Reasons to Become an Adjunct Professor and How to Do It

Dr. Ellen E. Mauer
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.

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. Salary may vary from $1000 to $5000 for a 3-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 real 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.

Some adjuncts teach at a university location, but others may teach at a satellite location that is closer to home. Not having to travel far to teach is a benefit. This kind of job would not be for you if you need a steady income as becoming an adjunct does not come with a promise of regular work. It is imperative to be flexible and organized for this job.

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.

The current pandemic situation is also contributing to the desire to teach or learn from home. When the class I regularly teach face-to-face went online due to the pandemic, I learned as much as my students learned about how to use technology to deliver instruction. The experience was rewarding at all levels.

How to Become an Adjunct Professor

The first thing to do is to assess your desire to become an adjunct. If you possess the desire, then make sure you have the degree. Every college or university has its own set of requirements. To teach undergraduates, some colleges/universities will allow those with a master’s degree to teach.

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.

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 as well as how often you’d like to teach classes.


*Updated September, 2020
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