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Adjunct Professor: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an adjunct professor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

If you're interested in becoming an adjunct professor, you need to be enrolled in or have completed a graduate program, and you should also have some postsecondary teaching experience. Adjunct professors can work in a variety of settings, including public or private institutions, career or vocational schools, or even a distance-learning university. Their work can take place either during the day or in the evening.

Essential Information

Individuals looking to become an adjunct professor need to be enrolled or have completed a master's, doctoral or terminal degree program. Some programs may prefer students who have an academic background in more than one area, so they can teach a variety of subjects. As an adjust professor, individuals can work in the private or public educational sector. These professors usually fill in vacancies created by full-time faculty who have either retired or gone on sabbatical. Accomplished professionals may be asked to serve as these professors, as they can provide real-world knowledge and skills to students.

Career Postsecondary Teacher
Education Requirements Master's or doctoral degree
Other Requirements Licensure required if preparing students for an occupation; several years of postsecondary teaching
Job Growth (2014-24)* 13%
Mean Salary (2015)* $71,060 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

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). Prerequisite or 100-level courses are oftentimes heavily staffed by adjunct faculty.

Education Requirements

Larger universities and colleges typically require that a candidate has completed or is 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 consist 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.

In addition to a minimum degree requirement, prospective adjunct professors are usually expected to have several years of postsecondary 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 13% between 2014 and 2024; 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 mean annual salary of $71,060 as of May 2015.

Adjunct professors typically hold a master's or doctoral degree, and have some years of teaching experience at the college level. Demand for all postsecondary teachers, including adjunct professors, is expected to be strong, as job opportunities will increase 13% through the year 2024.

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