Teaching community college for beginners?
August 12, 2011 4:18 AM   Subscribe

If/When I go back to America, I would like to teach at a community college. I have a few friends who do this, but I would like to get the ball rolling. I could teach communications, journalism and business skills. My only previous experience working in education was as a major gifts fundraiser and I won't have my master's degree on paper February. I have not really TA'd very much since I was an undergrad. How should I go about getting my foot in the door? This would be in DelMarVa and California.
posted by parmanparman to Education (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
no Master's degree on paper until February I mean...
posted by parmanparman at 4:19 AM on August 12, 2011

i got my foot in the door by going back to my alma mater, talking to some of the professors i knew, and started teaching there... it's not a community college, i imagine a similar process... most colleges have alot of requirements on their websites, most of which are bogus... i'd recommend visiting some of the colleges and talking a faculty member on staff and explain your background, reason for teaching, then they can fast-track you through the process...
posted by fozzie33 at 5:06 AM on August 12, 2011

Community colleges rely mostly on adjunct teachers these days, who in reality work full-time or nearly full time, but are considered part-time workers and get no benefits or tenure and generally lackluster pay (something like $1200 per credit). There is a lot of competition even for those positions.

My mother taught at a community college in Maryland for many years. She has a PhD and lots of teaching experience, and still found it difficult to get out of the adjunct role. And that is in science, where teachers are more in demand; there is a surplus of people wanting to teach communications and business.

Frankly, from watching my mom for all those years, I formed the impression that teaching at a community college was something only someone very committed to their discipline and to teaching should do. I was making more than my mom a couple of years out of college in the corporate world, and I didn't have all the headaches she had with administrators.

Both the wording of this question and your profile (where you say "I would love to do media production") make it seem as though you aren't really sure what you want to do. And you seem unclear about what subject you would like to teach. Given that you may not have the single-minded passion and focus that I have observed are required to be happy teaching at a community college, maybe you should rethink.

If not: What is your master's degree in? Generally the degree must be in the same discipline you wish to teach. So if you want to continue with this plan, that's your first task: determining what in fact you want to teach, and making sure you have the credentials to do so. You may not realistically have the option to teach either communications or business.
posted by parrot_person at 5:13 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

You're competing with a slew of underemployed PhDs. With no experience, no MA degree (yet), and a very vague idea of what you could teach effectively, your odds of succeeding are low, and this is an area where "success" means making $3000 per course with no benefits.
posted by spitbull at 5:37 AM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

To follow up on what others have said, here are what I see as your key problems:

(This comes from someone that did her PhD in California, had lots of classmates teach in the California CC system)

1. As spitbull says, there are many PhDs that are willing to teach these courses, have certified expertise in the topic, and have taught these classes before.

2. And even if there aren't people with PhDs, there are people currently in graduate school programs that will teach too.

3. While vaguely being able to teach business, communication, etc. MIGHT fly in a very rural place with no competition, no CC department is going to be willing to just have you teach whatever. (In my experience, they wouldn't let a communication scholar teach a sociology course even.) And I'm doing an adjunct position right now (with PhD in hand) where there was all sorts of paperwork justifying why I am qualified to teach this class.

4. The way that the CCs hire, in my experience, is VERY who-you-know. At my local CC, one of our U faculty member's wives was on the faculty. She hired one grad out of our program. Then another grad guest lectured in that class. Then the guest lecturer got a position, and so on.

5. In California, the CCs are feeders to the UCs as a transfer program. Thus, if you have someone who is a gradute of or attending UCWhatever and knows what UCWhatever's Intro to Whatever, Research Methods of Whatever, and Content Courses of Whatever are all about, they're very attractive to CC of Whatever's desire to have good transfer experiences. They also know the textbooks. A lot of the CCs emulate the textbooks of the UC courses.

6. As Parrot Person mentioned, a LOT of CC courses nowadays are taught by part-time staff. In California, this usually means $60-70/hr for IN-CLASS INSTRUCTION, with no tax help. (And imagine the hours spent outside of class prepping and grading). You'll make a few thousand bucks. I don't know anyone that is surviving on part-time CC teaching -- it is often the domain of someone with a supportive spouse or other income streams.

So sorry to be a downer. If you're still keen on the idea, there are Chronicle forums for CC teaching.
posted by k8t at 6:21 AM on August 12, 2011

So looking at universities is the smarter idea? I like the idea, but finding jobs that don't require a PhD or ABD is tough.
posted by parmanparman at 7:00 AM on August 12, 2011

once again, my college says on their website that they are looking for people with phd's, but i only have a masters degree, but by getting to know faculty and talking to head of department, they asked me to be an adjunct... the best way is to develop a relationship with some of the professors, start with emails, meet them, ask if they need some help.... most colleges are always looking for adjuncts, and they'll fill those spots via the people they know, before they go to the hiring process...
posted by fozzie33 at 7:10 AM on August 12, 2011

So looking at universities is the smarter idea? I like the idea, but finding jobs that don't require a PhD or ABD is tough.

Getting a teaching spot at a university, adjunct or otherwise, without a PhD will be next to impossible, even with great contacts.

At my CC, you can get hired to adjunct with an MA in the correct field. (So, a Philosophy degree won't qualify you to teach Religion.) And you can get hired without having extensive contacts, if there is an opening. But the pay is 2K per course and you normally can't teach more than 4 courses per semester. So, yearly income is typically in the 20 - 24k range.
posted by oddman at 7:16 AM on August 12, 2011

I was thinking this would be more of a training ground, to see if I like teaching. Like, doing teaching in the evenings, and working somewhere else, probably fundraising or journalism in the day time. What is the workload like for adjunct teaching?
posted by parmanparman at 8:03 AM on August 12, 2011

Adjunct teaching loads vary from 1 course to 5 or 6.

If you moved somewhere, got established, and then let it be known to your local CC that you were interested in teaching 1 course (in the department that your MA is in), you might have a shot.

But as we've all said, the chances are pretty low.
posted by k8t at 8:07 AM on August 12, 2011

Given what you have told us, you might be better suited for an instructor position at a UC Extension school rather than an adjunct position at a CC. The Extension schools are for adult continuing education and typically have part-time students, and part-time instructors who are primarily engaged in a successful career in the area they teach. You have not told us enough about your professional background for me to guess if you would be an attractive candidate, but here is a link to the UCLA Extension Journalism, Media Psychology & Fundraising program, as an example. Here is a link to the UC system's page listing all the Extension schools.
posted by unsub at 8:31 AM on August 12, 2011

i teach one adjunct course a semester, 3 credits, 6:30pm - 9:15pm, normally about 3-6 hrs a week to prepare for next class and grade papers. Depending on the course, some take more time to develop (demonstrations, slides, group projects, etc.). I'd say on average, about 3 hrs of work a week to prepare lecture, only occasionally do i go more... The main difference this semester is i am developing alot of the material myself, rather than depend on a book. So it'll take more time to prep the class.
posted by fozzie33 at 9:48 AM on August 12, 2011

Yeah for 3 hours a week of lecture you could do as much as 10 hours or as little as 2 hours outside of class. The first time you teach a course is always more labor intense, as you have to write-up notes and create the class from scratch. (However, in some fields and CC's you'll actually have the class created for you by the deptartment.)
posted by oddman at 11:18 AM on August 12, 2011

my first two classes they had the courses pretty much already created with slides to boot, i just personalized them myself and went from there...
posted by fozzie33 at 11:40 AM on August 12, 2011

My partner just resigned her long-term adjunct position at a California community college. There have been several rounds of cutbacks in classes, despite record numbers of students. This is a rough time to try to get your foot in the door when old-timers are desperately trying to hold onto their classes. /Debbie Downer
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2011

If what you really want to do is get yourself in front of a classroom and see if you like it, try talking to a for-profit school (a place like university of phoenix). They get a bad rap but some of them are pretty good - there are ones with regional accreditation which is more rigorous than national accreditation.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:55 PM on August 14, 2011

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