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How to Become an Adjunct Professor [In 5 Simple Steps]

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Being a part of the adjunct faculty might be one of the best part-time jobs for professionals with a postgraduate degree.

Adjunct professors work directly with students but still possess the freedom to pursue other career opportunities.

Unfortunately, adjunct professor roles are competitive, as they’re contract-based. So, you need to be highly proficient in your field and have a positive impact on the students.

It doesn’t cost much to become an adjunct professor. However, you need to have the skills and knowledge to become a successful adjunct instructor!

Read on to learn how to become an adjunct professor in five key steps.

An Overview of an Adjunct Professor: A Primer

Adjunct professors are part-time professors who only teach a class or two. Their work duties are identical to associate professors, and they’re part of the faculty.

The main difference is that adjunct professors work through a contract. In contrast, associate professors continue working with the same faculty until their tenure.

Working as an adjunct professor is getting paid to go to school. That’s because adjunct professors have a higher degree, usually a Master’s or a Doctorate.

Then, they work at a college to pass down their knowledge for a semester or two.

The job responsibilities of adjunct professors include the following:

  • Teaching graduate or undergraduate studies
  • Developing course curriculum and ensuring the syllabus meets college standards
  • Assigning and grading papers
  • Evaluating students based on participation, performance, and assignments
  • Advising students on academic and professional matters
  • Staying up-to-date on changes within the course’s field

How Much Do Adjunct Professors Make?

The salary of adjunct professors depends on numerous factors. First, adjunct professors work per contract, and each agreement is different.

It also rests on the college or university of the adjunct professor. It’s only natural that community colleges pay less than Ivy League schools.

Lastly, the salary is based on the course itself and the expertise of the professor.

If you have an advanced degree that only a few other people have, you might find unique second jobs as an adjunct professor that pay well.

Generally speaking, the median salary of an adjunct professor is about $79,000 annually. Though, this figure can drastically change based on all the above factors.

What You’ll Need to Become an Adjunct Professor [And Associated Costs]

Each university requires different skills and expertise from its adjunct professors.

Your assets also differ according to your field of study, your previous experience, and the scarcity of professors in the field.

Here’s everything you’ll need to become a successful adjunct professor:

  • Higher education in your area of expertise: You can’t land a teaching job at a university without a higher degree. At the very least, you need a Master’s degree. Community or technical colleges only require relevant background and a Bachelor’s degree, though.
  • Excellent knowledge about the field: Knowing the syllabus isn’t enough to teach a course. Professors should have vast experience and information about everything in their field. This way, they can relay the information in a simple method so that students understand. They can also offer assistance in academic affairs outside the course material.
  • Great communication skills: Professors must be exceptional communicators. As an adjunct professor, communication skills help establish trust between you and the students, providing helpful and open learning.
  • Confidence: Teaching positions aren’t particularly jobs for people with anxiety. You’ll need to teach in relatively large classrooms. Accordingly, you must be comfortable with public speaking and have sufficient confidence in your experience and knowledge.
  • Passion for education: No one can thrive in a job they dislike. For this reason, you need to be a helpful individual who’s passionate about your students. Then, you’ll become a successful adjunct professor.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an Adjunct Professor?

It’s crucial to understand that adjunct professor roles prioritize knowledge and soft skills over physical assets.

So, depending on your background and education level, it can cost $0 to $60,000 to become an adjunct professor.

For example, you might need to earn an educator diploma to prove your ability to lead a course. Yet, the cost of becoming an adjunct professor is largely based on obtaining a Master’s or Doctorate.

Typically, a post-graduate degree costs anywhere between $20,000 to $60,000. Luckily, most universities offer scholarships and assistance packages.

You can even get some of your money back by selling textbooks. After all, you won’t need your old books after earning your degree!

Is It Hard to Become an Adjunct Professor?

Becoming an adjunct professor is quite an uncommon side hustle. Yet, it’s easier than you might expect, especially if you already have a higher degree.

All you need to do to become an adjunct professor is be well-informed in your field and find a university in need of a professor.

That said, the job can be pretty competitive. That’s because adjunct faculty members are scarce, as universities often rely on their associate and tenured professors. When a position opens, there’ll be plenty of candidates to choose from.

That’s not all. Since adjunct professors work through a renewable contract, you need to be splendid in your job and form positive relationships with both faculty members and students.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Adjunct Professor?

It takes no time to become an adjunct professor. If you already have the experience, the job is yours.

Though, most universities require adjunct professors to have a higher degree. This can take 3-7 years, depending on your field of study.

How to Become an Adjunct Professor in 5 Simple Steps

Becoming an adjunct professor is fairly simple. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you start your adjunct instructor career:

Choose a Field of Study

The first step to becoming an adjunct professor is to choose your field. Ideally, you should get a postgraduate degree that matches your interests, current job, and career goals.

You must keep in mind that you shouldn’t decide to get a degree so you can become an adjunct professor. Instead, select a field of study that you’re passionate about.

This way, you can find a suitable job with your part-time gig as an adjunct professor.

Get a Degree

Next, you need to study hard for a couple of years to earn your degree. You don’t have to graduate with honors, but since adjunct professor jobs can be competitive, a higher GPA grants you an advantage when applying for jobs.

Gain Practical Experience in Your Field

Professors shouldn’t only have academic knowledge. They must also have hands-on experience in their field of study.

That’s why you shouldn’t focus on your secondary education alone. Instead, utilize that time to gain relevant work experience.

This won’t just help you when job hunting, but it’ll also make obtaining your Master’s or Doctorate much easier.

Apply for Open Positions

After getting your application material ready, it’s time to start applying for adjunct instructor roles.

While you can find a suitable role at a top-ranking university, getting an adjunct professor job in a community college is also great. That’s because a lot of universities might require previous teaching experience.

Since adjunct professor jobs are short-lived, you should be constantly applying for different roles at different universities.
Job openings are also scarce.

Therefore, it’ll greatly help if you develop connections with human resources departments at different universities.

Start Teaching

Now that you’ve landed a position as an adjunct associate professor, use the opportunity for professional development.

For starters, you should prove your value to the faculty by improving the curriculum and building positive relationships with students and fellow professors.

Don’t be discouraged if you have to start small at first. After all, adjunct professor roles are part-time and contract-based. You can quickly adjust your contract or switch universities.

Reasons to Consider Becoming an Adjunct Professor

There are plenty of benefits to becoming an adjunct professor, including:

  • Freedom: Adjunct instructor roles are only part-time. They’re not time or energy-consuming. This means you’re free to pursue any other career option you might like!
  • Contract-based: Working as an adjunct professor can be pretty flexible. There’s no schedule tying you down. Also, if you don’t like an aspect of your job or salary, you can negotiate the contract.
  • New perspective: While you can experience a lot of professional and financial growth in your regular job, it can be redundant. In contrast, adjunct professors have an inside perspective on the world of academics. They also gain fresh information from the young brains of students.
  • Shaping the future: There’s no better feeling than making a positive impact on others. Well, adjunct professors get to pass down their knowledge. They also have enough free time to work hands-on in their field.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions people have about adjunct professors:

What is the difference between an adjunct professor and an associate professor?

As the name suggests, an adjunct professor isn’t an essential part of a learning institution. They’re ineligible for tenure and only work part-time.

Adjunct professors teach classes, grade papers, and develop syllabuses like associate professors. Their class hours might be limited, and they’re not required to do academic research.

What is the opposite of an adjunct professor?

The opposite of an adjunct professor would be a tenured professor. Typically, tenured professors hold the highest degrees in their fields.

Then, they can teach full-time at a certain university or college. Unlike adjunct professors, tenured professors have strong job security and academic freedom.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

If being an adjunct professor feels like too much work for you, or if you don’t want to pursue a higher degree, here are similar jobs to check out:

  • How to become an online tutor: Online tutors work directly with students, yet they’re far away from the academic field. The best part is that you can become an online tutor from the comfort of your home!
  • How to become a health coach: You can easily become a health coach by getting the right certification. Then, you can work directly with people, or in fitness centers.
  • How to become a football coach: If you love athletics and have a couple of football trophies, you should consider becoming a football coach. All you need is a diploma or bachelor’s degree in leadership or sports management!

Wrapping Up

Many people wonder how to become an adjunct professor, but it’s easier than they think. If you already have a postgraduate degree, then you’re set!

Working as an adjunct professor is perfect if you want flexibility and the freedom to pursue other ventures.

That being said, the job can be pretty competitive, since most universities rely on their tenured professors.

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