Side Gig: Adjunct Professor

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.

Qualifications

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.

Part-Time Benefits

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.

Development

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.

Networking

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.

Sacrificing Time

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.

Side Gig

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.

Conclusion

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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10 thoughts on “Side Gig: Adjunct Professor

  1. BusyMom

    I have a master’s degree, and I will probably do this – probably after I retire. I am really interested in your experience. Do let us know more!

    Reply
  2. MyWifeBringsHomeTheBacon

    How timely! I’m starting my first adjunct course next week!
    For myself, I personally am teaching for the intellectual exercise and the opportunity to share my knowledge with the next generation of engineers. The money isn’t the main driver.
    However, it is a paid position, and frankly, as side hustles go, having a “second job” as a professor works out pretty well.

    This term there’ll be a lot of challenges with developing the curriculum and homework assignments, but once I’ve got that down, I think it’ll be a lot easier the second and especially the third time around. Overall, I’m really looking forward to it.

    But like most jobs, I think this is very dependent on your course and the students. I’m teaching a higher-level elective class with a roster of 22 students. If I was teaching an entry-level required course with 150 students, I might feel differently. So we’ll see.

    Is there anyway you can get a feel for the class sizes of the institution you’re looking at teaching at? The caliber of the students? etc? I think that all plays a great deal into your enjoyment and passion for teaching.

    Reply
  3. Tom @ Dividends Diversify

    This one hits home for me. I achieved FI at 48, and then went back to school (check out my Rockstar blog share Monday post-which is what led me here) to get a masters with the sole purpose of becoming an adjunct. I’ve taught 6-8 graduate business school night classes per year in accounting and finance at a local university as my early retirement side gig for the past 4 years.

    I’m not trying to self promote here, but later this year I have a post in my que about my experiences as a part time teacher. I will drop you a note so you don’t miss it. And of course feel free to contact me with any specific questions I can help you with.

    In a nutshell. Your post is very accurate. Great side gig. Tough full time gig if you need the money. I’ve been fortunate that my school provides a consistent schedule of the same classes for me. Even though my per class rate is $3,300 (better than average), I have been able to get my hourly rate up to about $45 per hour teaching the same classes over and over.

    Teaching’s a lot of work (if you want to do it well-most of the time is outside the classroom). Especially new classes. When I was first starting, the prep time for a new class would drop my hourly rate to below $10 an hour. So if you are constantly teaching new classes, it’s not worth it in my mind.

    I could go on and on. Too much for a blog comment, Happy to talk off line if you are interested. Generally, I’m positive about the experience, so don’t take any of my comments the wrong way. It’s something I always wanted to do.

    Tom

    Reply
    1. thefinancialjourneyman Post author

      Tom, thanks for sharing your experience.

      When I went back for my Master’s Degree, being able to teach as an adjunct was one of the reasons why I did it.

      I have not done so as of yet.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      Reply
  4. Amanda Page

    Agree: Great side gig, terrible full-time attempt at employment. The system is broken, and when I was trying to piece it together, I felt terrible that I couldn’t really be there for students on the campuses where I was teaching. I mean, I’d do some “office hours” at the coffee shop, but that’s not the same as having a real presence on campus and being a mentor for the students who major in the subject that you’re teaching. I’ve seen schools exploit adjuncts, and I’ve been exploited. I’ve also seen good situations and been in good situations. It can be a really flexible side gig. It can also be a hard one.

    Reply
  5. Kate

    I do some adjunct work and really enjoy it. I am much happier cobbling together work than having a FT 9-5, so it fits well with that. I like the networking and ability to grow skills. I’ve learned not only more about teaching, but also course and curriculum development, quality improvement and evaluation of courses, and so on. There’s a lot of potential if you choose assignments wisely and are not relying on it for a FT income/benefits.

    Reply
  6. OthalaFehu

    I have always been tempted by this option. I figure one day I will do some teaching on the side.My problem now is that campus is not close to my home and my young children are already a time suck.

    Reply
  7. Baby Boomer Super Saver

    Great to read all these different perspectives in the comments. My friend worked as an adjunct for years and could barely get by. She definitely felt she was being taken advantage of and eventually sold everything and moved to a state with a lower cost of living.

    Reply

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