Teach at the college level


If you have enjoyed teaching and/or mentoring employees and others in your profession, teaching at the college level could be an excellent way to stay active and share your hard-earned knowledge with others while generating additional income. Colleges, universities, and community colleges all have a need for part-time instructors, known as adjunct faculty. Or, if you have an idea for a course, or even an entire program of specialized studies, you can apply your entrepreneurial spirit to persuading a college to create a curriculum. Every college will have its own criteria regarding degrees and level of experience required for a particular teaching position. Many colleges also have formal mentoring programs where you could share your expertise. As a bonus, if you plan to also do consulting, being a part of a college/university is a terrific credential. Whether you’re just exploring this option or have already decided to find an adjunct position, the information on these pages will provide you with clarity and direction.

Am I right for this?

10 yes/no questions to help you determine if this is a good direction for you

Do I have a command over the subject matter I would want to teach?

Do I have the academic degree required for the course(s) I would want to teach?

Have I been noted throughout my career as someone who is good at teaching others?

Have I determined how much time I am willing to devote to being in the classroom or planning curriculum?

Am I comfortable in all delivery modes, including standing in front of a group as well as presenting virtually?

Am I prepared to accept that as an adjunct faculty member I may have little or no input into what the courses cover or how they are structured or scheduled?

Am I ok with teaching students who may have low levels of motivation?

Am I willing to invest the time required to build a course if I propose one?

Do the time constraints of being committed to teach a schedule for a full semester or more fit with my vision of retirement?

Do I have the support of family members or others who will be directly impacted by my decision?

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If you answer six or more “yes,” this is probably a good direction to pursue.

Pay for adjunct professors

Based on salary estimates on Indeed.com, the national average salary for an adjunct professor is $51.21 per hour.

The highest paying states are:

  • New Jersey          
  • Florida                  
  • North Carolina    
  • Ohio                    
  • Arizona                
  • New York            
  • California

Typical responsibilities of adjunct professors

  • Teaching
  • Creating lesson plans including assignments
  • Maintaining a class syllabus approved by school
  • Grading tests and assignments
  • Advising students
  • Keeping current in your field of study
  • Working with other faculty members to enhance the curriculum
  • Grading students
  • Getting to know the students
  • Attending training or department meetings

Typical structure of a university/college department

  • President: In simplest terms, the president is the leader of the entire school.
  • Provost: Essentially the vice president of the university. Almost always selected from tenured faculty.
  • Dean: Administrator who leads a particular academic unit.
  • Board of Trustees: Corporate body that has complete responsibility for the government and welfare of the university.
  • Faculty:
  • Tenured faculty: Full-time professors who have contractual right against termination.
  • Adjunct professors: Part-time, often hired on a contractual basis.
  • Teaching assistants (TA): Graduate or PhD students who teach undergraduate courses.


Here are questions and answers that address common issues and concerns for those interested in teaching at the college level.


Do I need to have my own curriculum for what I would teach, or would I just teach a course that is already established?


Often the school will be looking for someone to teach specific subject matter in an existing curriculum. Typically, you will find job postings seeking an adjunct professor, which would be your job title. However, you may have an idea of your own for a course, a lecture, or a presentation that is not part of an existing curriculum. In this case, your best path may be to cultivate relationships with appropriate department heads and deans at a school, so you can convince them of the value of your idea.


How do I find colleges to apply to?


The first step is to determine what subject(s) you want to teach. Then, as with any job search, monitor online job listings. If there are schools you have a particular interest in, pick up the phone or send a polite email to the dean or department head for the academic subjects that interest you. Explain concisely what you’re looking for, and outline your qualifications.


Do I need to customize my resume?


More than likely, you will be asked to include a curriculum vitae (CV), rather than a traditional resume. Be sure to include your current job status, and, most importantly, emphasize situations in which you served as a mentor, trainer, coach, or inspired others to achieve better performance. For each position you apply to, prepare a custom cover letter that emphasizes your experience as mentor/trainer/coach, expand upon why you want to teach at the college level, and any special qualifications you bring such as foreign language skills, distance learning skills, or communications/public speaking courses you have taken. You may also be asked to outline your teaching philosophy, and prepare a diversity statement.


What level of education do I need to be an adjunct instructor?


The greater the level of education you have, the greater the chances are of you being hired. You’ll most probably need at least a master’s to teach at a university, however, there is a possibility of getting a position with a community college with a bachelor’s degree.


How can I become a mentor to a college student?


A quick way to explore mentorship is online, where sites such as StudentMentor.org are ready to connect you with students who can use your experience, commitment, patience, and wisdom. Alternatively, you can contact the dean of students or a similar title at any college or university. Some schools even will pay you to be a mentor because your work helps to increase student retention and success.


How do I write a proposal for a course I would like to teach?


Any proposed new course at a university has to follow a prescribed process to be approved. Typically, such proposals are developed by existing faculty. If you are an outsider, you will have to adapt to this process. Your first step is determining who the appropriate department leadership is, and persuading them to look at your proposal.


If I am an adjunct professor, can I take time off or skip semesters?


Adjunct professors have very little job security. They work from contract-to-contract so that there is no paid leave. They can choose not to apply to work from one semester/term to another, but with no assurance they will be rehired.

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Assess this option against the following eight criteria:

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Additional resources

Next steps:

Step 1

Determine if it makes sense for you to teach at the college level based on the “Is this Right for Me” section.

Step 2

Review your financial plan to determine if pursuing a job in teaching is feasible.

Step 3

Determine what level you want to teach at: college/university or community college.

Step 4

Identify subject areas you would like to teach, and objectively review your qualifications to see if they match.

Step 5

Identify a list of schools of which you’d like to apply.

Step 6

Research openings. This may be an ongoing process as each school may have a different academic calendar, which means jobs are posted at varying times for each school.

Step 7

Tailor your CV and cover letter for each job you apply to.

Step 8

If you are going to submit an idea for a new course, identify the school, who to talk to at the school. Prepare a proposal and set up a meeting. After all meetings and information gathering, prepare and present a formal proposal to the faculty committee.

Step 9

If you’re interested in mentoring, identify what subject or skills you want to mentor. Explore mentoring websites, and/or contact the dean of students as a starting point. Be prepared with a CV, relevant testimonial material, and character references.

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