Adjunct Professor Job Description

by Brenda Scottsdale

While many professors seek full-time tenure track positions at a college or university, the rigors of a full-time teaching job do not suit everyone. Some professionals only want to work part-time so they can pursue other interests; others are too inexperienced to secure full-time post-secondary school employment. For these individuals, the position of adjunct professor is a good fit. Many universities like to hire adjunct professors for their “real life” experiences and to avoid having to pay benefits due full-time employees.


Most adjunct professor positions require a doctorate in the field in which they wish to teach, though some programs, such as engineering, applied psychology, marketing and business, require a master’s degree or candidacy in a doctoral program. Two-year colleges and technical schools are more likely to accept adjunct professors with a master’s degree, while four-year colleges are more likely to require a doctorate. While a master’s degree typically takes about six years to complete, a doctorate takes approximately 10 years. For adjunct faculty, experience working in the field, rather than degree, might carry more weight as many colleges are looking to hire those with diverse backgrounds.


Like their full-time counterparts, adjunct professors teach courses covering a variety of majors such as chemistry, culinary arts, psychology and engineering. They teach courses at both the graduate and undergraduate level, mentor students and assist them with their research projects. Planning lessons and assignments are an integral part of running an engaging and effective classroom. It's important for adjunct professors to stay informed about changes and innovations in their field, communicating new knowledge to students.


If you want to become an adjunct professor, you’ll need a blend of people skills, analytical reasoning abilities and leadership qualities. Your writing and communication skills have to be impeccable, as you’ll be responsible for clearly communicating information to students and mentoring them. It’s not enough to be knowledgeable about the subject you’ll be teaching; you have to have charisma to hold a class's attention and leadership qualities to keep an orderly classroom. Critical thinking skills to challenge theories and beliefs, as well as the ability to translate what you know into easily understandable lectures, are essential skills.

Salary and Outlook

Adjunct professors are included in the general category of postsecondary professors by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual wage in May 2010 was $62,050. The salary range is large with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $30,720 while the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,510. Most adjunct professors are part-time employees, working another job in their field. Salary depends on number of hours worked, years of experience, type of degree the professor holds, type of school and geographical location. Hours include days, nights, weekends and during the summer. The BLS predicts a growth rate of 17 percent for all post-secondary professors through 2020, which is faster than the 14 percent average for all occupations.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

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