Teaching Community College: Benefits and What to Expect


If you’re considering teaching in higher education, you might not immediately think of applying to a community college. It’s true that they’re not as prestigious as state or private institutions: your title is never going to have the same ring to it as if you were employed at Harvard.


That said, there are quite a few advantages to teaching at a community school, so if you can get past the stigma, it might be a good career option.


Characteristics of Community Colleges
Sometimes called junior colleges or technical colleges, these schools offer two-year programs culminating in an associates’ degree. There are approximately 1,600 community colleges in the U.S., including tribal schools. Community schools are regionally accredited and generally smaller than state institutions, with an average enrollment of less than 5,000 students.


Students generally enroll in community colleges for one of two reasons: either they’re looking for specific career preparation, such as a course of study on electrical engineering, or they’re looking for a general education program that will allow them to transfer to a 4-year university. Community colleges also cater to adult learners going back to school.


Two-year schools are a critical part of our educational system. Two-fifths of college-aged students begin their post-secondary trajectory in community college, and three-fifths of students over age 24 enroll in a community school. Overall, the U.S. has about 11.6 million people in these programs.


Benefits of the Job
Jobs at high-profile universities are hard to come by, and if you’re looking to teach at a small liberal arts school, you’re on even tougher ground. Community college educate almost half of the country’s undergraduates, so there is a significant job market for faculty. Given that, one benefit to looking into these positions is that you may be more likely to get a position, and you might have a little more flexibility in terms of where you teach.


Another plus to a community college position is the chance to focus on students. At a large research university, such as MIT, professors are expected to conduct research as well as teaching courses. Community college professors are primarily responsible for teaching, not researching. Depending on your interests, this could be an important difference.


You’ll also come into contact with a huge variety of students at a community college, from those just out of high school to recent immigrants to parents going back to school. If you enjoy supporting at-risk students and having a range of learners in your classroom, this is an excellent spot for you.


The satisfaction rate for community college professors is high: according to a national survey published on MLA.org, 73 percent of faculty members found “joy” in their job, while 71 percent found their work meaningful. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that faculty at two-year schools tended to be happier and have a more balanced lifestyle, noting that while faculty at a research university may work 70-80 hours a week, a professor at a community college can generally keep hours closer to 40.


Typical Responsibilities
As mentioned, you’ll be asked to teach more than you’ll be asked to conduct research: many community college professors teach five classes per semester, rather than the one or two you’d teach at a university. You might also be teaching online or leading hybrid courses, and you might be asked to teach during the evening or on weekends.


Because classes are more flexible than at a standard 4-year school, you might also find yourself teaching part-time. The U.S. Department of Education states that just 33 percent of community college professors are full-time.


Your courses are more likely to be surveys than specific to a topic. For instance, you may teach English rather than comparative literature, or algebra rather than real analytics. Your class sizes will depend greatly on the particular school, but community colleges usually try to limit enrollment to 20-40 students per class. This gives you a chance to connect with students and establish relationships.


The disadvantages to teaching at community college depend on your perspective. If you want to do research, or if you would prefer not to work with at-risk students, you’ll be better off at a private school or university. Those are critical professions, as well, and it’s important to be realistic about the job you’re seeking.


Another potential drawback is salary: though you’ll make more than an elementary or secondary teacher, the average salary of a community college professor is $72,000 a year, which is approximately $8,000 less than that of a public university professor. Faculty at private schools can make upwards of $100,000.


Finally, there is the stigma. Teaching community college is sometimes seen as a stepping-stone on the way to a position at a university, rather than a career in and of itself. If that doesn’t bother you, however, teaching community college can be thoroughly rewarding.


Source: http://www.teacherinformation.org