Knowing the difference between adjunct and full-time professor

If you’re thinking of becoming an instructor at a college or university, it’s crucial to weigh your options first. You could become a professor right off the bat, but you may also consider becoming an adjunct professor. There are a few differences between the two, but they’re significant enough to think about which job would suit you best. Depending on what the college/university offers to the employee, one just might seem more appealing than the other.
Perhaps the biggest difference between an adjunct and a professor are the hours. Adjuncts are essentially part-time professors for an institution. Colleges and universities’ budgets may not be able to cover the salaries of full-time professors; adjuncts are the answer to this. That being said, adjuncts get paid considerably less than professors. They also do not work enough hours to acquire benefits; this may be the biggest disadvantage an adjunct has. Make sure you remember this before applying to adjunct positions.
Some adjuncts have a corporate full time job while being an adjunct on the side. Also, they are usually are not required to attend certain meetings like the professors are. Adjuncts tend to have a bit more freedom with their time; though they don’t get full-time hours, this means they will most likely have more time for other things. They could invest more time into establishing their curriculum, or just be able to spend more time with their family.
Professors always require at least a Master’s degree to be considered. In some cases, a PhD would be required as well, if not preferred. Degree requirements for adjuncts, on the other hand, can vary. There are adjunct jobs where you could have a Bachelor’s. Teaching experience or experience in your field of study can not only help adjuncts but full-timers as well. However, in most cases, professors do not need to have experience in the field that they are teaching. Adjuncts are the ones who would need experience teaching, potentially years of it, along with the aforementioned Bachelor’s degree requirement.

Whereas full-time professors will most likely have their own office along with office hours, adjuncts are a lot less likely to get an office. They might be able to share one with other professors. If this happens to be the case, you’ll have to resort to alternate methods to get into contact with your students. Email is always an easy choice, but you could also use Skype or give out your phone number for other approaches to this. You could also put a bit of time aside either before or after class to meet with students if necessary. The fewer amount of hours that adjuncts get compared to professors allows them to be able to be more available during certain hours. Professors will also need to make the extra time to be in the office so students can get the help they need. Given that you’re full-time, you are almost guaranteed to be teaching more students than an adjunct, therefore you should have office hours to be available to help them should they need it.

People looking for full-time professor positions will often see “tenure-track” on the postings, which means that you’ll possibly be considered for a tenured position. This does not occur often, but being tenured means that along with your employment, you cannot be fired by the college without just cause. You would never have to worry about being let go due to a small issue. There would have to be a case for your incompetence along with evidence, or a program would have to be discontinued among other significant reasons. Though professors are more likely to get a permanent and tenured position, remember that even if you do get the position, you won’t be guaranteed to keep it. Some institutions won’t plan to keep you after the first year, based on their budget or your performance. This is also the case with adjuncts, in the sense that some adjunct job postings straight up say that you will most likely only be hired for the duration of one semester and that’s it.

Deciding whether or not you want to be a part-time or full-time professor is important given what’s going on in your life at the time. Generally, professors have more responsibility than adjuncts, given you might have to teach up to four classes, along with having to be available in your office and out of it for your students. Remember that adjuncts have to do this as well, though not as much depending on how many classes you’re teaching. Adjuncts generally have more freedom and are able to reach a more diverse audience given they can teach at different universities, and professors are eligible to become tenured along most likely having a higher salary. No matter which you choose, make sure you do your research before you make that decision.


Written By: Joseph Gonzalez