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How to Become a Faculty Adjunct Lecturer

by Carol Poster, studioD

While some people choose to become adjunct, or part-time, faculty as a second career, most instructors seek adjunct work after failing to obtain more highly-paid positions as tenure-stream faculty. Unlike tenure-stream positions, adjunct positions usually do not have research or service components and require different application materials. Moreover, the hiring process for adjuncts is different from the tenure-stream hiring process, with job searches often being conducted regionally rather than through normal disciplinary conferences and national searches.

Before You Apply

Prepare a teaching-oriented curriculum vitae. Rather than follow the standard order of education, research and then teaching, place teaching experience immediately after the education section. For each course, indicate number of sections taught, course size and whether you were course director, tutorial instructor or grader.

Create an account with an academic portfolio or dossier service that will store and ship your materials for you. If you are still in graduate school, your university may offer a dossier service; otherwise choose a commercial one.

Request reference letters from at least five people. If you completed your doctorate recently, your dissertation supervisor should write a letter for you. Ask people who have supervised or observed your teaching to write the rest of your letters. The letters should be uploaded to your portfolio service, so that you can have the service send out letters rather than asking for individual reference letters for each job to which you apply.

Applying for Positions

Search discipline-specific job postings as well as national and international sites and journals as you would for a tenure-stream position. In addition, if you are restricting your search to a specific region, visit the websites of all local universities to view job postings.

Craft a tailored cover letter for each position, emphasizing how you would be a fit for the specific posting. Research department websites for course descriptions so that you can discuss how you would approach the specific courses that the successful applicant will be teaching.

Complete online application forms, submitting all required materials. Although the specific list may vary depending on the needs and procedures of the individual institution, be prepared to submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, reference letters, unofficial transcripts, sample teaching materials and teaching evaluations, a statement of teaching philosophy and possibly a sample of your research.

Contact chairs of regional departments with a brief email asking if you could send a cover letter and curriculum vitae to be placed in their files as part of an adjunct pool. Certain adjunct faculty, especially graders, lab assistants and tutorial leaders, may be hired by department chairs searching through files and making phone calls as the term starts and additional sections need to be opened due to unexpected student demand.

Items you will need
  •  Tailored cover letters
  •  Curriculum vitae
  •  Portfolio service
  •  Reference letters
  •  Teaching materials
  •  Unofficial transcripts


  • Adjunct hiring is often done close to the beginning of the academic year in response to enrollment load or emergencies. Positions may be posted a few days before the start of the term and the first qualified candidate to apply may be hired. Check websites of local universities and online academic hiring sites every morning in August to increase your chances of finding last-minute openings.


  • Do not pester department chairs or search committee members with follow-up phone calls or emails. The techniques that most career counselors recommend to make candidates stand out from the herd in other industries are considered inappropriate in academic settings. If you do not get a response to an application, it means that you have not been hired.

About the Author

Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.

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