Five common myths about being a part-time professor

myths stampAs you enter the field of adjunct faculty, you will hear both positive and negative things about how part-time faculty are treated and respected. In this article, I will debunk the five most common myths.

Myth 1 — You have to have a PhD to teach in a college or university.
Although the traditional four-year university primarily that hires people have doctoral degrees to reach upper division and graduate level courses, a masters degree is often all that is required for lower division or community college courses. Trade schools may only require a bachelors degree and experience and notable accomplishments are also taken into account when evaluating credentials for teaching in higher education.

Myth 2 — You must publish
As a part-time professor there is no need for you to publish. If you have written a book or articles, that’s great; but generally the publish or perish paradigm is referring to a very specific type of publishing. Peer reviewed articles and university press publications are the valued publications. Publish or perish is more applicable to tenure-track and tenured faculty as it relates to review and promotion. Bottom line, you don’t have to publish to be a part-time faculty member.

Myth 3 — Adjunct faculty aren’t respected
If you have heard this myth, you are probably talking to an adjunct who had thwarted dreams of parlaying their part-time gig into a full-time tenured professorship, and who does not have a profession aside from teaching part-time. Most students don’t know the difference between an adjunct faculty member and a tenured or core professor. If you are introducing yourself at a professional conference and mention that you teach part-time at a university people will be impressed. You will definitely be viewed with respect as an adjunct professor.

Myth 4– Most adjuncts want a full-time job
Most adjunct faculty either have full-time jobs, are retired, or are self-employed and don’t want a full-time job. According to a report by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), titled Who Are the Part-time Faculty, only 38 percent of the part-time faculty would like to teach full-time. Most of those are recent graduates with little other work experience.

Myth 5 — Adjuncts are overworked and underpaid
This is a matter of perception. I think the majority of people in most professions would say that they are overworked and underpaid. If you are teaching at a university part-time strictly for the pay, you may feel it isn’t worth the effort. If you are driving an hour each way to teach a one-hour class three times a week, it is probably not the best way to supplement your income. However, if you teach close to home or teach online, the intangible rewards and supplemental pay may be just perfect for your needs.

If you are interested in teaching part-time in a college or university, CLICK HERE to get a free copy of the book Become a Part-time Professor.

A Part-time Professor by any other name…

Below is the long list of the many titles given to part-time professors. The only reason it is important for you to know the variety of titles that could be given to part-time professors is so that you can recognize an opportunity when it comes your way.  The list below is from the Handbook on Academic Titles (2002); and appears in the free ebook Become a Part-time Professor.


Adjunct / Adjunct faculty (most common)

Adjunct professor

Affiliated faculty / Affiliate professor

Annual faculty (often used for full-time one year appointments)

Casual Appointment (commonly used term in Canada and Australia part-time teaching positions)

Contingent faculty (can be used for part-time positions and other non-tenure track positions including full-time non-tenure track positions)

Contract faculty (generally hired for a term or year, sometimes multiple years, may be part-time or full-time.)

Contributing faculty

Faculty-in-residence (may be given to certain specialized personnel, e.g. artist, scientist, or scholar, appointed on a part-time or full-time basis for a term or an academic year.)

Guest Lecturer (speaks to a class because of his/her expertise, is paid a flat rate, and is not the instructor of record)

Instructor (may or may not be part-time and usually denotes a person without a terminal degree)

Interim Faculty

Lecturer (sometimes used for part-time and sometimes full-time faculty, but it indicates someone who is not eligible for tenure)

Limited-term appointment / Limited-term faculty

Per course faculty

Pro-rata faculty (generally same a per course faculty)  

Professor adjunct (this is actually an esteemed position because it is a ranked position based on previous teaching or expertise. e.g. Assistant Professor Adjunct)

Visiting faculty / Visiting professor (usually someone who is tenured faculty at another university. A few institutions use this title for part-time per course faculty)

 ~ That’s it for now! ~

Why would you want to be a part-time professor?

questions2Maybe you read the ebook Become a Part-time Professor or maybe teaching a college or university course has been something you have dreamed about for a while. If you are thinking about applying for part-time faculty positions, I have a question for you: Why? What’s your motivation?

It doesn’t really matter what you choose to do in this life, but choosing consciously or being clear about the reasons you are doing what you are doing is important to know. Being a part-time professor, or adjunct faculty member as it is called in most colleges, can bring many rewards. It offers the opportunity to:

  • Have the prestige of being a certified expert in your field.
  • Share your knowledge with others and position yourself as a thought leader in your chosen profession.
  • Be in the company of other thought leaders where you will have the opportunity to engage in intellectual dialogue about subjects you love.
  • Educate the next generation of leaders based on your real-world experience.
  • Share your passion with others and get them excited about learning.
  • Add to your resume and credentials.
  • Have an additional income source.

As a part-time professor you will receive some compensation. For the person who is concurrently working full-time, who is retired, or who has their own business, the supplemental income is a nice perk. However, you could be in trouble if this is your only source of income. As an adjunct, you are not going to make the salary of a full-time professor, you are not going to receive tenure or be granted a paid sabbatical after years of teaching; nor will you likely receive health benefits or retirement benefits. It is a part-time position. If enrollment is low, your class could be canceled.

On the positive side, in most institutions you will not have to attend faculty meetings, you will not have to maintain a research discipline, you will not have to publish, and you will not have to perform service on behalf of the college or university. As an adjunct professor, you can teach your class and go home. If you are teaching online, you can teach from anywhere that has an internet connection.

You will of course have to prepare your lesson, grade papers, and hold some form of office hours. It is estimated that the amount of time you will spend outside of class on average is 1.25 hours for every hour in class. That will vary depending on if it is your first time teaching the class or your tenth. Initially, you will need to put in time to prepare for your class.

If you don’t have a clear and personally compelling reason for becoming part-time faculty, you could quickly become disenchanted. However, for the right person, with the right reason, being a part-time professor can be extremely rewarding. So, are you ready to become a part-time professor? If so, register to become a part of our growing community of adjuncts and prospective adjuncts.