Q: Why did you decide to create a website dedicated to teaching tips and simple living tips for full-time and adjunct professors?

I was always looking for blogs and websites I could read that related more directly to my life, but I couldn’t find any teaching blogs that felt like the right fit (I hope this site is ‘just right’ for other professors out there!). I also had quite a few friends with master’s degrees looking for part-time evening work after their 9-5 jobs or as new moms; they wanted to teach college classes but had no idea where to begin. I decided to write some of my usual guidance and tricks down as a book, and then started the website as a way to keep adding tips and documenting my journey as a young part-time college instructor.

Q: How can I teach college part-time?

If you have a master’s degree, you can get a job teaching at the college level. Call the community colleges in your area to find out when they hold adjunct interviews. The interviews are usually pretty laid back, with a convenient meeting place on campus for everyone who may be interested. The only requirement to teach is a master’s degree- teaching experience preferred, but not required. Other times, searching for open adjunct positions on an employment website and submitting the required documents is enough to get you the job. I’ve been hired both ways.

Q: How do I get teaching experience?

Your best bet is to find out how to become a Teacher’s Assistant while you’re getting your master’s degree (if you ask around the department and put in some work to qualify, usually you’ll be given the opportunity to be a TA- at least that’s how it worked at my school). After grad school, it’s harder to find opportunities teaching at the college level, which makes it difficult to then go on and teach as an adjunct, but definitely not impossible.

I know quite a few people who were hired to teach without traditional teaching experience, and it’s because they had a master’s and worked in administration or student services at a particular community or state college. So if you get your foot in the door and get to know the right people at the school, you may get the chance to teach.

Q: Can I teach any class if I have a master’s degree?

You can only teach classes that are related to your master’s degree. For instance, someone with a communication degree can teach public speaking, mass media, interpersonal communication, communication theories, etc. Someone with a business degree can teach general business, microeconomics, macroeconomics, marketing, etc.

If you’d like to teach something that’s unrelated to your master’s degree, you can take 18 credits worth of master’s classes (at whatever school you choose- but remember, this can be pretty expensive) in the area you’re interested in teaching, which qualifies you to then teach college level classes in that subject.

Q: Can I teach as an adjunct if I also have a full-time job?

Many of the part-time college instructors I’ve met have traditional 9 to 5 jobs during the day and teach one evening class a week at a local college for fun, so you can absolutely do this is a ‘hobby’ for some extra income.

Q: Do adjuncts get to choose their own schedule?

The easy answer is, yes, you get to choose your own schedule. However, sometimes it depends on the school. I work at 2 schools that book me at the same day and time each semester (based on the times I specified would work for me during my first semester with them), but they always double check with me before they make anything official, which is a nice courtesy (not every school does this). I guarantee they also would work with me if I needed to completely change my schedule.

Another school I work at mixes it up, which is kind of fun. I usually keep my evenings free for them each semester because I never know what night they’ll have a class available for me. Eventually you figure out how each college operates so you never end up double-booking yourself by accident.

Q: How do I know if there are community colleges in my area looking for instructors?

There are community colleges all over the country, and I’ll bet there are at least a couple within a reasonable driving distance from you. It’s not too hard to find an available adjunct opening, either. Each time I check the ‘Employment’ section of various college websites, there are a number of positions available, so you won’t have a problem finding teaching opportunities (it’s the full-time opportunities that are harder to come by).

Q: What time of year should I apply for adjunct positions and how long should I expect to wait until I hear back?

Summer is the best time to apply for adjunct positions because there’s a lot of turnover in the adjunct world, and the fall semester is when student enrollment is at its highest. However, any time during the year is fine.

As far as actually getting the job and the typical waiting period, over the years I’ve applied during the summer months to teach part-time at 8 local schools, and it’s usually hit or miss. I never heard back from 4 of the schools where I applied, but the other 4 responded almost immediately or within a month.

Q: How can I teach online?

In my experience, I’ve taught face-to-face classes for the school for about a year before I started teaching online for them. Each school has a different certification to teach online, and each college uses a different system to run their online classes (which is why they have school-specific certification courses).

The best way to get into teaching online is by looking into the college website’s ‘Faculty’ tab once you’re hired by the school, and signing up for the certification class (or email the department secretary asking about online opportunities if you couldn’t find any information online). Once you follow the steps required by the particular college, you’ll be able to teach online as soon as you tell them you’re ready and they approve of the course you’ve developed.

Q: Are there opportunities for advancement as a part-time instructor?

Adjunct instructors don’t get raises based on performance or how long they’ve been with the school. However, being an adjunct can definitely help when you apply for full-time positions that might become available at the college. Not only do you have the experience they’re looking for, but the people who matter in the hiring process are usually familiar with you, so that gives you an edge over any outside applicants.

Q: Can I really live on an adjunct salary if I want that to be my ‘full-time’ job?

It can definitely be done. However, you have to be very mindful of your spending, you’ll have to pay for your own health benefits (these are not provided to part-time college employees), and you’ll need to be okay living a simpler life. I imagine it’s pretty manageable when you’re single, and would be much more difficult if you have children. If your significant other is okay being the breadwinner, then you’re good to go.

Q: I’ve heard some negative things about teaching part-time. How can someone remain positive as an adjunct?

I believe the negativity comes from people who, understandably, would prefer a full-time teaching job and benefits. Occasionally, a school will drop all the classes an adjunct is scheduled to teach at the last minute, usually without giving you notice (this happens to me about once every two years) because of unexpected low student  enrollment. When this happens, it makes adjuncts feel vulnerable and taken advantage of, especially when they rely on the income from those classes.

The way I’ve remained positive is by providing myself with my own job security. I work at 4 schools and I teach online and face-to-face, so there’s always a place for me at at least 3 of the schools, even if one falls through at the last minute. It can be difficult to be proactive about this, but you learn to be prepared and just go with it. I still get to be in the classroom, and that’s what it’s all about for me.

Q: What kind of things can I do in the classroom to make it a more positive experience? How can I motivate my students?

First, I respect my students, which makes for a great, supportive environment for everyone. Using video clips during lecture to liven things up and keeping things relevant to their generation helps them to stay engaged and excited about learning, which will make you a pretty happy professor.

Q: Are there any resources you would suggest for professors and/or for college students?

Over the years I’ve found quite a few websites and books that have really helped me and my students along the way, below are my favorites:

Community College Success by Isa Adney
Ellenbremen.com (‘The Chatty Professor’)
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Q: Do you make money from this website/blog?

This website is not monetized. Any links within the website or items/books I express interest in are mentioned because I feel they might be helpful for my readers. I occasionally directly link to Amazon or other places so you can check out items more easily, but I make no money and receive no credit from the seller if you actually purchase the product.

Q: Who takes the pictures for the website?

Most of the pictures on happyprofessor.com are taken by my dear friend, and talented photographer, Alyson Sivek. If you happen to be in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, you may want to check out her rates online and get some awesome pictures taken.

The garden pictures were taken by BYU Idaho student and The Scroll college newspaper photographer, Stephanie Ebanks.

Q: How can I contact you?

Feel free to contact me using the form within the ‘Contact’ tab on the website, or email me directly at erin@happyprofessor.com. You can also contact me be connecting on social media (see below). I’d be happy to answer any questions or address any comments you have.


If you’d like to learn more about how to be a happy teacher or a confident speaker, check out Happy Professor and The 3-Step Speech on Amazon.com.

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