A 2009 Money magazine article entitled “5 Ways to Pump up Your Income” recommended college teaching to part-time employment seekers. Let’s be clear: teaching college part-time, as a rule, will not lead to full-time teaching jobs. On average, part-time faculty earn $2,500 per class. No one is going to get rich teaching part-time. However, for employed professionals interested in teaching and/or supplementing their incomes, part-time teaching can be a fun and engaging opportunity.
At many colleges, there are far more adjunct instructors than full-time faculty members. This means there are many part-time opportunities for those who qualify. And while a doctoral degree is required for some positions, professionals with no more than associate’s degree qualify for many college teaching positions.
What Effective College Instructors Say is Important
A book entitled Practical Magic: On the Front Lines of Teaching Excellence
Practical Magic – On the Front Lines of Teaching Excellence (2003) identified reasons award winning community college instructors were inspired to teach. In rank order, those instructors were motivated by the following:
1. A desire to make a difference
2. The love of the subject
3. The love of learning
4. The love of people
5. A positive role model
6. The love of teaching
7. Personal benefits
9. Family/friends/significant others
10. A negative role model
Minimum Qualifications for Teaching College Courses
The requirements to teach at a college range from an associate’s degree to a doctorate depending on the course and the institution. Universities hire instructors with master’s degrees for adjunct positions and year-to-year contract assignments. However, most full-time tenured positions require a doctorate. On the other hand, two-year colleges (e.g. community colleges and technical colleges) offer the majority of opportunities requiring less than a master’s degree.
While primary and secondary schools (i.e., K-12) require teaching certifications, colleges and universities do not. Institutions may require professional certifications to teach such courses as emergency medical technician, nursing and real estate. For disciplines like accounting, automotive technology and computer networking, professional certifications may be preferred or required.
Another important point is that students preparing to enter the workforce like to have confidence that their instructors are familiar with current systems used in those careers. If you were teaching an accounting class at a Canadian university, for example, you’d want to be familiar with something like a Canadian corporate tax software package.
Requirements for Prior Teaching Experience
Professionals seeking adjunct teaching positions are evaluated based on their education and experience. College and universities prefer to hire individuals with prior teaching experience, but that is not always an option. Candidates with a master’s degree who worked as teaching assistants (TA) in college are often credited with that experience.
When there is not a firm requirement, institutions consider other evidence of an applicant’s aptitude for teaching. Experience as a trainer in an industrial setting and experience making formal presentations are valuable. This is especially true for career and technical education courses, such as computer aided drafting or electronics technology. In the end, the verbal and interpersonal skills an applicant displays during the interview are often enough to secure that first teaching assignment.
Hiring Part-time College Faculty
Normally, the adjunct faculty hiring authority is a college administrator or a full-time faculty member with a special assignment. Administrators include deans, associate deans and assistant deans. Instructors who hire adjuncts teach but also fulfill responsibilities such as department chair or curriculum coordinator.
The Modern Language Association (MLA) provides in-depth advice for pursuing “A Community College Teaching Career.” This article addresses both full-time and adjunct employment and includes advice for “Planning for the Interview.”
Characteristics of Effective College Instructors
There are a many characteristics college hiring authorities seek when reviewing applicants for part-time teaching assignments. Job seekers pursuing adjunct positions who possess them are in high demand. These sought-after traits include the following:
• Strong work ethic
• High energy level
• Sense of humor
• Passion for the discipline
• Superior speaking and writing skills
• Desire to help others
Relative to motivation, hiring authorities are looking for individuals who are motivated by the fulfillment they expect to achieve from teaching and are concerned by those who primarily desire the monetary compensation. In reality, faculty members must put in many long hours of preparation. The first time an instructor teaches a course this could easily mean 10 hours a week or more. Occasionally, a new part-time instructor must relearn some of the course material or possibly learn it for the first time from the course textbook.
Other duties outside the classroom include preparing lesson plans, creating assignments, designing tests, and grading. If new instructors calculate their compensation based on the total number of hours worked inside and outside the classroom it may be below minimum wage!
The Supply of and Demand for Part-time College Instructors
The majority of adjunct teaching opportunities exist and two-year institutions such as community colleges. Most of these institutions have a high demand for instructors to teach mathematics, science, and English. There is also an ongoing demand for adjuncts to teach career and technical education courses. For courses with lower enrollments a college may have no full-time instructors, which means good adjuncts are in high demand.
The qualifications for teaching college courses can be demanding, but in many cases they are less than most people assume. For this reason, there is a shortage of qualified, effective adjunct instructors at many colleges. Consequently, part-time teaching at a college or university presents an excellent opportunity to earn a supplemental income. For many applying for a college teaching job leads to a rewarding and fulfilling source of additional income.
Jeffries, Alexis & Rosato, Donna. “5 Ways to Pump Up Your Income.” Money, Dec 2009, Vol. 38 Issue 12.
Roueche, John E., Milliron, Mark D. & Roueche, Suanne D. Practical Magic – On the Front Lines of Teaching Excellence, Washington, DC: Community College Press, 2003.