Become a Community College Professor: Education and Career Roadmap

Community college professors typically are faculty members who have attained the highest level of seniority at their institutions. Aspiring community college professors may begin their careers as instructors or assistant professors. Preparation for this career primarily includes a combination of education and teaching experience. View article »

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  • 0:01 Community College Professors
  • 1:16 Step 1: Earn an…
  • 1:40 Step 2: Get Teaching…
  • 2:11 Step 3: Resume and…
  • 2:29 Step 4: Search for Job…
  • 3:27 Step 5: Promotion to Professor

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Video Transcript

Community College Professors

Degree Level Master's degree; doctorate degree recommended
Experience 5 + years teaching experience
Licensure Licensure typically required
Salary $72,470 (2015 median salary for postsecondary teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A community college professor normally works at a 2-year academic institution and must juggle many responsibilities including, creating curriculum, teaching the material and evaluating and maintaining records on their students' progress. These professionals possess the ability to convey information efficiently and have an extensive knowledge and command of the English language, both written and spoken. They must also be well versed on how to use technology in the classroom.

Teachers typically work more than 40 hours a week and work much longer than 8 hours a day. Due to grading of student work, maintaining student records and communicating with parents about their children's progress, most community college professors work on the weekend as well.

Community college professors need at least a master's degree, although a doctorate degree is recommended. Five years or more of teaching experience may also be required. Most states require licensure, though specifics may vary from state to state. As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual salary for all postsecondary teachers, including community college professors, was $72,470 a year.

Step 1: Earn an Appropriate Degree

The degree level required for entry-level faculty positions depends upon the needs of the community college. Some require applicants to have only a master's degree, while others may prefer a doctoral degree. Alternatively, some schools may accept a combination of formal education and relevant work experience for those planning to work as instructors of technical or vocational programs.

Step 2: Get Teaching Experience

The role of entry-level community college faculty typically emphasizes teaching as opposed to conducting research, publishing professional articles or soliciting grants. Accordingly, community colleges place strong emphasis on teaching experience for applicants. Aspiring professors can obtain this experience by working as a graduate teaching assistant. This teaching experience should include planning lessons, grading papers and exams, conducting labs and maintaining office hours.

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Step 3: Resume and Teaching Portfolio

Resumes should be tailored to the specific requirements of the position applied for. In addition to a list of courses taught, the teaching portfolio should typically include copies of syllabi, lecture outlines, student evaluations, peer observations, samples of student work and teaching-related awards.

Step 4: Search for Job Openings

Applicants should identify the community colleges that are hiring applicants with their qualifications. Online resources are also available, including the California Community Colleges Registry, a database containing open positions and requirements. There are also online publications available, such as Community College Week, which publishes open faculty positions.

According to the BLS, there were more than 1.3 million postsecondary teachers employed in the U.S. in 2014, and this field is expected to see 13% growth between 2013 and 2024. The median annual salary for postsecondary teachers in general was $72,470 as of 2015. Postsecondary teachers of various specialties who worked in junior colleges earned an average of $73,380 as of May 2015, while those working in technical and trade schools earned an average of $59,850.

Step 5: Promotion to Professor

Though initial community college faculty positions emphasize teaching, career tracks leading to professor status may require other accomplishments, including research and professional publication. These accomplishments, along with the applicant's teaching performance, are reviewed after a specified number of years to determine eligibility for tenure and professor status.

Community college professors need at least a master's degree, though a doctorate degree may be required in some cases. In other cases, a mixture of education and work experience may make up for a lack for higher education.

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