Hidden benefits of becoming an adjunct professor
Decades ago, part-time/adjunct faculty were not reasonably common. Most of the faculty were in a tenured position.
Over a while, the quality and performance of the education field changed. It can be because of the increasing student growth rates and demand for education. The increase in demand led to a higher cost for the degree. However, the return on the degree had declined over the years.
According to NCES, in fall 2018, there were 1.5 million faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 54 percent were full time, and 46 percent were part-time. There was an increment of part-time faculties by 72 percent from 1999 to 2011 and decreased by 7 percent between 2011 and 2018.
You can attribute the 72 percent increase in the number of part-time faculty to the budget dilemma in front of the education boards. To remain fit in the budget and be more cost-efficient, they turned to part-time faculties and filled the financial voids.
As a result, the number of faculty on tenure has declined drastically, and the adjuncts became the norm. Now, it is more likely that part-time/adjunct faculty teach students across many universities.
What is an adjunct faculty?
Adjunct faculty is a part-time contractual faculty paid less with all the workload of full time. Adjunct faculties can be part-time professors, lecturers, or instructors.
What is the difference between an instructor and a professor?
The instructor is the one who teaches the subjects, had other administrative duties but no research obligations. They hold advanced graduate/professional degrees.
Unlike the instructor, a professor has research obligations. They attain the highest rank. It indicates that he/she has done significant work in terms of research, institutional assistance, and teaching.
What is an Adjunct Professor?
An adjunct professor is a part-time professor. Ironically, there is a full-time workload with part-time pay. Institutions employ them on a contract basis with no tenure and do not consider them a part of permanent staff.
Adjuncts teach one or many classes at a particular institution or different institutions. Some may also teach at a satellite location closer to home or at home.
According to a study on the level of customization allowed by colleges to adjuncts in their online courses, 52.1% of the surveyed administrators said online adjunct professors are free to design their own course or tweak assignments, assessments, and content.
This can be allowed as long as the learning objectives of the course are achieved. They may conduct just one class or take many according to their convenience and as per the course structure.
They teach the subjects just as typical full-time professors do. But, they are free from some of the responsibilities of a full-time professor like conducting research, performing administrative tasks, etc.
They have more of an interim role without the guarantee of retaining over in the next term. Adjuncts are hired based on the semester and the number of class requirements. They usually teach introductory or prep courses.
The job description of an adjunct professor
Adjuncts can teach through traditional methods like typical face-to-face settings and non-traditional methods like using LMS or communication channels. There can be previously recorded sessions or online classes.
While maintaining flexibility, the adjunct professors spend their primary time teaching and interacting with the students. The following are the typical duties and responsibilities of the adjunct professors:
- Teaching introductory as well as specialized courses to graduate and undergraduate students.
- Creating a course syllabus that meets the standard requirements of the college and department.
- Planning the in-class discussions and lectures.
- Taking care of the assignments.
- Conducting exams and quizzes and grading papers.
- Assessing students’ participation and performance in the class.
- Reviewing class outcomes and overall students learning requirements.
- Staying updated on the subject matter of the course.
- Reporting students’ performance and review.
- Writing recommendation letters for students.
Reasons to become an adjunct professor
People choose to be an adjunct professor under different circumstances and for various reasons. There are two types of people in the world. Type 1 are the ones who blame the system for low education quality, and type 2 are the ones who start acting on it and try to improve the situation rather than whining.
The adjunct professors are type 2 people. They may want to make a difference in the quality of education. The following are the reasons why someone would choose to become an adjunct professor:
- To get the foot in the door of becoming a tenured professor.
- To get an additional source of income.
- To enjoy the flexibility and work part-time, raising little kids at home while the spouse is away with a full-time job.
- To add a little more to the plate.
- To gain experience
- To teach from home, if the classes are online.
Being an adjunct is not for you if you want a steady income with constant work assurance.
How to become an adjunct professor?
There are different requirements to become an adjunct at various institutions. But, the minimum qualification required is a master’s degree.
For teaching as an adjunct at an undergraduate level, you require a master’s degree. While teaching graduate-level students, a doctorate is a must, and some teaching experience is a plus.
Unlike two-year community colleges, universities and four-year colleges require you to have a master’s degree in the specific subject you want to teach.
Complete your master’s degree, apply for an open position and prepare for the interview.
How much does an adjunct professor make?
The salary of an adjunct professor is mostly per hour basis or per course basis. It is way less than that of a full-time professor, given the amount of work.
The salary range depends on the type of college, teaching experience, state, teaching discipline, degree, and expertise of the adjunct.
Four-year degree colleges offer higher pay than two-year community colleges. According to ZipRecruiter, the hourly salary ranges anywhere between $12 to $50. But it has seen as low as $5.29 per hour and as high as $116.35 per hour. In the United States, the average salary is $43 per hour as of October 2020.
It is difficult to make ends meet with just one adjunct professor job on hand and no other secondary income. The average salary is $20,000 to $25,000 per year excluding the job security and benefits of full-time professors.
How to become an online adjunct professor
The universities and colleges offer online courses with both synchronous as well as asynchronous options. Adjunct teaching is not limited to educating in-person classroom students. Adjuncts can also teach online.
Students sign for online, face-to-face classes in synchronous option. The adjunct’s job is to deliver lectures and perform activities together. It is the same as classroom teaching but only virtually.
While the asynchronous option is slightly different, the adjuncts record the lectures well in advance, and students can access them anytime they want. Adjunct needs to give assignments each week, and the students need to turn them on by the assigned date.
Knowledge of technology plays a vital role in both options.
Challenges faced by adjunct professor
The following are the challenges faced by the adjuncts:
- Inadequate compensation with the workload of tenured ones
- Measured as less valued than fellow full-time professors
- No guaranteed consistent job
- No employee benefits
- Not possible to rely only on this as a primary source of income
- No designated office chamber
According to Jon Pfeiffer, Media Law Professor, an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, “I don’t know how you could survive as an adjunct professor if that were your only job.”
“I tell each class because it’s true – I don’t do this for the money, I do it because it’s fun,” he said.
Benefits of becoming an adjunct professor
Even though the pay is low with no employee benefits, few perks motivate them to become adjunct professors. The following are the hidden benefits of becoming an adjunct professor:
It fits in your lifestyle
The most important part of being an adjunct professor is you get the flexibility. You get to choose the number of classes, the course structure, and the study’s time frame. If you like to do a bunch of part-time jobs instead of just one full-time job, then being an adjunct fits in your lifestyle. You have a certain amount of autonomy in your hand.
You get to put the time in the people who want it most
As an adjunct, what drives you most is the feeling of satisfaction in teaching without any other distractions. You get to do what you love the most. If you put your effort and time in the right direction, i.e., teaching and not in other administrative works, it is a win-win situation for you and the students. You can positively influence the students you teach.
You get to stay in touch with the current culture
You become part of the active community as an adjunct. You update yourself with all the current trends in your subject, which helps to stay in touch with contemporary culture. You can offer a diverse and concurrent viewpoint on the topic.
You get to share real-life experiences on the subjects and make the class more live. When you don’t have many students in a class, your relationship with individual students grows. You get to improve with the feedback of the students.
You not only bring experience but also gain experience
As an adjunct, you get to teach and share knowledge and experience. It seems there is no give and takes; it is only to give. But, there is a blessing in disguise.
By sharing your knowledge, you gain experience in teaching, conducting classes, creating course structure, etc. Unlike a full-time professor, you know numerous subjects if you are teaching multiple courses at multiple institutions.
Experience the life of teaching
If you are unsure whether teaching is the profession you want to get into, try being an adjunct. Try teaching as a side gig, and you get to test the waters of the teaching field.
Explore your skills and expertise in the field. Discover whether your teaching style fits the professional ethics and philosophy of academia. You can test whether you can integrate your practical knowledge with the theories of the subject.
You can get your foot in the door of becoming a tenured professor
Being an adjunct serves as a basis for obtaining a full-time position. The experience as an adjunct will add a feather to your resume. When you want to climb the ladder to be a full-time professor, the first step is to gain some teaching experience. Starting as an adjunct gives you valuable experience.
You get to focus on teaching rather than other administrative works
The most significant advantage of being an adjunct is you don’t need to do any administrative or departmental work. You can focus on creating a course, gathering material, and teaching. You are unaffected by the politics of academia.
You can stimulate and persuade the students to perceive the world through your lens and shift their outlook.
Personal growth and development
Working part-time will allow you to spend your spare time pursuing a Ph.D. or other education. It helps you to grow in your career path. The developmental activities conducted by the institutions help enhance skills and growth. Such activities include workshops to improve instructional skills, course completion on writing across the curriculum, etc.
Being on the campus helps adjuncts attend or get access to various conferences and hear visiting scholars, allowing them to grow. It helps in intellectual stimulation. You are also eligible to get a membership in a specific professional association for adjuncts.
Can I become an adjunct professor?
Anyone interested in teaching and meet specific educational qualifications can become an adjunct professor. Moreover, you must possess certain other qualities such as
- Clear communication and presentation skills.
- Ability to bring real-world experience along with teaching.
- Skills to collaborate with colleagues.
- Ability to use technology for conducting classes online.
- Zeal for education and academic fields.
- Confidence to teach.
The job outlook for an adjunct professor
Job Outlook provides you with valuable insight into how unchallenging it will be for you to get appointed in a particular profession. The national average job growth outlook of any occupation is 5%. But for 2018-2028, it is 11% for adjunct professors.
If the funding to colleges and educational institutions stay put, there will likely be more hiring of adjuncts to cut costs on salaries and perks. Hence, this trend of 11% expects to remain the same.
Professional association/groups for adjunct professors
There are individual professional associations or unions which work solely for adjuncts. They are:
- The Adjunct Project
- Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers
- SEIU Adjunct Action
There are few organizations that work for both tenured and adjunct faculty, such as
- NFM Foundation
- CAW (Coalition on Academic Workforce)
- American Association of University Professor
Looking on a positive note, the amount of confidence you gain is incomparable as an adjunct professor. You do everything from scratch like navigating school, drafting a syllabus for the course, assignments, questions, etc.
Teaching is a privilege. It is rewarding and satisfying. You can make a difference in the lives of students by molding their minds and future. After the course completion, the students’ positive feedback will make you fill the course request form for the next semester or year.