Reasons to Become an Adjunct Professor and How to Do It

  (Updated July 29, 2022)
Sandra Burns & Dr. Ellen E. Mauer
Sandra Burns & Dr. Ellen E. Mauer
Sandra Burns: Elementary school principal; M.A. Ed. Administration & Leadership K-12, Special Education Supervision K-12 – Dr. Ellen E. Mauer: Elementary school principal; Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Older teacher lecturing to college students in a classroom.

What is an Adjunct Professor?

An adjunct professor is a part-time professor for a college or university. They differ from full-time professors in that they are contracted to teach one or more classes each year. They do not have other duties or responsibilities that a full-time person might, such as publishing, conducting research, or attending meetings. Some colleges or universities will provide an office for you and others will not.

As we navigate college experiences, there may be certain instructors that really stand out to you. Some of your instructors teach several classes and are considered full-time employees, while others are deemed adjunct instructors and may teach one or two courses a semester and are part-time. Adjunct instructors play a very important role and are often a perfect fit for the course or courses they teach.

A lot of responsibility comes with being an instructor at a college and teaching adults. Outstanding adjunct professors or adjunct instructors can easily teach and foster relationships with students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. This is very comparable to teaching any grade level students, but also carries over into the adult world of education.

As we build relationships with our students it is essential to always keep in mind that the college students want to be there in your classroom. They have a goal in mind and doing well in courses they are taking will help them reach their goals. They are allocating their time to earn college course credits, adding a certain desire to the class.

There is a significant amount of planning and preparation that goes along with being an adjunct professor. In order to be successful as an adjunct professor, you should prepare assessments that enrich and challenge students.

An adjunct faculty’s responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing and improving syllabi
  • Understanding students’ needs
  • Developing engaging lesson plans
  • Ensuring the relevant learning resources are available

An adjunct also has the responsibility to be able to evaluate student performance and address any issues promptly.

Teaching Online as an Adjunct Professor

Some universities and colleges offer both synchronous and asynchronous online courses for their students. It may be an option to try this method of adjunct teaching. Each university will have a method and set way to train you to do online teaching. A synchronous course would look like a face-to-face course and students would sign on at the same time each week to see you present material and to do activities together.

An asynchronous course would look very different. Students would access pre-recorded lectures and digital curriculum. They would turn in assignments and attend discussions through discussion boards and collaborative documents at times of their own choosing. This type of adjunct teaching is gaining in popularity as students are looking for flexibility in scheduling, especially after the pandemic.

Reasons to Become an Adjunct Professor

There are many reasons to become an adjunct professor. If you already have a full-time job in education, this will add a little more to your plate, but you will reap many benefits. You will get a little more money. Adjunct professor salary may vary from $1000 to $5000 for a three hour course, depending upon the university’s pay scale. The national average is $2700 for a 3-hour course. You will gain experience teaching at the college level. That may lead to a post-retirement income for you. Continuing professional development units may be awarded in your state towards your license renewal.

This opportunity offers you intellectual stimulation and you may see undergraduate or graduate students that you wish to keep in contact with to recruit for your own school district. I’ve been able to assist and place graduate-level students in my own district as well as others for some “hard to fill” spots. You will be in a unique situation to see the work ethic and skill level of students first hand. You can see how well they interact with others, problem-solve, and adhere to deadlines. This can be better than any interview scenario allows.

As an adjunct, you are immune to the politics of academia. Best of all, you will be able to give back to the profession by talking about your experiences first-hand and allowing the students to view the world they want to enter through your lens. It helps your students to shift their perspective in a way they may not ordinarily be able to do.

You will be able to speak directly to how the theories apply to life applications and point out the pros and cons of different scenarios that students may not be able to anticipate at their current level. It is very rewarding to see that “Aha!” moment on the faces of the students when something you’ve taught clicks for them. You have the ability to motivate and inspire others through your teaching.

Benefits of Being an Adjunct Professor

Often adjuncts are currently working in the field that they are teaching their course about. This offers an “inside perspective” often one that is fresh and new on what the job field requires.

Think of it this way, an experienced college professor who may teacher a special education class and hasn’t actually taught in a public school in over twenty-years, versus an adjunct instructor who currently supervises teachers who teach special education as their full-time job and teaches courses part-time in the evening, you could see how the information could be more updated and practical when sharing true life experiences.

One additional benefit that should not be overlooked is that often universities and colleges offer courses that are not only in-person but also online. This adds more flexibility to a part-time adjunct professor’s schedule if they are willing to do either one of these options or possibly even both. Having the advantage and experience to teach both virtually and face-to-face can surely be a resume builder for anyone looking to enhance the delivery of their instructional techniques.

Adjunct instructors at times are also retired and working to earn an extra income. The courses that they sometimes teach are based on their career experiences. Interesting enough, instructors are able to learn from their students on how they best learn. This determines if lecturing, group work or hand on projects are best for the class. While being an adjunct you are granted the flexibility with what works for your class as long as you are following the approved syllabus for the course that you are teaching.

So, what does it take to be an adjunct professor?

How to Be an Adjunct Professor

Adjunct Professor Qualifications

It is common for adjunct instructors to have completed a master’s degree to teach in a higher education environment. At times some colleges or trade schools may only require a bachelor’s degree, along with experiences related to the content that is being covered on the syllabus. Teaching experience in a university or college setting is often preferred, but everyone has to start somewhere, and this requirement is not always necessary.

To teach at the graduate level, generally, some kind of doctorate is required. A curriculum vitae should be created, and you must indicate the areas in which you would like to teach as well as any previous experiences that would qualify you to be an adjunct in those classes. It can be helpful to look at some college catalogues of classes and read the descriptions. From there, you will be able to tell if it is something you can do and something you are interested in doing. You might also create a course and offer it to hiring personnel as an option. This will show your creativity.

It is evident that the demand for adjunct professors has grown over the last few years and so has the competition. When there is a high pool of applicants, many institutions may prefer candidates who have completed or who are currently enrolled and working on earning their doctoral degree in the field of the teaching assignment.

Specific Courses

Adjuncts are often hired to teach a specific course that other faculty may not have expertise in or courses that are in high demand. Individuals filling these positions may find recurring opportunities to teach these classes and secure their foot in the door if they hope to eventually become a full-time instructor.

Networking

Suppose there are adjunct teaching opportunities at a college or university that open up and are positions that seem desirable. In that case, this may be the perfect fit for someone who is looking to teach adults who truly want to learn. Networking with other adjunct instructors may be a valuable took to determine if this is something that you may be interested in pursuing.

If you know someone at a college or university who is teaching full-time or as an adjunct, consider networking with those people to see if they can help you find the person making the decision about employing adjuncts. You could offer to be a guest lecturer in their class to give them an idea about what you can offer to students. You may be able to co-teach a session or two to get a feel for what this job would be like.

Finally, you can always send out applications to many colleges/universities by looking at what classes they are hiring for on their job boards. There are many websites that advertise for adjunct positions. Once you enter this part-time profession, you get to decide whether or not to continue and how often you’d like to teach classes.

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