Saturday, June 25, 2011

Inbox: Community College Career Poison?

An anonymous correspondent asks:

I've heard several times through the grapevine that accepting a position at a community college is career death poison. Is that right? Right now I have a part-time position at a well-ranked university, but the pay is shite and the possibility of advancement nonexistent. I look at the pay at some community colleges and see that it is double what I make now. Would accepting one of these positions be career suicide, even if only temporary?


My sense of this is that 1. community college jobs involve more teaching and fewer research responsibilities than jobs at four-year colleges, and are a good choice for someone with corresponding career goals; and 2. search committees at four-year colleges will (probably unfairly) hold an employment history at community colleges against you.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

After having taken a job at a rural university in the midwest, I wish I had taken the CC job in an area I would have preferred to live.

Here's the deal. Unless you work at a flagship university, you will more than likely have bad students. Student who aren't ready, who aren't prepared, and who see it as the next thing to do.

CC student might be like that, but there are many who are trying to better their lives.

I took the job that wasn't the CC job because I thought it was career death. I was wrong. They were both death. I should have gone CC b/c I would be making more, with a little more teaching, which I do now in the summers for more money. And less research requirements.

So, in the final analysis, if the CC job is in or near a geographic area you desire, then take the CC job. You might find you like it, and the extra money will be nice. You will get to do other things with your life other than constantly trying to move up and out. You just might like it. After all, when all is said and done, you have to work somewhere, and a CC gig might be really good.

If the are isn't ideal and you *must* work at a university, then don't take it. But be careful, some of the universities are really just community colleges with "university" appended to their names. I know, I work at one. If I had know that, I would have taken the CC in name in the better area.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this an irrelevant question given the supply and demand imbalance in the market?

Would anyone really turn down a full time CC job for another year of sessional teaching?

21-Dog said...

A friend of mine teaches at a community college in southern California. She's an associate professor now, with some administrative responsibilities, making over $90K/year. She doesn't publish, but goes to conferences with support from her school. Her school is one of the largest cc's in the US.

Another friend teaches at a community college in the Midwest. He's got a 5/5 load, but has summers off and has published a paper each year since taking the job. He's making in the $50K+ range.

I don't know if this is career death. Neither of my friends wants a different job.

Jay said...

If you have your eye on a place a particular school, you should look and see how old the tenured people are and judge how long it will take for any of them to die. If you can't really wait that long, you should take what is available. In the present economic reality, nobody is going to be moving on voluntarily and leaving a vacancy for you to fill.

Anonymous said...

I've just finished my first year as a tenure-track CC prof. I don't consider it career death, because this is exactly the kind of job I want (decent pay in a nice area, a lot of freedom to develop new classes [albeit lower-division courses], relatively easy path to tenure, etc.). Plus, there is a lot of mobility for CC profs. CCs are everywhere, and it is a lot easier to move from one to another as a professor than it is for professors at research universities (unless you are a superstar researcher).

None of the years you put in at a CC will count toward tenure outside of other CCs, you won't have much/any time to publish (to get tenure, you have to do a lot of committee work, advising, and community service, in addition to the greater teaching load), you won't teach upper-division classes, and you won't have the same caliber students you would have at many research universities (though, every year, you'll have at least five or six who will go on to be top students at really good schools).

I think CC teaching is a great career, but if I wanted to move "up" to a research university, I think it would be hard to make the transition (though, I imagine it might be easier to go from a CC to a teaching college). For me, though, I get to teach a subject I love to students I admire and make a decent living at it without really worrying about being denied tenure. I think it's a sweet gig, but I guess it depends on your personal goals.

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian headed to a top US PhD program, I find this thread interesting and promising, especially given the current and probably future state of the academic job market. But I'm unsure what counts as a CC in the US. Would anyone care to provide some examples?

Anonymous said...

I have a related question about a CC position being research death. Assuming you get research done in a CC position how likely is it that it, and you as a researcher, will not be taken seriously because in your article or book or conference name tag, it says 'FooBar CC'. Judging by the comments of some of my professors you may as well have 'retard' tattooed to your forehead.

Has anyone had any experience with this? My guess would be that that the same obsession with pedigree and status that is so wide spread in the profession would be just as active in this case, but I would love to hear I'm wrong.

Thinking Person said...

Anon 8:46/Canadian, I'm about to overgeneralize but bear with me: A CC in the usa is a two-year institution, also sometimes called a 'junior college,' and often does not even require a high school diploma for enrollment. CC's are generally much more affordable than would be a university for the same first two years. Classes are often small-to-medium sized even in the first year (thirty or so). In many states including my home state, students can get a two-year degree at a CC (usually called an Associate's Degree of Arts, or an AA), and then with the AA, enroll at state universities as a third-year with all general education requirements satisfied.

I know this depiction is colored by my experience as a student in a CC. In my humble opinion, CC saved my life. I could go on and on. I loved my CC.

WV: tersa

J.R. said...

While taking a job at a CC might be poison to career 'x', I think people should think about whether career x is what they really want, or if maybe career 'y' might be just as fulfilling.

You'll get to teach some great students (with unique perspectives) at CCs. You will also have to deal with some really fucking stupid students, but honestly I think these types have found there way into every college in the world. You almost certainly won't make a name for yourself, and unfortunately may not be as respected, but you can have a greater effect on those few special students than you could have in other situations. If you love to teach a CC might be a nice place to land.

Anonymous said...

Getting a job at a CC is not easy. I competed for several tenure-track CC positions and, even with previous experience being a CC student and adjunct teacher, I had a hard time getting past the first round of candidate selections. It was easier to get a position at a satellite campus of a major university than a CC position. The CC jobs would have paid more than the satellite campus position, but you have to do research and get publications at a satellite campus, whereas at the CC there is no research requirement.

FemFilosofer said...

I opted for a VAP over a TT position at a CC transitioning to a vocational school this year. For me, the decision was more about location than the supposed CC-career-death stigma.

My sense of the position I turned down was much like Anon 2:40s description. Yes, a lot of teaching, but some freedom for course and program development and (as many are saying) enough money to use summers for research.

I think J.R. is spot on: there are many ways to have an academic career, and I think since many of us Smokers will have taken more straightforward academic paths at traditional Universities, we lose sight of some of these (the career "y"s).

21-Dog said...

and then with the AA, enroll at state universities as a third-year with all general education requirements satisfied

Right. And some of the AA programs are terminal too. E.g., nursing, dental tech, surg tech, rad tech. These are often called AAS degrees (Associate of Applied Science). AAS students often spend 3 years in CC's. They take GenEd courses and then field-specific courses (both theoretical and practical).

how likely is it that it, and you as a researcher, will not be taken seriously because in your article or book or conference name tag, it says 'FooBar CC'

Definite possibility. As far as publications go, I think arguments stand on their own. Still, it could be harder than average to get past the initial review stage at, say, Ethics, or to get a book deal with, say, Harvard UP. With respect to how many people will attend your session at APA? Could make a difference there too.

But, FWIW, some of the people who will sneer at your CC tag will feel the same way about your time at Regional State U or Not-Top-Tier Liberal Arts College (despite all of RSU's or NTTLAC's other virtues), especially if they haven't heard of it.

zombie said...

CCs in the US also have classes that would not be part of a traditional four year college curriculum, i.e. vocational training courses, G.E.D. classes, and classes open to the general public.

I applied for a few CC positions this year, and found the application process to be quite different. The apps also required a great deal more work. In one case, I made it through a couple rounds of review (based on the number of times they came back to me to ask for more information), but never got an interview. It did not strike me that CC jobs are any easier to get than college/university jobs, so I would not count on that as a Plan B.

Anonymous said...

Took my present job--my only job--decades ago. It's on a two-year satellite campus in a major state university system, and when I got it the job market was very much like it is now. I thought I'd stay a few years and move on when hiring improved. But I got tenure and realized I loved where I lived, made good (not great) money, and still could publish the occasional piece to try and stay sharp. In fact I've turned down serious offers at "better" institutions because I'm really very happy where I am. But you have to love teaching (as I do) as a necessary condition for such happiness. FWIW.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, what a Canadian would call a college is what Americans call a community college.

What about this scenario? Due to having taught a few classes at a local CC while a grad student, a newly minted PhD is offered a one year full-time position at a local CC, and he also manages to snag a VAP from a non-flagship campus in a rural town where his significant other probably can't find work. If his goal is still to get a research position (whether at an R1, an elite SLAC, etc), would he be crazy to take the CC position (staying in his same city where his SO has a good job already) over the VAP? Would both essentially bar him from doing that? What about if the VAP position was actually tenure-track?

Anonymous said...

Many of us do not have the financial security to linger on the research u tt market for several years without accepting whatever we can get as work in the mean time. Holding a stint as a cc instructor against a job candidate strikes me as deeply classist. If we all had the wealth to be able to take an unemployed or under-employed year off spent traveling to conferences and building a network of relationships we would do it. Search committees should consider success building a conference and publication record while holding down full time teaching gigs as very admirable.

Anonymous said...

9:24:

Please just read the topical phi blogs (where people like me post in one's own name) and see whose comments get recognition and response. It's the old-boy and not-so-frequently-girl network. If you have name rec you're in; if not, you're ignored, even if your comments are par for the thread.

I'm used to this as someone who in passing infrequently gets some cred due to my also infrequent publication in a big venue. But our profession is obviously seriously elitist, and if you want a voice, you'd better get it in print, and in BIG PRINT, (perceived) quality and (objective) quantity of publication the better. I don't see that changing, despite the wide use of the Internets.

And if you're an award-winning teacher, that and several dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

I've been teaching at the largest community college, located in the 7th largest metro area in the US. For 4 years now. I have tenure. This is where I grew up,& where my aging parents live.
I have enough money to live in a up-&-coming neighborhood full of other creative collar folks, with fun dining & night life, & an amazing view of the water from my nice midcentury condo that I will probably own by year's end. I have a nice car. I am in good health, & on the occasion that I am not, my insurance covers my needs. (Recently I had a $100,000 emergency surgery & hospital stay while in another city, & my out-of-pocket expense was $300, for instance.)
I have a diverse social life, including academics & non-academics. I spend my time being friends cool people whose company I enjoy & who bring amazing value to my life. I go on vacations now & again to places I like to visit.
I have a solid contract protected by an excellent, honest union. My benefits are better than most & include health, vision, dental, life/disability, & retirement.
I have a job I enjoy, plenty of time off, opportunities for advancement & though the student population is academically unprepared, I love them because they keep it real. My students are diverse, fun & keep me on my toes. They are not all white-washed, petit-bourgeoisie, Abercrombie kids. I am pretty much my own boss. I have great colleagues who don't doubt claims about the sexism or racism of my academic discipline because most of them have experienced it in theirs, directly or indirectly. No one doubts my competency in my job because of my race or gender. I have a friendly work environment with people who I like to see every day.
So, you know, "poison"? "Suicide"? Really, son? May I please have some more?
Yeah, sure, it has crap days. Budget stuff is on the whim of many idiotic state legislators. There are crazy & weird, barely literate students, & awful essays, the number of people you deal with per day can be overwhelming, there's a bunch of administrative crap & forms & stuff, some of the committee stuff is nonsense, etc. The crap days pretty much number at >15%. Fair trade for the perks.
Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe the reason so many people who get CC jobs never leave them is because said jobs provide professional & financial security, a chance to find a partner (or settle down with the one you've already got) & have/raise a family (if one so desires), an amazing sense of accomplishment & self-worth as an educator, constant challenges & opportunities to change & grow as a philosopher, contact with some really amazing people as students, opportunities to advance professionally, & do it all without demanding that you live & die at the mercy of journal editors & the often cranky egomaniacal jerks we call colleagues?
Anonymous Correspondent, I ask you this: Do you value all the things I've listed above so little that you are willing to gamble away your life on the chance that some committee at Some Research U will one day find you acceptable to take a 5-7 year trial run on?
Plus, the points about the competitiveness of CC jobs made above are equally true. It's not like CC's are just handing out jobs to any Ph.D. who wants them. If you want even a shot at getting one, you better learn to lose that "This job is good enough for now" attitude.
If I were offered a job opportunity that was capable of competing with the job I currently have, I'm not saying I wouldn't consider it. A competitive offer at a different kind of school would give me pause to think about what kind of professional life I really wanted. But I'd rather live my life now than dream about what I will do with myself one day (if only I get tenure at this Research U).
Suicidal Career One Who Poisoned Her Chances At Happiness

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.24 said: "Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe the reason so many people who get CC jobs never leave them is because said jobs provide professional & financial security, a chance to find a partner (or settle down with the one you've already got) & have/raise a family (if one so desires), an amazing sense of accomplishment & self-worth as an educator, constant challenges & opportunities to change & grow as a philosopher, contact with some really amazing people as students, opportunities to advance professionally, & do it all without demanding that you live & die at the mercy of journal editors & the often cranky egomaniacal jerks we call colleagues?
Anonymous Correspondent, I ask you this: Do you value all the things I've listed above so little that you are willing to gamble away your life on the chance that some committee at Some Research U will one day find you acceptable to take a 5-7 year trial run on? "

I know this is late but I need to compliment this: well said indeed!

It has been one of my biggest disappointment in graduate school to find out how many people are exactly those "egomaniacal jerks...who value all the things...listed above so little that [they] are willing to gamble away [their] life on the chance that some committee at Some Research U will one day find [them] acceptable to take a 5-7 year trial run on". I imagine that it is some version of a romantic dream to emulate those great thinkers who spurned the things of this world for the incomparable pleasures of the mind (think Mann's 'Doctor Faustus' or Hesse's 'Glass Bead Game'), so it is doubly disappointing when one realizes that these pleasures consist not in unocovering truth, or advancing our understanding, or anything epistemically worthy, but rather in intellectually titilating the old boys whose club they so desperately want to join.

Diana Sparks said...

Well, into my opinion, you should ask yourself first if you really need this job in community college. Will it help you to get the job you want in the future? Is that a part which is necessary to build a career you want? If yes, then take it as a step just necessary to move further. If it comes with no perspectives then I don’t see reasons to continue it. If you will decide to get a different job, check resume writing services review to find a professional service to write you a quality CV.