Life as an Adjunct Professor

Yet another article on the turn toward academic part-timers. My wife spent twenty years as an adjunct, which on one level was OK with her, because the community college at which she mostly taught dumped hellish loads on their full-time instructors.

On the other hand, the pay was minimal: $600-900 per course. (Welcome to Colorado, where a view of the mountains is considered to be the equivalent of multiplying your wages by two.)

But it is not just the community colleges that rely on part-time faculty:

Even prestigious schools rely heavily on adjuncts, especially for teaching classes of freshmen and sophomores. At Harvard, adjuncts accounted for 57 percent of the faculty in 2005; at Boston University that year, they made up 70 percent. And over the last three decades, the number of adjuncts employed across the country skyrocketed by 210 percent while tenure-track faculty hirings rose merely 7 percent.


4 thoughts on “Life as an Adjunct Professor

  1. Yes, well, welcome to southern Colorado. And those were semester-length courses. A few were online, but most were conventional lecture sections.

  2. Peg

    David Kociemba is my colleague from Emerson; he does a great job heading the part-time faculty union. One reason I continued to commute weekly to Boston from NY after I loved was the rate of pay for adjuncts was twice what I made in the city I live in now. But they stopped giving me enough work to make it worth the travel. Another little-known dirty secret of adjuncting; once you’ve been teaching at one place for over a decade, the department often tries to edge you out by giving fewer teaching assignments. Because when you’ve been there a while you start to accrue a few perks like, oh, sharing a cubicle with two people instead of three. It’s not like colleges are hurting for fresh applicants to these jobs; plenty of people out there to exploit. There are virtually no full time jobs.

  3. Rana

    That is pretty minimal. I’m teaching two sections of the same course, which gets me about $600 a month during the semester. I don’t have an office (though they’d probably be able to find me one if I insisted) because I try to stay away from campus except on teaching days (I teach one day a week).

    What kills me is not the low pay for the job but the soul-draining quality of teaching desperately under-prepared students things they’re mostly uninteresed in, the lack of benefits, and the lack of stability. It’s a question every semester as to whether I’ll have work the next, which makes me even more reluctant to participate.

    I do like my colleagues, who have always treated me with courtesy and sympathy – I just have few incentives to spend time with them, and none to provide any “service.”

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