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Community college teacher helps student
Teaching Careers Updated March 20, 2018

Community College Teacher: Job, Education and Salary Information

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Community colleges are crucial to the U.S. education system, enrolling 45 percent of the nation’s undergraduates. They educate a disproportionate number of first-generation college students and have the most diverse student populations in U.S. higher education. That’s why it’s so important for community colleges to employ great teachers.

Becoming a community college teacher means devoting your career to helping people get the best education possible. If you want to make a huge impact as a teacher, you should seriously consider teaching at a community college. And demand for qualified community college teachers is expected to rise as the number of people enrolling in higher education programs continues to increase each year.

Our guide will give you a sense of what it takes to become a community college teacher, including the required education, likely income, and pros and cons of this kind of work. Browse through the article or use the following links to skip forward to what you’re looking for:

At-a-glance
> Community college teacher job description
> Who makes good community college teachers?

Types of community college teachers
> Adjunct community college teachers
> Full-time faculty community college teachers

Professional development
> Continuing education

Related careers
> Jobs beyond teaching

Best of the Web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At a glance: community college teachers

To become a community college teacher, you will need a master’s degree in the field where you will be teaching (though there are occasional exceptions to this standard). Community colleges also want people with prior teaching experience.

Salaries for community college teachers vary depending on location, academic specialty and the instructor’s degree type. There’s also a substantial gap between the earnings of full-time teachers and adjunct instructors. The average annual salary for full-time postsecondary teachers, a category that includes community college teachers, is about $72,470, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But there’s a wide range of estimates for the income levels of community college teachers.

Full-time faculty Adjunct instructor
Education Master’s degree/doctorate preferred Master’s degree
Estimated annual income $72,470 (BLS)
$46,858 to $57,599 (AAUP Survey)
$89,005 (PayScale)
$72,000 (NEA)
$62,640 to $96,120 (Houston Chronicle)
$44,000 to $51,000 (SimplyHired.com)
$31,357 (PayScale.com)
$27,843 (GlassDoor.com)
$34,000 (SalaryGenius.com)
$20,000 to $25,000 (NPR)
Job growth outlook +13% (BLS) +13% (BLS)

 
A note on job title terminology: University-level teachers generally use the title “professor,” while those who teach at K-12 schools use the title “teacher.” Community colleges are somewhere in between, using both “teacher” and “professor.” However, they mean the same thing — a community college teacher or professor is a trained professional who teaches students at a community college. In some cases, the word “instructor” is an alternative to “teacher” or “professor.”

Community college teacher job description

A community college teacher works at a two-year academic institution offering associate degrees, vocational diplomas and/or the opportunity to transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree.

A community college teacher’s job is to educate students effectively in the designated subject matter. Community college teachers must convey relevant information efficiently and help students learn the best methods of inquiry in the subject area of the course.

The most important day-to-day duties of a community college teacher include:

  • Creating curriculum based on the best knowledge in the field
  • Teaching the material in one- to three-hour classroom sessions
  • Evaluating student papers, projects, labs, tests and other assessments
  • Maintaining records on student progress/grades

Teachers at community colleges often consider their work as a calling, not just a job. That’s because students who attend community colleges come from diverse educational and personal backgrounds. In addition to students just out of high school, many working adults attend community college courses when they want to change careers or progress in their present job. Students are diverse in every way imaginable — age, race, ethnicity, ability, gender and socioeconomic background. This makes teaching at a community college an especially important and rewarding job.

Community colleges also have students who need remedial education, so teachers must be prepared to help their students catch up to the skill level needed to take on college-level coursework.

Who makes a good community college teacher?

Someone who is:

  • Inquisitive, creative and curious
  • Sociable and easy to talk to
  • Passionate about connecting with students
  • Patient and resourceful
  • Organized and careful about time management
  • Devoted to learning
  • Attentive to details
  • A lover of reading
  • Service-oriented
  • Able to laugh and have a sense of humor
  • Thoughtful about interacting with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Excellent at oral and written communication
  • Highly knowledgeable about their subject area
  • Qualified with a master’s degree in an education-related field, or a field related to the subject he/she teaches

Interested in becoming a community college teacher?

Check out this video to get a better sense of what it’s like to be a community college teacher.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTdbhLVG6eA[/youtube]

Different types of community college teachers

The main differences between adjunct and full-time faculty community college teachers are
courseload, pay, benefits and job security. Let’s take a look at these differences in more detail.

Adjunct community college teachers

Adjunct teachers represent a majority of instructors at U.S. community colleges. They teach courses at community colleges on a part-time basis.

Continue reading to learn more about adjunct community college instructors

What adjunct community college teachers do

Adjunct community college teachers must teach courses just as full-time faculty do, but they are exempt from some of the responsibilities of fully employed university instructors. Often, they are hired to teach introductory courses that students are required to take, or remedial courses to bring students up to a college-level skill set.

The most common duties of adjunct community college teachers include:

  • Educating students in a specialized academic field
  • Creating a course syllabus that meets department and college standards
  • Working with colleagues to improve course curriculum
  • Staying current on important changes and/or discoveries in the field they teach
  • Planning and presenting lectures
  • Leading in-class discussions
  • Answering relevant questions from students during or after class
  • Advising students on how to succeed in class
  • Grading papers, labs, quizzes and exams
  • Assigning grades to students based on participation, performance in class, assignments and examinations

Adjunct teachers are not expected to do many jobs required of full-time faculty. Adjuncts do not have to conduct research, publish papers, join committees or attend as many meetings and events as full-time faculty. In some cases, they are not expected to hold office hours.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i97uP5qp_ZI[/youtube]

Educational and certification requirements

Adjunct community college professors are required to have a master’s degree, typically in a field closely related to the subject they will be teaching.

Income projections

Income for higher-education adjunct professors can vary widely, depending on location, the discipline they teach, education level, teaching experience and field expertise. Here are four estimates of annual salaries for adjunct community college teachers:

  • PayScale.com: $31,357 (median)
  • SalaryGenius.com: $34,000 (average)
  • Glassdoor.com: $27,843 (average)
  • NPR: $20,000 to $25,000 (range)

Unlike full-time faculty, adjunct teachers do not typically earn an annual salary. Instead, they are paid by the course. To get a better sense of how this works, take a look at these estimates of pay per course for adjunct instructors at community colleges:

  • AAUP: $1,800 to $2,700 per course
  • NPR: $3,500 per course, $7,000 per semester
  • Houston Chronicle: $2,000 and $5,000 per course

Adjunct community college teachers rarely receive benefits like health insurance or pensions. And adjunct teachers are not eligible for tenure, which is an assurance of long-term job security.

Pros and cons of being an adjunct community college teacher

As you consider becoming an adjunct community college teacher, think through the pros and cons of the job.

Pros

  • Teach students who are dynamic, enthusiastic and eager for opportunities
  • Help students find direction and focus, which can have an immediate and lifelong impact
  • Provide a great education to many first-generation college students, often from immigrant families
  • Focus exclusively on teaching and students, rather than faculty politics and college governance
  • Flexible hours and opportunities to take time off
  • A good job to balance with another part-time job

Cons

  • Lower pay than full-time faculty
  • Unlikely to receive benefits
  • Little job security
  • Rarely eligible for private office space

Full-time faculty community college teachers

Full-time faculty are community college teachers who are on tenure track. This means they earn an annual salary, benefits and the opportunity for long-term job security.
Continue reading to learn more about full-time community college faculty

What full-time community college faculty do

Full-time faculty at community colleges teach courses in their field of expertise. They also take on special responsibilities in their department, and some related to the overall governance of the college. Here are some of the main responsibilities of a full-time faculty member at a community college:

  • Educating students in a specialized academic field
  • Developing a course syllabus that meets department and college standards
  • Creating and executing course curriculum, course handouts, lectures, labs and presentations
  • Leading in-class discussions
  • Assigning grades and maintaining course/student records
  • Holding office hours for drop-in advice, discussion and guidance
  • Keeping a flexible weekly schedule that allows student access by appointment
  • Offering online office hours and/or online discussion opportunities
  • Hosting special review sessions outside scheduled class time
  • Receiving and incorporating feedback from students
  • Remaining current in academic or program discipline — this may mean maintaining licensure, certification or continuing education requirements
  • Attending local, regional, state or national meetings related to your subject matter expertise
  • Participating in faculty evaluation process, including providing input on the admission of new adjunct and full-time faculty
  • Mentoring newly hired faculty members and adjuncts
  • Serving on advisory boards, hiring committees and ad hoc committees
  • Joining and participating in the Faculty Senate
  • Serving as a student organization advisor when requested
  • Taking part in commencement or other ceremonies within your program/department
  • Organizing, producing and hosting special events on campus
  • Attending departmental, divisional and college-wide meetings
  • Providing information and suggestions for program/department assessments
  • Advising your department on the designation of learning outcomes, administrative measurements and student evaluation standards
  • Collaborating with faculty colleagues and administrators in developing program standards, policies and textbook selection methods

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ7ikcuW0NA[/youtube]

Education and certification requirements

Full-time faculty community college professors are required to have a master’s degree, usually in a field close to the subject they teach. You may also need to earn a doctorate to get a full-time job at a community college, because it can be very competitive to earn a position.

Salary projections

Salary for full-time faculty can vary significantly based on location, discipline, education level, teaching experience and field expertise. Here are some annual salary estimates for full-time faculty:

  • BLS: $72,470 (median)
  • AAUP: $46,858-$57,599 (average)
  • PayScale.com: $89,005 (median)
  • NEA: $72,000 (average)
  • Houston Chronicle: $62,640 to $96,120 (range)
  • SimplyHired.com: $44,000 to $51,000 (range)

Full-time faculty can also earn full benefits (including health and retirement), paid time off and the long-term job security that comes with tenure.

Pros and cons of being a community college teacher

Consider both the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a full-time faculty member at a community college.

Pros

  • Earn a guaranteed annual salary
  • Likely to receive full benefits for health insurance and retirement security
  • Tenure-track position, meaning an opportunity for long-term job security
  • More opportunities for research and publication than in adjunct positions
  • Get to teach students with a passion for learning and achievement
  • Potential to improve the lives of first-generation students, often from an impoverished and/or immigrant background
  • May be able to take on a leadership role at a community college

Cons

  • Probably responsible for joining a committee and attending extra meetings and professional events
  • May have to become deeply involved in faculty politics and college governance
  • Full-time courseload may leave little time for other professional or amateur pursuits
  • Less opportunity for research and publication than a professorship at a four-year university
  • Change can be slow at bureaucratic institutions like community colleges

Professional development for community college teachers

There are many ways to pursue professional development as a community college professor. You can join a professional association like the FACCC and the American Association of Adjunct Education or a union like the United Steelworkers Union, which represents many adjunct community college teachers.

Many community college teachers continue to take courses to keep up-to-date on the latest discoveries in their subject area. And there’s always the option to go back to school to earn a doctorate, which will expand your job opportunities as an educator.

Hiring at community colleges is more locally based than at four-year universities, which often conduct nationwide candidate searches. Local newspapers, online postings and the Chronicle of Higher Education are frequently used to advertise open positions. A candidate will be expected to have familiarity with the community college system, the local community and the field of study associated with the job. Showing enthusiasm for the community college setting as well as the discipline will often go a long way toward impressing the people on the interview committee.

Benefits of continuing education

If you want to become a community college teacher, you will need to earn a master’s degree or a doctorate. By choosing to enroll in a master’s or doctorate program, you will open up job opportunities for yourself at community colleges all over the country.

Concordia University-Portland offers online graduate degree programs that can help prepare you for job opportunities as a community college teacher.

The MEd in Curriculum and Instruction program comprises 15 concentrations, including Mathematics, Science and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). By choosing a concentration, you can pursue a career as a community college teacher in a subject area you feel passionate about.

Jobs available to community college teachers beyond teaching

With additional education or certification, community college teachers may become teachers, librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals or an educational administrator at a college or university.

High school teacher: Community college teachers often become high school teachers and vice versa. Some even work both jobs at once. A bachelor’s degree is required to become a high school teacher, as is a teaching credential. A master’s degree will mean a higher salary as a high school teacher.

University professor: Community college teachers who complete a doctorate will boost their earnings potential and open up opportunities to work as a professor at a four-year university.

Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment. Some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.

Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to a subject like curriculum and instruction, and they may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.

School principal: Community college teachers wishing to become a school principal should seriously consider earning a master’s degree in an education-related field. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators.

Education administrator: Depending upon the position, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be required. For a higher-level position such as dean or president, a master’s degree in educational leadership may be required.

Best of the Web: our favorite community college teacher blogs, websites and Twitter handles

The Web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent community college teachers. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.

Favorite community college websites and blogs

Favorite community college Twitter handles

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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