Higher Education Faculty - Land Your First Class

Okay, so you earned your Master's degree or your Ph.D. You desire to teach at a college part time to supplement your full time income and you want to mentor learners. Or maybe you are retired or a stay at home mom or dad and teaching appeals to you. How are you going to land your first contract? As a former Program Director at a college, I often had several hundred current resumes in my file. Most of my faculty hiring decisions were based on personal recommendations from others. Maybe you do not have connections in your area and you are concerned about where to start.

I was in the same boat. I completed my Master's degree because I knew that I wanted to teach someday at a college. Here is how I got my start. I first created a separate education resume that featured more of the mentoring, projects and research that I completed in my industry. I hired someone to help me do this because I worked in a job where I traveled constantly and I also have three children. Time was precious.

Next, I started perusing job boards and submitting applications for advertised adjunct faculty positions. I did not have very many responses, which is typical. Finally, I had an interview set up. This was so exciting. I went to the interview and found out at the interview that the class time conflicted with my schedule. I was disappointed. However, I emailed the Program Director every couple of weeks letting her know that I was still interested. I also emailed her article links on subject matter relating to the classes I could teach. A couple of months of this went by and she called me. I had my first class.

I soon learned that being assigned a class is just the first step. Most colleges have mounds of paperwork to be filled out and training session for new faculty. Find out how and when you will be paid. Adjunct faculty members on average in the industry are typically paid between $800 and $2500 per class. Sometimes this amount may be higher. Be sure to ask. There is little to no job security in teaching part time. Most colleges hire on a per term contract basis. Ask about benefits as well. Some have 401k and even health insurance. Make sure that you fill out everything correctly and attend all training. I treated the trainings and information as the same importance as requirements at my full time job.

Next you will most likely have to create a syllabus for the class. Many colleges have a syllabus template for you to use with the standard policies listed. Put effort into making your syllabus thorough and error free. Often your syllabus could be eight pages or more. Outline your expectations. The more effort you put into preparing your syllabus up front , the less stress you will have throughout the session.

Over-deliver on your first class. Give your WOW factor. Use hands on, integrative teaching styles. Get to know your students. Your desire should be to have students ask for you for the next session.

Once you secure your first contract, it is much easier to find more teaching opportunities. In my second term teaching, I had three classes to teach and then by the third term, I became a Program Director. One of the reasons that I think this happened so quickly is that I made it a point to act like a full time faculty member. I attended meetings and signed up for research and assessment opportunities. I had a voice on campus.

From a program director perspective I have some additional advice for would be adjunct faculty.

1. Begin your part time search with for-profit colleges that offer accelerated programs. These colleges hire often and may be willing to take a chance on a first time instructor. Then consistently follow up. The program chairs and/or program directors are overseeing their programs and often advising students as well. There is very little breathing time, so if you can make it easy for the chair to contact you, it is more likely you will be offered a position.

2. Stay abreast of technology. You should be using Office 2007 and be comfortable in an online environment. Many on ground classes also have an online component. Experience with platforms like ecollege, my campus, and or blackboard may be a big plus for you.

3. Adhere to deadlines regarding grades, student maintenance forms, syllabi, etc.

4. Respond to your students quickly

5. Enjoy your students

6. Be flexible and open to feedback from your Program Chair, students , and other faculty.

7. Contribute positively to the culture.

I feel that teaching at a college is very rewarding. When I teach a night class, I have a hard time falling asleep because I am so energized by the students.