Friday, January 13, 2012


Anon 4:18 asks:

Would it be possible to have a thread on adjuncting?


Here are some things I'd like to know [enumerated for ease of reference]:

1. How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job?

2. How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job that's something like fulltime?

3. With health insurance?

4. How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job in one's home town?

5. How does one get such a job? I sort of have the idea that you just email the department chair at a particular institution, but maybe that's wrong.

I know some smokers know something about adjuncting that would be helpful to those of us who know very little, and may need to do adjuncting work in the very near future. Maybe a thread on it would be helpful to some of us.

I'm not an expert, but I have opinions about several of these questions:

1. It depends. They're normally not very competitive, though. Your biggest obstacle is probably availability.

2. Not possible. If it were a full time position, it would not be an adjunct position. In order to adjunct full time, you're going to need to have two or three jobs.

3. No.

4. Depends on the home town.

5. Probably emailing the department chair is the best way. It couldn't hurt.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

There are a number of schools (my experience with this is on the east coast- not sure how widespread the phenomenon is) that have quasi-fulltime professors (those who teach a course load large enough to qualify for benefits at one of these schools) but who still title these postions "adjunct" because they are still considered "at-will" and off tenure.

Though I am not sure how hard these are to get. My sense of it is that it happens when a school needs a number of courses filled and there is enough of a dearth of adjuncts that the few they do have get enough courses to qualify, or a school likes an adjunct enough to offer such things. My feeling is though that these types of positions should really be retitled as instructorships, or VAPs.

zombie said...

Presumably you mean adjuncting outside your grad department. Both adjuncting jobs I had came to me through recommendations by the chair of my department. Someone needed an adjunct, they asked around at the local universities, and I was recommended, usually based on my geographical proximity (I was a commuter student). Send a CV, brief interview, hired.

I would start by talking to your dept chair and ask them to keep you in mind if any adjunct jobs cross his/her desk

These were always 1/1 or 2/2 appointments. That's pretty typical. There are adjuncts who have more than one adjunt position (at different schools) and piece together full-time work. You need a reliable car for that kind of gig. For a couple of years in grad school, I drove more than 800 miles a week between adjuncting, TA-ing, and attending classes.

The adjuncts in the SUNY system in NY are unionized, and so get paid better, get annual raises, and get health insurance benefits (and retirement bennies too). But they are the exception rather than the rule.

Adjuncting is a tough gig for the following reasons:
your ongoing employment is always conditional
you may not have an office at all, although you might get to share an office
it doesn't pay very well; benefits are rare
you'll always feel like a temp -- not really part of the team, or campus life

But it's a good way to get teaching experience, and get a letter of rec from someone outside your dept.

Adjunct jobs do get advertised. Try CHE and Higheredjobs.

Anonymous said...

My experience adjuncting in the US is exactly what Mr. Zero describes in the original post. No full time, no benefits, relatively easy to get, if there is availability. I also had Zombie's experience of driving quite a bit. Note that this means that for many people, adjuncting will not be financially worthwhile--or perhaps just barely worthwhile, but less (often a good bit less) than you'd make working part-time retail or somesuch. But, of course, most of us who do it are hoping to use this experience to gain some more permanent and financially worthwhile academic position (whether that means TT or full-time renewable position).

The one point I'd make in disagreement is that these norms of horrific exploitation (because that's what it is) are not quite the same once you go into Canada. My experience with Canadian adjuncting (usually called "sessional" work) is that it pays roughly 3 times the amount that US adjunct work is paid--and thus that one could conceivably piece together full-time work that would actually produce something like a living wage. Moreover, Canadian sessional instructors usually have health (including dental and vision) insurance, and in some cases, are given funds to buy course research materials (something I never encountered in the US). Most of this, I think, is the result of having strong sessional unions--though this also means that it is much more difficult to get one of these jobs than an adjunct job in the US (at least where adjuncts are non-unionized). Seniority matters in such cases, so it can sometimes be hard to break into your first employment there, if you didn't, say, go to graduate school in Canada and do your TAing there, in the union system. But, once you're in, you *can* actually make a career of sessional work, though this of course isn't as desirable as regular full-time, TT employment.

Anonymous said...

In the state of Washington, 2/3 full time (2 classes per quarter at any of the state colleges/universities) gets full time benefits. Health insurance, sick days, 401K matching, etc. I think this is exceptional, however.

Anonymous said...

I assume you are asking about adjuncting work because either you didn't fare well on the market or you want some teaching experience before you finish you're dissertation (or you ran out of funding at your program).

1. Adjuncting jobs are usually harder to get for the spring semester than for the fall semester. Typically schools who need adjuncts send out a call or email to the local PhD granting institutions. They already have classes so these schedules are not negotiable. Because of faculty or adjunct contract requirements, some schools will not know until the week before classes start if they need adjuncts so sometimes you might fall into a last-second job but you will probably have more luck getting an adjunct gig for the fall.

2. It really depends what you mean by fulltime. Some places restrict how many classes an adjunct can teach because otherwise they have to treat them like fulltime faculty with benefits. Most people who adjunct as their only source of income do so at multiple institutions at the same time. Since adjuncts get paid very little (probably 3K a class, probably less) most people try and find a way to teach five or six classes a semester at two or three different schools. Community colleges and private schools, from my experience, tend to pay their adjuncts less than state schools. But the good news is since state schools won't fork over the money for tenure lines there are plenty of adjunct gigs to be had (that is a bad attempt at a joke and I am sorry for it).

3. I don't know how the SUNY system works but I worked for a similar system that gave health insurance but that was after teaching such and such many courses and semesters. The rumor was that they would then not bring you back once you accumulated all that to avoid paying for your health insurance. I would see if you could still purchase health insurance through your PhD granting institution or hope Obamacare doesn't get repealed.

4 & 5. I don't know what your hometown is. Look at the local universities and community colleges there and send the chair of the philosophy department email with your cover letter and CV. I did this and was able to get a few jobs. These cover letters and cvs should be significantly shorter and arranged differently. The Cover letter should cover your teaching interests, philosophy and experience (if you have any). The CV should open with your education and then any teaching experience you have. They aren't hiring a colleague, they are hiring someone to teach the freshmen classes no one else wants to teach. There are other websites with adjunct jobs advertised such as adjunct nation and some schools might have adjunct posts on their employment page. Even if schools can't hire you right away they might keep your name and cv on file for when they need someone. It is not an ideal career path and it can be very degrading. Often you get very full classes (30-40 students) and several different preps (intro, ethics, critical thinking, etc) so it will be very difficult to get your own work done if you have too many classes, on the other hand, it might be difficult to eat if you do not have enough classes. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

"The adjuncts in the SUNY system in NY are unionized, and so get paid better, get annual raises, and get health insurance benefits (and retirement bennies too)."

That depends. SUNY doesn't have a class known as "adjuncts," but rather have multiple "instructor" positions (yes, they are adjuncts, but the difference matters). At the top of the heap are those with near-full-time loads, and they get benefits. They are on 3-year, renewable contracts. Salary negotiable, based (usually) on experience, and subject to annual raises (contract permitting, and right now there is no contract, and negotiations are stalled). On the bottom are single-course "adjuncts," hired per semester, for a base pay. The base pay does not change, there are no benefits, and there is no promise of anything beyond the one semester. In the middle is a nebulous year long, renewable contract, and the pay and benefits seem distributed by whim.

From what I have seen, the vast majority of part-time instructors come from the bottom level. Moving up in the system takes time, department whim, and most importantly, classes. I forget the exact number, but if someone teaches a certain number of classes over a certain number of semesters, they are to be given one of those 3-year renewable contracts. It just so happens, however, that when someone gets close enough for such a contract, alas, there just aren't enough courses. Oh well; better luck next time.

Every SUNY school is different, but the two I know of have a couple of the 3-year renewables, and then a couple of semester-by-semester adjuncts who never quite get enough courses to qualify for advancement.

Anonymous said...

What I was told by someone working at two SUNY schools is that he would teach two courses at one school, which gave him his health insurance, and two courses at another school, which got him his retirement. You will rarely find two SUNY schools that hire philosophers in the same town (or even within 50 miles), so you'd have some kind of commute almost certainly.

I began teaching as an adjunct at a private college in 2003, and they paid $2000 per course for people without a Ph.D. and $2500 if you had a Ph.D. They now pay a little more than $3000 for people without a Ph.D. and more like $3500 if you do have one. The union has recently bargained to give health insurance to a limited number of adjuncts. Those who have it from a spouse or another source (i.e. if they have enough kids to qualify for state health insurance or military experience to be able to use veteran's benefits) then they don't get it. But the hope was to cover everyone else if they could, and I don't know how that worked out.

My experience has been that I receive an email around February and November asking for preferences for courses the next semester. They would promise one course to all the adjuncts currently working there and perhaps two if there are enough courses, depending on how the schedule worked out. Most people would end up with two, and it didn't always have to do with seniority or who the department liked most, perhaps just due to incompetence on the part of whoever was associate chair at the time and assigning courses.

One time I was pulled from a course at the last minute (i.e. a week or two beforehand) and not offered a replacement, because a full-timer's higher-level elective was canceled for low enrollment, and that full-timer needed to be given another course. Our contracts had it written in that they could do such a thing. But most of the time I could expect two courses every semester, even though there was no legal guarantee of any, and they tried hard to give our preferences serious consideration as to what we would teach and when.

One department chair paid for childcare for our children so we could attend a department party without having to bring them along. Another told me that the college required evaluating us, but he didn't want to be big brother, so he did it only to offer feedback to help us. He didn't even do that, so maybe he had no suggestions for changes, but he did write me a letter for the job market. One faculty member refuses to talk to any adjuncts and thinks he's better than them, but the others have all been very welcoming and consider the adjuncts to be full members of the community. They invite adjuncts to, but do not require attendance of adjuncts at, faculty meetings, and the college gives voting rights at the faculty senate to adjuncts who have taught there a certain length of time.

But none of these experiences, good or bad, will generalize. Every place is different, and when you're talking about what may be the clearest case of white collar exploitation in the current labor market you're going to find that different places engaging in it will engage in different aspects of it.

Most places looking for adjuncts will ask at Ph.D. programs nearby if any ABD students are interested in work. They also tend to have lists of people in the area with Ph.D.s in philosophy, perhaps from applications to previous job searches. They don't always advertise. My advice is to ask any local institutions if they need anyone to teach philosophy courses, and be prepared for most of them to say no. But you may find something if you approach a number of places.

Anonymous said...

I had a very, very easy time finding work as an adjunct in each of the three (rather rural) states I've lived in during the last decade. Some chairs hired me without even meeting me in person, without even calling my references, and without looking at anything other than my CV. None of the chairs who hired me ever asked to see student evaluations or a sample syllabus or anything, in fact.

Most small philosophy departments (and many big ones, too) need adjuncts badly, and they need good adjuncts--ones who will stick around from semester to semester--even more. You won't be able to get departments to pay you more in wages than gas money, really, but if you're doing a good job and getting great evals and there's somewhere else in the area you could be working instead, you should negotiate for whatever you can get: mileage reimbursement for regional conference travel, development funds to prepare a new course, an upper-division course every year or every semester (instead of all lower levels), a convenient schedule to minimize trips to campus, etc.

Anonymous said...

What 8:32 wrote -- and Mr. Zero's initial responses -- seem to me exactly right.

I know that there are jobs like what 7:23 describes, but they seem extremely rare. Typically, if it's a full-time position with benefits, then it is usually not thought of as an "adjunct" position. It's a VAP (visiting assistant professor). An adjunct position (even when not referred to as such) is typically a couple courses at about $4000 a course (sometimes more, and apparently, as I'm learning here, sometimes less). For this reason alone (and for others) adjunct positions are outrageously exploitative. (I confess I have a hard time looking our adjuncts in the eye. I find the practice -- of hiring adjuncts mind you, not being one -- incredibly shameful.)

Also, academic institutions tend to be very classist. Once you have worked as an adjunct at a school, it is rare that the department would consider you for a TT position. (Something to keep in mind if that wasn't already pretty obvious.)

Anonymous said...

I'm married and my spouse has a good job in the city where I'm working on my PhD. I will be applying for TT jobs next year, but in case I do not get any offers, would it hurt me professionally to adjunct for a year after I get my PhD? Financially we wouldn't be worse off to stay (given how little most VAPs seem to pay), even if I can only teach a couple classes a semester. But I've heard that adjuncting, especially at a community college, is the kiss of death when applying for TT positions. Is this true?

Anonymous said...

I got my current adjunct work through connections. The pay is, as others have noted, about 3k per course (before taxes) which averages to about $4600 per course (after taxes).

I know someone here who teaches 8 courses per semester/quarter in order to make a living wage.

Adjuncting feels terrible, it feels exploitative, but I have very few other options.

I also spend several hundred dollars a month on gas. I wish you all luck next year as we all try to climb out of the graves we are respectively digging.

Anonymous said...

RE: Benefits: California State University part-time lecturers (as "adjuncts" are called) do get benefits, especially health insurance (with a minimum of 6 units/semester). The pay per course is 1/10 what a regular appointment at that rank would get for the academic year, and long-time lecturers can earn $6-7K per course. Many have teaching loads of 4+4. The CSU is unionized, so that might be something to watch for if you're looking for part-time work. This should all be on a University's web site somewhere.

zombie said...

Anon 2:49: I've not heard that it hurts to adjunct post-PhD. But I didn't do it (because I had a post-doc). I adjuncted pre-PhD, for at least six years (at a SLAC and a state U.), and it does not appear to have harmed me.

It's a benefit to the extent that it gives you teaching experience, and a teaching portfolio, and a potential teaching letter to add to your dossier.

Given how difficult the job market is, and how many schools rely so heavily on adjuncts, one can only hope SCs don't hold adjuncting against candidates.

FemFilosofer said...

When I was looking for adjunct work (I had to relocate for a year while finishing my diss), I emailed department chairs at all the schools within 30 miles. Only one got back to me, but I was able to get a couple of classes each term to pay some bills. (And though one didn't have any classes for me, they emailed me about departmental events, figuring I was interested in philosophical conversations while I was away from my own school--very kind of them, and not at all expected.)

The benefit for me was evident on the job market. Though my PhD is from a non-ranked school, it is a private and selective school for undergrads, so my experience in the classroom was with a rather homogeneous group of students. I then taught at a larger state school with much more economic, racial and ethnic diversity, as well as a whole host of non-traditional students. So, when applying for jobs, I could speak directly to both experiences. This has come up in almost every interview I've had.

So, teaching outside of the comfort of one's PhD-granting institution and that (perceived) support, can be a sign that one can flourish in multiple environments.

Anonymous said...

7:52 here. Since people are now talking pay figures, I'll just chime in to say that I have *never* been paid more than $2500/course to adjunct, though I have only done it at private colleges and community colleges. So you should keep in mind that it can be even worse than you might imagine, money-wise--and also note that my earlier figure about pay in Canada assumes this meager sum in the US.

Prof. Kate said...

I can't guarantee that 2:49 is better off adjuncting than spending time on research. But I can definitely say that adjuncting is not universally held to be the kiss of death. At my SLAC I was on search committees for both TT and visiting positions several times, and teaching experience was always looked at as a major asset. The more different courses an applicant taught, the more likely they were to have developed syllabi, thoughts about how to teach well, and skills.

Anonymous said...

8:32 here. Regarding adjuncts being prejudiced against on the job market, this has not been the case for me and I adjuncted a lot. I now have my 3rd fly-in in two years (last year I was ABD), all at good slacs and all impressed with my teaching record. I am sure there are snobs in academia who consider adjuncts migrant workers (or so I've seen them write such things on other academic blogs) but it hasn't hurt me and it has helped me to become a better teacher, accumulate "teaching evidence" such as class observations and student evals, etc.

Anonymous said...

I've been an adjunct at two schools, one well before I was ABD and the other when I was ABD. In the first case, I knew someone who knew the head of the department and was basically hired before I ever met anyone. In the second case, I emailed the chair of the department, attached my CV after asking if he wanted it and explained my situation. He put me on the list for colloquia announcements, etc., I met him a few times, I mentioned we had a mutual colleague (she emailed him on my behalf), and I was hired as an adjunct about a month before I started. I didn't have an official interview for either of these, and the process seemed relatively painless, although still very lucky for me. I would imagine the teaching experience would outweigh any prejudice against adjuncting, but I'm not sure about that.

Anonymous said...

Well, working for a community college -- or a set of them -- in Minnesota could get you health insurance.

Anonymous said...

POI: Sessionals in Canada = VAPS in the US. Adjuncting in Canada = Part-time per course pay.


Anonymous said...

anon 3:44 PM re: cal state adjuncting: is this true of UC schools as well? that it's possible to receive benefits as an adjunct/lecturer/part-timer?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:49 PM Re "kiss of death"

Your spouse wasn't completely informed about the situation. While you are still in graduate school completing your Ph.D, adjunct positions are NOT the kiss of death for TT track.

Making a career out of cobbled together adjunct positions AFTER you've earned your Ph.D. and left your graduate program is the "kiss of death" your spouse might have heard about.

BunnyHugger said...

What Mr. Zero says about adjuncting is true in the great majority of cases. As with most generalizations, there are exceptions. It happens that I had lunch with an old friend today and learned that she is currently teaching four courses per semester as an adjunct at a state university, and receives health insurance.

A community college I used to teach for had a faculty union that included adjuncts, though I did not get the impression that the union had secured a particularly fantastic contract for that part of its membership. One thing they did get was access to the employee health insurance, although the amount that an adjunct would have to contribute to it was so high in proportion to the pay that it would not be worth it for almost anyone.

Speaking of pay, there is a fairly broad range in my experience. I have been paid as little as $1,350 per course (at a CC) and as high as $3,000 (at a private liberal arts college). That is not including the time I got $5,400 for teaching one course at a state university because, for reasons I don't know, the position was titled as VAP and I was paid a pro-rated VAP salary.

Anonymous said...

I've taught adjunctively at three institutions over the last few years --two private liberal arts colleges and one private university-- and have always received $3,300-$3,500 per 3-hr course. The closest state school recently raised its adjunct pay to 3K per course. FYI.

Anonymous said...

Despite what @2:10 asserts, sessionals in Canada are the equivalent to adjuncts in the US. They are hired to teach a single course (though they might sometimes teach more than one). They are funded through what is called the temporary instruction budget -- which also includes TAs. Typically, they are governed by the collective agreement governing TAs. We also have Visiting Assistant Prof or Lecturer positions, which are governed by a distinct collective agreement, the one covering regular faculty. While they are also funded through a temporary instruction budget, usually the Dean has to come through with a significant chunk of change to fund it. Typically, the word 'adjunct' is used here to refer to affiliated faculty from other departments, if it is used at all.

Anonymous said...

3:23: The UC campuses have doctoral programs, so they are able to fill out most of their teaching needs with doctoral students. UCs also are not unionized for faculty. Perhaps someone from a UC could enlighten us on the extent to which they also use lecturers, PT or FT, who are not doctoral students.

The CSU does not offer the Ph.D. (with some very narrow exceptions, such as joint programs with a UC), so it relies heavily instead on lecturers. Five of the CSUs (out of 23 campuses) do have MAs in philosophy and (at least on paper), those MA students can be hired as "Teaching Associates" with full-charge teaching responsibilities, but there is great resistance to that from both the faculty themselves and the faculty union.

Anonymous said...

Unrelated to the thread:

I got a PFO today in the mail telling me that I won't be interviewed at the Eastern APA. Is it really that hard to write a timely rejection letter, or one that doesn't make reference to events that have already happened?

Anonymous said...

As a former CC adjunct, and now a FT CC Philosophy "Department Head," let me say one thing about getting an adjunct gig at a CC. Do not talk much, if at all, about your research in your cover letter! Your cover letter should be succinct, a bit punchy and focused on your teaching.

You should mention how you teach to students with different learning styles, how you teach to remedial students, and how you teach to adult learners. Be specific, be precise, and show that you love to teach (even if you don't).

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I have a few things to say about adjuncting, having done a lot of it and now hired a lot of them.

(a) Adjuncting is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it offers money. But on the other, it steals time. If you are still dissertating, it steals time from your writing. If you are done dissertating, it steals time from your life. By this I mean, the income generated by adjuncting can delay or entirely eliminate the bitter but important confrontation with the fate of one's career in this terrible job market. If after a few years on the market, one is still adjuncting... it might be better to place a call to a temp agency instead of a department chair. Temping, unlike adjuncting, has a greater possibilty of turning into something full time and if you still want to adjunct, you could pick up a night class. Hardwork, is neither noticed nor appreciated for most adjuncts. OTOH, many other employers will notice if the temp works hard, stays late and the like; academics won't. I've never heard of adjuncts getting hired full time, but I know a number of people who went temp to full time.

(b) You don't get paid enough to work really really hard. Like Peter in Office Space, you should work just hard enough not to get fired. If you are dissertating, that has to be your #1 priority. If you are on the job market, you need to spend your time publishing papers, not grading student papers. I know, if runs against everything you probably believe in, but (a) you will not get paid a dime more for gradeing 100 essay tests versus 100scantrons and (b) you do not want to wake up with a year or two gone by and no publications.

Anonymous said...

804 gives us fantastic but sobering advice.

I'm depressed right now (literally and figuratively) as a result of the job market.

I did better this year than last year but better here is extremely relative. I'm beginning to think that my 12 years studying philosophy were a waste. That I could/shave have done something else. This is not only not fun it is invalidating.

I have been adjuncting this year and will adjunct again next year unless one of these last minute jobs or VAPS come through. I don't look forward to the prospect and am seriously thinking of packing it up. The only problem is that the people I know who have sought non-academic employment are having just as hard a time selling themselves in the business world.

I'm not lazy (maybe a little) and I'm not entirely out of practice (I had one publication this year and have several under review at decent places) but I can't go on living like this. I'm an adult who just can't seem to become financially independent because my labor can be purchased so cheaply.


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, sessionals at my Canadian university made about the same amount for one class that TAs made, which shocked me when I found that out (plus we got free health insurance, and I doubt the sessional teachers got that). I am happy to report that my department utilized sessionals very rarely, however (relying instead on TT professors), and my department head expressed regret at how little they could pay sessionals (which was limited by university-wide rules, not by the department).

Anonymous said...

Is this the right time/place to ask these...unfortunate but necessary questions?:

When do you call it quits? What kinds of non-academic jobs are philosophers most qualified for? How have philosophers who have chosen to leave academia fared?

I for one am terrified of the prospect of re-entering the private sector but adjuncting just won't do for anything by the short term. I, however, do not really know how to sell PhD in the private sector. I don't want to resort to this, I am happier when being a philosopher, but I can't live like a graduate student for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

Is there a reason to be all doom-and-gloom at this point? I had no APA interviews, but there are still 17 jobs I've applied for that weren't interviewing at the APA (as far as I know) and have not popped up on the Wiki yet as having scheduled interviews. A number of these didn't even have application deadlines until this month, and there are still some with deadlines to come. Given past history, I'm guessing this number will increase before I start to see the number dropping at a rate faster than the newer jobs I can apply for can allow it to stay in the high teens. I didn't think this was that close to over yet.

Anonymous said...


I'm a natural pessimist and this is my second year on the market. I wish you the best of luck (and I hope I have luck as well) but all of us who remain are now competing for even fewer slots and the prospects of another year of adjuncting are just not that pleasant.