Adjunct Professor: Job Description and Education Requirements

Adjunct professors are part-time, non-salaried faculty members of a college, university or other postsecondary school. While most adjunct faculty typically have earned a graduate degree, some community colleges or technical schools accept candidates with a bachelor's degree and several years of postsecondary teaching experience.

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Adjunct Professor Job Description

Adjunct professors may consider employment in private or public educational institutions, vocational or career schools or online distance-learning universities. Larger universities or colleges, typically offer classes during the week, while in community colleges and programs that focus on adult or continuing education, classes may be held at night or on weekends to accommodate students' work schedules.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there in an increasing demand for adjunct faculty due to changing financial and enrollment needs (www.bls.gov). An adjunct professor often fills vacancies created either by full-time faculty who've retired or gone on sabbatical, as well as an unexpected increase in student enrollment. Prerequisite or 100-level courses are oftentimes heavily staffed by adjunct faculty. Accomplished professionals with careers outside of the education field may be asked to teach as an adjunct professor for classes that are not normally offered to provide students with their real-world experience and further enrich a preexisting program.

Education Requirements

Larger universities and colleges typically require that a candidate have completed or are currently enrolled in a master's, doctoral or terminal degree program. A candidate who holds a bachelor's degree may pursue employment at a 2-year distance-learning or vocational institution, as their faculties often consists of part-time professors. The BLS also mentions that some institutions prefer professors have an academic background from dual or multiple disciplines so they are qualified to teach a variety of subjects.

Required Teaching Experience

In addition to a minimum degree requirement, prospective adjunct professors are usually expected to have several years of post-secondary teaching experience. Students enrolled in a master's degree program or doctoral candidates often gain experience working as graduate teaching assistants (TAs) to fulfill program prerequisites or help fund their tuition. The BLS also notes that some educational institutions require TAs to take training or attend classes in preparation.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have employment outlook or salary data specifically for adjunct professors. The BLS expected growth for all postsecondary teachers to increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022; however, it noted that the trend in academic employment was moving from full-time, tenured jobs toward part-time and adjunct positions.

For salary data, the BLS tends to report data based on the academic specialty, like engineering, history or business, and these salaries tend to be for full-time, tenured professors. The generic category of 'all other postsecondary teachers' saw a median of $60,670 as of May 2013; however, this data isn't specific to adjunct faculty, who often work part-time for smaller contracted salaries.

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