Teaching at the College Level

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Teaching at the college level with a master's

April 2014

Hi BPN! I am currently in a graduate program and will be graduating Spring 2015. My career mission is to gain a tenure track position at the community college or university level. I will have a Master's degree in Mass Comm and do not want nor care to seek a Phd. (for financial reasons-to much student loan debt already). I do not have any teaching experience at this point only my desire and passion for teaching. Any advise on how to ''get my foot in the door'' at the JC level? Or, if teaching at the University level is even possible these days with only a Masters? Please help, signed, Ready to graduate, Ready to teach

I hate to bear bad news, but you should take some hard facts into consideration, pronto. Even Ph.D.'s are typically hard-pressed to find tenure-track jobs. You'd probably be entirely disadvantaged with a Master's degree. I'd suggest looking at the 'Post-Docaplypse' blogs and the column in Slate about adjunct teachers, with PhDs, who earn the same as supermarket baggers, before you blithely assume that your approach will work. Unemployed Ph.D. (Cal, no less).
Tenure-track jobs at the university level require a Ph.D., so you will not be eligible for one with an M.A. As far as Community College teaching... the vast majority of job openings are for lecturer positions. Tenure-track jobs are few and far between, and in the Bay Area you will be competing with seasoned teachers, many of whom hold Ph.D.s. Realistically, you should expect to start off as a lecturer, and you should also be aware that full-time lecturer appointments are not the norm -- it's more common to patch together full-time work by teaching a couple of classes at one school and a couple of classes at another. Oh, and the pay is dismal. Adjunct teaching has many rewards, but they sure aren't financial. You don't say whether you have the flexibility to move out of the Bay Area, but you might look at areas where the competition for jobs is less intense. Or if you would consider teaching high school, it offers better pay and greater job security. Here's a recent article that offers some perspective on adjunct teaching. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/01/do_what_you_love_love_what_you_do_an_omnipresent_mantra_that_s_bad_for_work.html Dr. Mom (former UC lecturer)
Teaching experience is really necessary, *especially* for positions at a JC/community college. While some research-oriented universities will hire junior faculty who have very little teaching experience because they are focused on research, my impressions are that the JCs really want experienced teachers. Additionally, I think it is really important for you to have had this teaching experience to really know that you enjoy it as a full time job.

Teaching at the university level almost always requires a PhD and it is rare that someone with a masters level degree is hired. My experience is that lecturers who have a masters degree/not a PhD were hired b/c of their 'real-world' experience (e.g., experienced therapist, local newscaster, etc.). I don't know any tenure-track or tenured faculty who do not have a PhD. Think long and hard before pursuing life as a lecturer because those folks are typically not reimbursed well and have a very shaky level of job security.

If it's really just an issue of student loan debt, you might consider applying to the larger PhD programs where you typically get a TA/GSI type of teaching position and receive a stipend from the university and they cover your tuition/fees. With a masters degree you may be more competitive for those programs than on the first round of applications. CSU professor

I've been teaching at two Bay Area community colleges as adjunct facility for over a decade and serve as mentor to new instructors. As for getting your foot in the door it's all about what you want to teach and where. The easiest way to get in the door is to teach STEM, (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes; outside of STEM it will be extremely difficult. Tenure facility positions are not being offered due to budget cuts, online classes and the uncertainty of California's education system.

Seems like your dedicated so here's what you need to do. If you goal is to teach in the Bay Area apply you will have to keep an eye on the college's web site to see when they post positions for pool hiring. There are 32 colleges in Bay Area and this process happens every 3-5 years. Once in the hiring pool that doesn't mean you have a job, it just means you'll be considered along with everyone else if they have an opportunity. After a couple of years you'll be flushed from the pool and have to start all over.

California's education system is still going through budget cuts. Classes that don't lead to a certificate or degree or that aren't core transfer to 4 year colleges are being cut. It all comes down to what you want to teach and where. California's education system is rated in the bottom three in the nation. If you want to teach outside of California it's a slightly different story but not by much. (It's still STEM, certificates, and degrees.)

If you plan on teaching STEM classes you will find none of these policies apply and you will get hired immediately under the STEM emergency hire policy. If your goal is to teach, consider STEM with emphasis on the math. If you look around you will find grants and programs to pay for your PhD education if you teach STEM.

The way education is right now you might consider a PhD. Teaching at a four requires a PhD, (few exceptions.) Another reason for getting a PhD is pay and ranking. There's enough of a pay difference a PhD is worth the investment. Once in the classroom be prepared for students who need a calculator to divide 60 by 10, think to, too and two are spelling variations of the same word.

Curious to hear what others have to say. If you go the STEM route I would be more than happy to be your mentor. Best of luck to you. ANON

I have been teaching in the community colleges here since 1996, for the last 7 years times have been very tough, but things are looking up now and districts are hiring again. you will no doubt have to start out as a part-timer and hopefully get a full-time position after some years of experience, it rarely happens any other way. Getting some experience with online teaching, in the form of training or taking a class also boosts your viability, so maybe consider that. cc instructor

How to know if I would enjoy teaching?

Sept 2012

After 12 years of working in my field, I am considering graduate school to obtain a master's degree (possibly continuing on to a PhD after), which would allow me to teach at the graduate level within my field. I think I would enjoy teaching, but feel it is a big risk to spend close to 20K on a graduate degree to obtain a job I may not ultimately like. Is there any way to know if I would enjoy it? Can anyone who teaches at the college level give me advice? Tell me what I should expect? Any advice? (Btw, I do know that jobs are available locally in my field, so it isn't a matter of not being able to find a teaching job...just whether I would enjoy it.) Future Teacher?

Future Teacher, I read your question to my husband who teaches at the college level. Here is his response:

''Teaching college can be either a very rewarding or frustrating experience, particularly if one is adjuncting. I have taught in the science field for 12 years, first part- time, now full-time. There are times that I feel the experience is truly rewarding. These occasions happen when I know I have made a difference in helping some students to achieve their academic goals. However, often I feel somewhat exasperated when dealing with some of the less motivated students. Regardless of what I try, they are unprepared and unreceptive to learn properly. To sum it up, if you enjoy helping others using your expertise, and your financial security is not paramount (adjuncting is a tough way to make a living!), go for it.'' Prof's wife

I think it would help to ask yourself some questions:

1. Do you like ''being on stage''?
2. Are you good at explaining complicated things by breaking them apart into little pieces?
3. Are you patient, especially with incompetence?
4. Are you okay with doing a lot of prepping before classes and grading after? (Depends on your subject, though)
5. Would you be okay working on short (semester to semester, quarter to quarter) contracts? How important is job security to you? Benefits? (You said there were jobs, but funding can switch quickly).
6. How much do you like being around a lot of other people who may or may not treat you with respect or give you attention? Your world will be FULL of people.
7. Are you organized?


1. Teach an adult education class for which you are qualified. Or volunteer to teach your expertise for free for five weeks to a community group or something like that.
2. Don't think just of the cost of getting the degree in money, but also in time. Do you like school?
3. Go talk to as many instructors/professors in your field as possible and see what they like and don't like. Think about whether you can live with what they don't like. See if you can be a guest speaker for a single day of class.
4. I don't think teaching is some mystic ''calling'' or something like that, but some people just aren't good at it and never will be. There are natural teachers and teachers who are good enough that they improve, but not everyone can do it (even with a lot of support). Anonymous

Teaching at the Community College level

Jan 2009

A friend of mine wants to teach at the community college level. He has an MBA and would love to teach economics, general business, stuff like that. He has great people skills and is a natural 'teacher.' He does not have a credential, and has not taught before. He obviously needs experience having taught before or needs to take some courses to learn how to teach. Does anyone out there know what is required to become a community college teacher (besides having subject matter knowledge?) There are courses through UC Extension on teaching but I think before he starts taking courses it would be best to get advice from someone who knows specifically what is needed. Thanks!!!

Hi, I do teach at the community college level and while enjoying teaching and having experience is a good start, it's not everything. Mostly he needs to be able to demonstrate his knowledge of the subject matter and competency to run a class, in addition to his ability to convey the necessary information.

As far as I know, there are no classes to take to teach you how to teach at cc. His best bet with no teaching experience under his belt may be to apply to different districts as a part-timer to get his foot in the door. He should know that he will be competing against people with years of experience, but you never know what will happen.

You don't say if this is intended as a career change or what, but you should know that full time positions are few and far between at cc. Community colleges are funded the same way that k-12 schools are, on a per pupil attendance subsidy, not from fees as well as state money as the CSUs and UCs are. That makes our budgets really, really tight, and well, the commitment to funding a full time position is something that a lot of schools just won't do right now. I'd say it's harder to get a full time job at a cc than at a UC (at UC you can bring in your own money through grants and stuff, not so much at cc).

If he can get his foot in the door, all the more power to him. Departments are being cut, jobs eliminated and everyone is being asked to do more with less. But you never know.

It can be done, but it won't be easy. Claire

You do not need a teaching credential to teach at community college. A master's degree will do. He should contact the dean of social sciences or business at each college. The usual way to start is as an ''adjunct'' instructor, hired for a small sum of money to teach one class at a time. Full-time salaried openings are rare, although the situation might not be as bad for someone with your friend's specialized skills. Adjunct instructors usually have some other source of income. However, the rewards of working with motivated adult students are tremendous. former part-time instructor

Re-Entering the Workforce as a college teacher

Sept 2007

I've been off any sort of professional track for several years now, busy starting and raising a family. I'm now ready for re-entry and one of the things I'd love to do is teach some intro or advanced-undergraduate psych. courses (can be at any type of college: UC, State, Jr. College, etc.). I have a PhD (Social Psych.) but no teaching background, other than a couple of guest lectures as a grad. student many years ago. Given my lack of teaching background, is this even a possibility? Or, should I just give up and find something else? I would love any feedback, info., etc. you have to offer!

I am also interested in hearing from those of you that have or are or will be making this transition as to what resources you've found or used to help write an up to date resume w/all the volunteer work you did while ''not working'', where you've looked for employment -- esp. flexible hour jobs! -- and anything else you think might come in handy. Thanks! Stephanie

Offer to guest lecture or do some volunteer instructor gigs to beef up your teaching resume. If you can get some guest lecture gigs, try to get the hiring dean to visit your class and offer some feedback. I'm trying to do the same thing as you - but even with some teaching experience, I can't get anywhere without a graduate degree. My 16 years of professional experience is getting me nowhere fast! At least you're one step ahead with the phd. Good luck! debbie