Should You Teach College?

Thursday, September 18, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

For some, it’s the last stop on the journey of an educator. For others, it’s a way to make ends meet. Either way, a lot of your colleagues find themselves teaching in college eventually, even if it’s just part time as an adjunct. Should you consider it?

The Pros

More money

The first pro is obvious. The main reason for a side job is to make some extra money. Although the pay for adjuncts isn’t great (more on that later), it can supplement your teacher’s salary and make big savings projects—like a down payment for a house or a college fund for the kids—possible.

More freedom

Although there are obviously some high academic standards at any institution, the ways that information is presented on a class-by-class basis are usually left up to the instructor. They tend not to have to worry about walkthroughs or anything like that. Perhaps your college class can serve as the proving ground for some of the pedagogical ideas that can eventually be implemented in your K-12 classroom.

A new challenge

Burnout is real. To make sure they don’t become a statistic, teachers work hard at making sure the job always stays fresh and relevant to them. College offers a different sort of challenge. The students are older, (should be) better behaved, and have higher demands because they tend to be the paying customer. They are also learning material that is more advanced.

The Cons

Not a lot of money

A full-time professor’s salary can range from $72,000 to over $150,000, plus benefits. That sounds great, but no one walking in off the street will be making that. Instead, adjuncts at two-year community colleges, which hire more part-time instructors, average around $1,800 per course. For some, that’s not enough money to give up a night or two per week and add to the pile of things to be graded.

Culture shock

You probably look back fondly on your own college classes. After all, they might have provided the spark that got you into your own classroom. Adjuncts tend not to teach the classes you loved.

At least starting out, they tend to teach freshman courses or even remedial courses that help boost incoming students onto the regular course track. These courses tend to be more regimented in terms of the material taught and the pacing. At least initially, the college classes you’ll teach won’t look like the college classes you took.

Loss of time

Everyone’s home life is different, but perhaps you should consider putting a dollar value on the time you would lose by teaching at the local college, then do a cost/benefit analysis. If you profit, go for it. If you don’t, perhaps you can find some less-intrusive ways to make some extra cash.

Bright ideas for tech-savvy educators, right to your inbox