Could Teaching at a Community College Boost Your Career?

communitycollegeDo you have a passion for teaching, but you’re not sure about becoming a full-time educator? Would you prefer to teach college students instead of teaching in public school? Becoming a part-time community college professor could provide some extra income and a new way to use your talents. Best of all, it could boost your professional credentials and open up new doors for your career.

Getting Ready

Most community college professors need a master’s degree even if they have extensive professional experience. For example, if you’re a registered nurse who wants to teach nursing students at community college, you’d need to earn your MS in Nursing before you could find a job as a professor.

If you have a graduate degree, you can start preparing to apply for professor jobs by converting your professional resume into a curriculum vitae (CV). Most resumes are no longer than two pages, but a curriculum vitae can be as long as necessary. It should also include your professional association memberships and information about your volunteer activities. With a resume, you usually lead with your skills and your work experience. A CV leads with your education, academic awards, research experience, publications, and presentations.

Finding Jobs

Many community colleges post teaching jobs on traditional job posting websites, like Monster.com and Indeed.com. You can also use specific job boards, including HigherEdJobs.com and Vitae, the job search service from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Look for words like “part-time,” “adjunct,” and “instructor” when you’re starting out.

Another way to find jobs is to network with professors and administrators. If you have a particular college in mind, start attending events or workshops offered by the college, and introduce yourself to students and faculty. You can also meet faculty at conferences, or you can find opportunities to give presentations. Join groups of professors in your subject area on LinkedIn, or send InMail to professors in your network that teach at colleges in your area. Ask them about the school environment, pay and benefits, what the workload is like, and how they get along with their students.

Understanding Your Students

Classroom management usually presents more problems for new professors than any part of the curriculum. Before you start teaching, look for opportunities to make some classroom presentations, to present at meetings of college students, and to spend some time with the types of students you’ll be teaching. If the demographics at your community college are very different from your own community, branch out and spend time with people from other races and cultures. Many community colleges are non-traditional students, so be sympathetic to the challenges they face while balancing family, work, and learning.

Your students are adults, and they have to motivate themselves and hold themselves accountable. However, having someone like you to refer them to resources within the college (like tutoring) and check up on their progress can make the difference between succeeding at community college and dropping out without a degree. Have high expectations, but anticipate that some of your students need academic support.

Other Advice

If you’re thinking about community college teaching, make sure you’re doing it as a part-time job. Many adjunct professors make little money and have no job security, so don’t try to make community college teaching your primary source of income.

Also, if you have no teaching experience, start out by teaching one or two traditional classes, or teach an online class during your first semester. You’ll have a chance to warm up to the community college environment without getting in over your head.

During your first year or two, see if the college has mentoring programs which can pair you with an experienced instructor. Additionally, look for brown bag lunches and other types of meetings that will let you build relationships with other professors. Having a network of teachers who can give you advice and support will be invaluable as you get started. It will also remind you that other people have made the same mistakes you will, and you’ll know you’re not alone.

Final Thoughts

Teaching at a community college can an enjoyable source of income that can add a lot of credibility to your resume. With a strong support system and a positive attitude, you can succeed as a community college professor.