one where you work for one place, 40 hours a week, with health insurance, sick leave and retirement. It sounded like a plan. I found a job as a curriculum writer for a government contractor. Everything was great at first, like a honeymoon in Barbados. I had a real salary and was able to buy a house for the first time. I had a growing 401-k as a start on retirement. I liked my job, and it helped pay for work on a Ph.D. Then, I was transferred full-time to another department where there was so much drama that Shakespeare could have written three 5-act plays. Soon, there was trouble renewing the contract. Finally, my position was cut without warning.
Then, I took another “real” job working for an accountant. At $11/hour, I was struggling to pay bills, so I finally managed to pick up a few classes at night. I also picked up some classes online as well. My “real” job began to have drama as well since the boss’s wife was the office manager and conflicts escalated.
I did the math and realized that I was getting paid more a month to teach 2 classes 2 nights a week than I was to work 40 hours a week. No, I wouldn’t have insurance, but for what I was already paying for my half of the insurance, I could get an individual plan. I was also commuting forty minutes one way while gas prices skyrocketed.
I noticed that I was not sleeping well, I had bags under my eyes, and I had a very bad attitude. I was miserable. I had toyed with the idea for years that I would get a “real” job for a few years, save up some money, and then go freelance as a writer and adjunct, but fear held me hostage. That is until the day my last boss suggested “my heart wasn’t in my job.” He was right.
I started thinking about my time as a full-time adjunct. There were a lot of perks there too: holidays, spring break, very little drama, no supervisor watching my every move, short commute (sometimes just to my computer), and a lot of freedom to write. Were an insurance plan and a false sense of stability really worth it?
I decided to take a chance because a “real” job may come with perks, but doing what makes you happy is priceless.


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  1. I’ve always considered teaching to be a real-job but for me it has been part-time as I have a full-time day job. Nevertheless, working as a part-time adjunct fulfills a need for school and for me personally as I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences with others. It’s a win-win-win for the school, my students and myself. Cheers!
    — Dr. Jim Sass

  2. How often do those of us without a tenure-track job hear: “Get a real job?!?” It’s a way to minimize the importance of what part-time faculty and full-time temporary faculty (me) do for the institution/department. I have a “real Ph.D.” and I earn a “real paycheck” every two weeks. I teach “real students” materials from “real course texts.” I have a real job, thank you, and I am proud of the “real” teaching I do.

  3. I agree that adjuncting can be a “real job,” if you’re lucky.
    I made over 40K one year when I was able to teach 18 classes a year between two institutions- 6 fall, 6 spring, 4 summer.
    However, I usually wasn’t that lucky – usually getting 12-15 classes a year, keeping me closer to $30K. I was about to add a third institution to the two I was already working for.

  4. All true. Until drama invades the administration of one or all of your colleges, your classes get cancelled for low enrollment and there are no others to pick up, and your income is listed in 15 increments, rather than yearly. Adjuncts usually love to teach. But we grow weary because when teaching on three different campuses, with 3 different learning management systems and with 3 different academic calendars. And drama exists in the dean’s office or the department chair’s office just as it exists in the corporate world.

  5. Follow your passions, life is too short for drama!!! If you can make it work taking the road less traveled then you ROCK 🙂

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