Community College Teacher: Job, Education, and Salary Information
Community colleges are crucial to the U.S. education system. For millions of prospective college students, bachelor’s degree programs are simply not a viable option. While four-year colleges and universities have traditionally held more prestige than their two-year counterparts, the higher ed landscape is changing. With the tuition of four-year institutions on the rise, community colleges are elevating their offerings — expanding their fields of study and improving the quality of education. This shift has inspired an upswing in students opting for associate degree programs.
It’s an exciting time to be a community college teacher. You have the unique opportunity to provide an excellent and competitive education to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to earn their degree. If you want to make an impact, becoming a community college teacher is a solid pathway to truly make a difference.
At a glance: community college teachers
The demand for qualified community college teachers is expected to rise as the number of people enrolling in higher education programs (especially community colleges) continues to increase each year.
Community college teacher job description
Educating students effectively in the designated subject matter is paramount in this preparatory setting. Community college teachers must convey relevant information efficiently and help students learn the best methods of inquiry in the subject area of the course.
Students attending community colleges are diverse in every way — age, race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic background. In addition to students just out of high school, many working adults attend community college courses as a means to change careers or progress in their present job.
The most important day-to-day duties of a community college teacher include:
- Teaching the material in one- to three-hour classroom sessions
- Developing and managing the class syllabus and ensuring that the syllabus meets department and college standards
- Planning and creating lectures, in-class discussions, and assignments
- Grading assigned papers, quizzes, and exams
- Assessing grades for students based on participation, performance in class, assignments, and examinations
- Reporting student learning outcomes, class reviews, and analyzing student data
- Collaborating with colleagues on course curriculum
- Advising students on how to be successful and achieve goals
- Staying updated on innovations and changes within their course field
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
- 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
Community college teacher in-depth
- Education: Doctorate or master’s degree
- Typical study time: 5-10 years
A community college teacher needs at least a master’s degree. Like most collegiate institutions, preference may be given to a candidate with a PhD. Community colleges also want instructors with prior teaching experience. Occasionally, community colleges will employ those with relevant work experience in a particular field as well.
Different types of community college teachers
There are two main types of community college teachers: Adjunct and full-time faculty. The main differences between adjunct and full-time faculty community college teachers are course load, pay, benefits, and job security.
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.
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.
Average salaries for community college teacher
Salaries for community college teachers vary depending on location, academic specialty, the instructor’s degree type, and previous experience. There’s also a substantial gap between the earnings of full-time teachers and adjunct instructors. According to Tough Nickel, the average annual pay for full-time faculty ranged from $46,858 to $57,599.
Here is a current snapshot of average salaries for community college teachers:
- Glassdoor.com: $41,268
- PayScale.com: $46,276
- ZipRecruiter.com: $47,894
The income of a community college teacher can vary based on several factors including:
- Education beyond a master’s degree
- Length of employment at a particular institution
- Field of study- science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) classes, or in another field that is typically difficult to fill
- Summer classes or additional classes beyond the regular 9-10 month contract (when available)
- Private vs. state college
Job outlook for community college teachers
Students will continue to enroll in higher education, gaining the essential knowledge and skills necessary to obtain their career goals. The job outlook for post-secondary teachers is expected to grow 11% through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This forecast includes part-time post-secondary teachers as well.
Certain subjects are in higher demand than others. According to the job outlook data from the BLS, post-secondary professor employment projections will increase in these subjects by 2028:
- Business: 16%
- Biological science: 12%
- Psychology: 12%
- Health specialties: 23%
- Nursing instructors: 20%
Challenges and opportunities for community college teachers
- Not all community colleges offer tenure (a guarantee that a teacher will not be fired without a just cause)
- There is not as much institutional support for research and/or publishing
- Extra time and support needed for at-risk students
- Salary is often less than professors at four-year colleges and universities
- More flexibility in where you teach, as community colleges are located all over the country
- More focus on students and teaching as community colleges are less interested in faculty research and publication
- Contact with a huge diversity of students
- Lower enrollment numbers means a smaller community
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 16 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.
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 even further.
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.
Several professional organizations work to support the careers of community college teachers:
- American Association of Community Colleges
- Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
- The National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs
- Rural Community College Alliance
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.
Best of the Web
The internet 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.
Blogs to check out
- American Association of Community Colleges
- Inside Higher Ed Blogs
- Leiter Reports
- Faculty Focus
- Community College Research Center
- Achieving the Dream
- United Steelworkers Union
- New Faculty Majority
- Adjunct Action
- American Association of Adjunct Education
Resources to follow on Twitter
- David Buck: @dbuckedu
- Renee Moore: @TeachMoore
- Stacey Lee Donohue: @BendProf
- Roger Weber: @pennweber
- Anna Harper Reed: @areedseed
- Dave Macholz: @DaveMacholz
- "Occupational Outlook for Postsecondary Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Postsecondary Teachers
- "Postsecondary Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015