An Adjunct Professor is a Professor who is not on the tenure track. Most Adjunct Professors are professionals who have an advanced degree (MS, MBA, MA, JD, or Ph.D.) and have full-time careers outside of academia. Many teach evening, weekend, or online classes. Adjunct Professors are utilized to teach both undergraduate and graduate classes based on their own current level of education and specialization.
If you have an advanced degree, want to earn some extra money, and like the idea of teaching without becoming a full-time professor, working as an Adjunct Professor might be a good side gig for you. There is currently a big demand for Adjunct Professors. That is due to the increasing enrollment at colleges and universities. It is also due to the growing availability of taking online classes.
Students are no longer limited to physical classrooms. They can now take a class anywhere in the world provided they have a laptop and internet access. That provides more teaching opportunities for Adjunct Professors to teach online.
The primary requirement to work as an Adjunct Professor is to have an advanced degree. To teach at a community college or junior college, the instructor generally must have 18 credits beyond a Bachelor’s Degree and be enrolled in classes towards a Master’s Degree. The general rule to teach undergraduate classes at a four-year university is to have completed a Master’s Degree. To teach graduate level classes, most universities require a Ph.D. or at least be enrolled in a Ph.D. program.
A Broken System
After talking with many different people who teach as Adjunct Professors, they all claim that the Adjunct Professor system is broken. They all make that statement because the pay is low and almost zero benefits are offered as part of the compensation package. On average, an adjunct professor earns $2,700 per class. The average salary for a Tenured Professor is $84,000 plus full benefits and job security.
Not Ideal For Full-Time Employment
If being an Adjunct Professor is your full-time job, I agree that the salary is low based on the level of education required to do the job. However, when I was in college, most of the Adjunct Professors who I had also had full-time careers outside of the classroom. They taught classes at night or on the weekend to supplement the salary from their full-time position. For side money, if someone teaches 5 classes per year, at $2,700 per class, that equals $13,500 per year. In my opinion, that is decent money for a side gig.
Being an Adjunct Professor allows a professional to teach without having to stress over all of the requirements that an Assistant Professor faces on their way towards becoming a Tenured Professor. An Adjunct Professor does not have to conduct research and consistently publish articles in academic journals. An Adjunct Professor’s main duties are to develop the syllabus, facilitate the class, grade assignments, and meet with students to ensure that they are learning the required materials.
As an Adjunct Professor, not only do you get to share your own professional experience with students, but you get the chance to actively enhance your own professional development. While Adjuncts don’t have to conduct research, they do get to interact with Tenured Professors who are experts in their area of study. That contact with Tenured Professors allows Adjunct Professors to stay current with all the new cutting-edge information in their discipline.
There is also the opportunity to interact with other Adjunct Professors. This opens countless networking situations with local professionals in your field of study or in other departments. This contact with other instructors can truly be useful in helping you to find ways to improve the students learning experience.
There are also some potential negative points to consider before becoming an Adjunct Professor. It is time-consuming to prepare lectures, grade assignments, and to meet with students. However, once you prepare a lecture, you can use the outline for classes you teach in the future.
The Path To Becoming Tenured
Another issue to consider is that teaching as an Adjunct Professor is not the pathway to becoming a Tenured Professor. Even if you teach a variety of different classes as an Adjunct Professor over the period of a few years at different colleges, a major part is missing. As mentioned earlier, Assistant Professors must conduct research and be published on their path to becoming a Tenured Professor. How you teach is as important as where and what you teach on the road to becoming a Tenured Professor.
I feel that working as an Adjunct Professor is a great side gig, but a poor choice for full-time employment. It allows you to put your advanced degree to use in an academic setting. It is decent part-time money to use for enhancing your savings or to use to pay off a graduate school debt that you might have incurred. It is a great way to help students by sharing your professional experience to complement the required curriculum of the class. Lastly, it is a great way to network and stay current with new trends in your area of expertise.
Currently, I am considering becoming an Adjunct Professor. I have the opportunity to teach evening and weekend classes at a local community college. It is an opportunity to earn extra money, but I just do not know if I am willing to commit my free time to a second job.
Have you ever worked as an Adjunct Professor? Was it a positive experience? Do you recommend it as a side gig?
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