Adjunct faculty have two roads to further employment: pursue a move from part-time status to full-time, tenure-track positions or embrace the adjunct status of full-time equivalent assignments. The processes and decisions in contemplating these two roads are complex, and the economic imperative is real.
Community colleges employ adjunct faculty, also called part-time or temporary faculty, every year to fill course assignment needs, and many part-time faculty work hard to build experience in order to compete for full-time, tenure-track positions. This path is one option for further employment.
However, another path exists for those who want to remain as adjunct faculty and build their seniority. The process to remain eligible to receive class assignments every semester can be very complex. Often, the faculty member must reach out to the dean or department chair of the department in which he or she is qualified to teach; these individuals are regularly planning which faculty will be filing the course offerings for the semester. Adjunct faculty need to remain actively registered in the faculty list or pool.
THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE OF PART-TIME FACULTY
The majority of part-time or adjunct professor salaries currently range between $34,900 to $77,665, with top earners making $102,242 annually in California (ZipRecruiter, 2021). Nearly one third of the 3,000 adjuncts surveyed by ZipRecruiter earn less than $25,000 a year. That salary puts them below the federal poverty guideline for a family of four. Another third of respondents make less than $50,000.
The most comprehensive survey of adjuncts was published in 2012, by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (Basu, 2012). That survey found that the median per-course pay was about $2,700, or $24,000 per year as a full-time-equivalent employee. Although the Coalition on the Academic Workforce data is from almost a decade ago, the unreliability of the economic situation, the ongoing requirements to sustaining viable employment for a living wage, and the hiring process for part-time community college faculty remain rigorous and demanding; however, adjunct faculty can achieve first preference or seniority.
Some adjunct faculty are content with remaining on the adjunct path. Many, in fact, have secured full-time employment elsewhere. An example would be a probation officer teaching in an administration of justice program.
RECOMMENDED EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES FOR PART-TIME FACULTY EMPLOYMENT
One needs to know where to look when searching for part-time or full-time positions. The California Community Colleges Registry is a very reliable resource to search for a community college position.  The site includes the option to sign up for e-alerts for jobs in one’s field. The CCC Registry is a very useful and necessary tool when one is seeking a full-time position. Beyond offering recruitment information, the registry also offers suggestions and guides on how to prepare for an interview.
Applying for a position once does not establish on-going applicant status at a college or district. Applications are screened to determine completeness and that the applicant meets minimum qualifications or has equivalent experience and training. Minimum qualifications are established at the state level, but equivalence is dependent on the standards and processes established by each district.
Those seeking part-time employment must also stay in touch with the department chair or administration, whether they are assigned classes to teach or not. If one is hired, a good practice is to attend meetings that are open to adjunct faculty. Other ways to build one’s visibility are to join working committees in order to know what goes on in the college and the campus community and simply to ask questions, which shows interest in the profession and the institution.
Adjunct faculty seeking full-time positions must follow a very competitive and arduous process. Often, they interview multiple times before being offered a full-time position. They must be tenacious, persistent, and resolute.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE FOR SUPPORT
The road to being offered a full-time position can be very long; it does happen, but not regularly. Therefore, considering the two roads open for an adjunct is important. No matter which road one selects, it will be a long, arduous, and at times very demanding process with significant economic barriers. As California community colleges look to the future of the system, they should consider a more intentional approach to advocating for the significant number of part-time, temporary employees in the system.
Basu, K. (2012, June 20). Nontenure Track Economics. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/06/20/adjunct-survey-paints-bl….
ZipRecruiter (2021). Part Time Professor Adjunct Salary. Retrieved from https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Part-Time-Adjunct-Professor.
1, The California Community Colleges Registry can be found at https://www.cccregistry.org/jobs/index.aspx.