Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jobs at Community Colleges

Questions about CC jobs come up periodically, and in the current job climate, some philosophers who previously would not have considered teaching at a CC are probably giving those jobs a good, hard, longing look. My experience with CCs is pretty limited. (I took an art class at a CC once, and I'm a big fan of Community.) I applied for a few CC jobs in my last go-round on the job market, and found the application process to be quite different, and in some ways, quite onerous. I was in contention (early on) for one job, and remember having to respond to a lot of very specific additional questions with fairly lengthy written answers. As I progressed through different levels of the process, it seemed the search committee demanded more and more from me. Still, the particular school was in a desirable city, and I was willing. But I can't say I was heartbroken when I was eventually eliminated. So maybe a CC job wasn't for me.

Here's what I've gleaned about CC jobs from fellow Smokers:

  • The teaching load is relatively high, with the usual expectations of service.You should really, really love to teach.
  • The students are far more diverse socially, economically, educationally, and in every other way, than the typical four year college student.
  • There is generally no research requirement for tenure.
  • The pay is equivalent to (or better than) four year college salaries.
  • Expect a multidisciplinary atmosphere.
  • It is not at all unusual for CC jobs to require a PhD these days.

Those in the know are invited to correct any inaccuracies. This is an open thread for those of you who have questions about CCs, and those who have experience and answers.



Anonymous said...

There will be a special session on how to land a CC job at the Pacific APA 2013

Anonymous said...

That all sounds more or less right. Many of the folks in my old Ph.D. program are teaching at community colleges, and their experience points toward this: Community colleges, with some exceptions (generally the exceptions seem to be at heavily unionized places) are moving even more rapidly away from tenure and toward relying on adjuncts (e.g. indentured servitude).

My sense is that finding stable, permanent employment at a community college is, ceteris paribus, even more difficult than finding stable employment at a four year school.

If you're looking for community college positions, my initial advice would be to make yourself an attractive candidate: get experience teaching online, get experience teaching at community colleges or lower-tier public schools, finish your Ph.D. (most CC jobs require it now), use some (or all) of your research time to improve your CC credentials.

Anonymous said...

Expect zero questions about your research but expect questions about how you will incorporate your research into your teaching.

Expect questions about teaching students who may not have strong reading skills.

Expect questions about students who question the point of philosophy.

Expect questions about technology in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

I'm not at all opposed to a CC career. But I do not know how I would answer a question about how I would handle students who do not read well. I know that responding, 'Have you seen the papers kids at pretty much every school in America write? None of them have strong reading skills,' will not work.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is now teaching full-time at a community college, and the big thing he mentioned about interviews and the like was that he was being evaluated entirely by non-philosophers (English and history people mostly, if I remember). Many of you have probably discovered that other departments in the humanities tend to speak a different language than us philosophers, so translating philosopher-speak is a good skill to practice.

Anonymous said...


My friend teaches at a CC (humanities, but not philosophy), and she has shown me some of the work she gets. I teach a small state school with...questionable standards for admission, and what she has shown me has floored me. When people say that students come to CC unprepared (certainly not all of them, mind you), and claim that they have trouble reading and writing, they mean things like: the students cannot diagram a sentence into subject/verb/object; they cannot distinguish the difference between different prepositions; they have no understanding of structure. In other words, they have been failed upward to graduate, and now are facing a higher education system that will forever treat them as "basic," "underachieving," and mark them as "lazy" or "unengaged." Sure, some of them will be, having been dragged through registration by parents who refuse to accept that college may not be for their kids. Some, sad to say, will be undiagnosed learning disabled students who have never received the proper assessment and teaching. And some will be those who, for whatever reason, fell through the gaping cracks in the system that is designed to assume that someone else will there to catch students when they fall.

The best answer you could give to that question? "I will meet them where they are, and work from there." It's a vague answer, but it allows you to note that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the academically underprepared. And it's why you won't have any time or support for your own research; you will be expected to meet them where they are, and that involves long hours and creative pedagogy.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with 4.12: Community colleges are generally moving toward reliance on adjuncts. The adjunct pay at a CC is also generally worse than adjunct pay at a larger university (and that is saying a lot given how low adjunct pay normally is). I have heard that some CCs still offer well paying, stable employment... but you will have to search carefully for it. You will also want to think about the biases some other employers might have against CCs if you want to transition from CC employment to a non-CC 4 year college (similar to the biases employers can have towards candidates who transition from jobs overseas outside of Europe [biases that, in my opinion, are very often more unjustified than biases against CCs ...even if both are largely unjustified]).

Patty said...

I've been teaching philosophy full-time at a CC for 9 years...

The teaching load is higher, service expectations are pretty high -- but research is not necessary for promotion. Generally, the teaching load is 5/5 -- at my college that usually means 2 or three preps per semester. Sitting on several committees is expected.

In terms of the students..
We're getting a wide variety of students recently, some are unprepared for college work, others are very prepared and unable to afford to go elsewhere. They all end up in the same classroom -- so, having a plan that's more than "send them to the writing center if they're dumb-asses" is a good idea.

I'd say that you should think carefully about what you'd teach someone who will probably be taking their only philosophy course with you.

I'd probably poke around and see what the prerequisites are for the philosophy courses, and humanities courses in general, then in your time to ask questions, ask how these are working out in the classroom?

I'd look for "concentrations" or "certificates" that include philosophy courses and if there aren't any, let them know that you'd be interested in a multi-disciplinary certificate of some sort.

If the CC is a combined community and technical college (they teach English and Auto Repair, etc..) ask how the two combine -- do the Auto Repair students have a general humanities requirement? Ask what's recommended AND what's required. My state has a limit on the number of credits an AA can contain -- so they're unlikely to have required humanities courses, but they also strongly recommend certain courses to fulfill the general ed requirements..

Anonymous said...

If you want to read a horror story about a new instructor's experience teaching at a community college (different discipline: Political Science), check out the book Teaching Amidst the Neon Palm Trees.

BunnyHugger said...

I've been interviewed as a finalist for two CC jobs. I suspect my past experience adjuncting at two different CCs, though brief, helped with this, along with the fact that I already have a long full-time teaching experience at a second-tier "teaching oriented" state school.

The teaching load at the two schools was 5/5 in one case, and 5/5/1 (required summer course) in the other. I have to admit, that /1 really pushed them toward "not sure I actually want this job" in my mind, and I'm sure they smelled that uncertainty on me.

Anonymous said...

hmmmm. what folks are describing as cc experience sounds a lot like standard fare at the 4 year cal state system right now....

Jeff Wisdom said...

Since no one has commented much on it, I wanted to say a bit about Zombie's second bullet point. Zombie notes that the students at community colleges are far more diverse socially, economically, educationally, and in every other way, than the typical four year college student. Would-be job seekers for community college positions need to take this to heart.

Some examples: I've only been at my CC for two years, and I've already had students who were homeless. I've had students going to school full time while taking care of chronically ill parents or children. I've had students with any number of learning or social difficulties; everything from run-of-the-mill dyslexia to traumatic brain injury and Asperger's syndrome. Financial difficulties seem much more common among community college students than among the students I've taught at four-year schools. As a result, one is more likely to hear different reasons for why a student was absent than one might get if one were teaching elsewhere; everything from the heartbreaking (an older student of mine last year was going through a messy custody battle with her ex-husband) to the somewhat humorous (a current student was driving to school and her wheel literally came off of her car--she showed me the picture she had taken with her phone to prove it).

What does this mean for you if you get an interview at a community college? Probably not much in terms of the interview itself. I don't recall any questions about how I'd teach students in these sorts of situations, but I did get a variation on the question of how to challenge the really good students without leaving the unprepared or unmotivated ones behind. Still, if you land a job at a community college, doing well there may require you to become a bit more flexible and compassionate in how you handle certain situations.

Anonymous said...

I was an adjunct. I found CC faculty to be angry and bitter graduates of third rate universities with little or no love of learning. They love to recruit unprepared students and then, after the census date arrives and state funding per pupil is deposited, they are indifferent when the students drop out. The best route to a tenured position is massive union volunteer time while employed as an adjunct. And don't bother with the rigor of a Ph.D. CC professors get pay raises and elevation to higher paid administrator jobs by getting mail order Ed.D. degrees. I know one CC President whose Ed.D. thesis was under 50 pages long and analyzed the one dozen published poems ever written about . . . community colleges. That got him a salary of over $200,000 in administration.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:04 ... Obviously, every community college is exactly like the one where you adjuncted, every CC faculty member is exactly like the few you had contact with, and everything in the entire world of community colleges is exactly like you say.

I guess I better go bullying some poor, disabled students for their lunch money and mail-ordering my doctorate so I can make more money. What I have been doing all this time, trying to teach people about philosophy for a modest salary? Your post has been a revelation about how I've totally been failing to take my CC faculty role to the next level.

Anonymous said...

If I may be obliged to bore people some more, let me give some thoughts on the CC job search process.

Let me first say that I was on the market for three years at the height of the Great Recession. I applied to every CC-TT job in the country and finally landed one. I was a finalist for a number of positions, and was beaten by people who were fantastic. (I couldn’t hold a candle to them.) During the past few years, the number of TT jobs at CC’s around the country has been in the low 20’s. Yes, that’s it. Four years ago and three years ago, over half of those searches were cancelled due to budget shortfalls. Maybe hiring will pick up as the economy improves, but don’t hold your proverbial breath.

Let me address a couple of things in Zombie’s important post. First, he mentions a school in a desirable location that asked for written answers to supplemental questions. One school, let’s say that it might be in Oregon, asked for multiple rounds of written responses to supplemental questions. (I know, because I went through them too, because that location is uber desirable. And I have some insider knowledge about this place.) This is the exception, and not the norm. Out of over 100 applications on my part, that school was the only one that had such a requirement. However, this particular school, because of its desirable location received hundreds of applications (many hundreds…).

To give readers just a little more information, at one, rather rural CC in Illinois, about 1.5 hours south of Chicago, they received 134 applications and they told me their pool was “quite strong.” Another school in the south Chicago suburbs garnered 150 applicants, and the person they ended up hiring was awesome. An hour or so outside of Denver attracted over 100 applicants, and the same was the case in Phoenix. The closer you apply to a major metropolitan area, the larger and more competitive the applicant pool is going to be. When I finally landed my position at a mainly rural Midwestern CC about an hour outside of a rust-belt metropolitan area, the SC chair said there were close to 90 applicants, all of whom had extensive teaching experience and credentials. (How I got it, I don’t know? Every blind squirrel finds a nut, I guess.)

Anonymous said...

You have not rebutted a single point that I made in my 6:04 post. You sound angry and bitter. I bet your CC, like most of them in urban areas, have a less than 40% graduation rate after six years, and I'll bet you've done nothing to try to remedy that (other than blaming K-12 schools for giving you unprepared students). If you get a Ed.D. online from Nova Southeastern or Capella, your CC will give you a shot at a much higher paying administrative job. I've seen it happen over and over again. Try it, and you can thank me later.

Anonymous said...

I've been teaching as an adjunct at a CC for 7 years. Since I only have an MA, I never even considered applying for the one tenure track position that opened up a few years ago. I teach 3 classes each semester and one in the summer, the maximum allowed for an adjunct. Most of my classes start out with 36 students. The full-time faculty teach 5/5/1. I don't know how they do it.

In my experience too many of the students are poor readers and worse writers. Some students drop the classes because of poor grades, others because life gets in the way. By the end of the semester I usually end up with 24-28 students, still too many for a philosophy class.

Many of the older students are better prepared and more motivated to do well, and they are often or more willing to ask questions and challenge me. Occasionally there are students who belong in a four year school but can't attend one due to financial considerations. Students rarely come to office hours to ask for help, which I used to find frustrating. Grading exams is time consuming for so many students because I give only essay exams, and sometimes the time it takes to decipher someone's handwriting can take awhile.

I have to say I've derived a great deal of satisfaction in teaching these students. They appreciate someone who takes an interest in them, tries to make the classes interesting, and because of their life experiences (I've had many war veterans in my courses, which helps liven up the Ethics classes) they are interesting to me.

I don't get paid much, but no one bothers me. I've seen my chair exactly twice in 7 years, I don't go to boring meetings, and sometimes I introduce topics to the students that I want to learn more about.

Frankly, if it weren't for the fact that my wife has a tenured job at a local liberal arts college, I couldn't afford to teach. I'm fortunate that I get to do something that I like to do with students that I like to spend time with. If you get a tenured track job at such a CC, be prepared to give up the rest of your life.

Anonymous said...

I have taught at a CC in a major city for the last three years. 5/5/2. Classes capped at 30, and they always reach the cap. I never have more than 2 preps, and sometimes just 1 prep.

I'm the only philosopher on campus, not including the adjuncts.

Echo everything 11:48 said about the students and the nature of the teaching. It is hard, and it is rewarding, and it got me out of my grad school shell in which I thought that research and publications were the most important things.

It is regrettably true that adjuncts are relied on heavily at CCs. And at mine, we don't even have tenure. The full-timers here are on renewable multi-year contracts. Nobody actually gets fired, and many of the full-timers have been here for decades. But, still, you don't have the luxury and added security of tenure.

And for what it's worth, nothing that 6:04 said resonates with my own experience. Maybe my CC is an aberration, or maybe 6:04 is just wrong for the most part.

Anonymous said...

I finished a PhD at a top 15 Leiter ranked school and was the rare grad who loved teaching first and foremost. I would have *loved* a CC job, possibly even more than a four-year college job.

Of the 20+ CC jobs I applied to, only one ever responded with anything beyond the automatic "we received your application" message. That place - a small CC in upstate NY - gave me a 15 minute phone interview which seemed to go well. I never heard from them again.

I have no idea what the criteria were against which I was evaluated and summarily rejected (although I saw that at one place, someone who had an MA and had been adjuncting there for the past 5 years, got the gig). In any event, I ended up with no job at all and, utterly devastated, left the profession.

Anonymous said...

Wow, only 20 CC jobs per year in the whole US? I haven't been following the numbers closely but I thought the TT pool was hovering around 150-200 per year. So I had been thinking the CC pool would be much larger, since it seems (perhaps I'm mistaken) there are many more CC-type schools. Is it possible that the JFP includes all the CC postings and I just never realized it? If so, this substantially decreases my estimation of my career prospects. (I don't have the pedigree to compete with TT applicants, coming out of a PhD at a third-rate Canadian university having taught only one course.)

Anonymous said...

The previous comment echoes what I thought. Are CC jobs advertised elsewhere? if so, where?

Anonymous said...

@6:35...I've always assumed the CC postings simply weren't centralized with the same reliability as TT jobs either through JFP or some of those other wiki things that have popped up the last few years.

So for those who have applied to CC jobs, how do you find them? Is it through JFP or do you just manually search them out online, school by school? If anyone knows of a good place to find CC listings in a relatively centralized format, that would be extremely helpful.

Anonymous said...

HigherEdJobs.com lists a lot of CC jobs (actually where I saw the ad for the CC job I have now).

Also check out the Chronicle's website - you can search specifically for CC jobs through it.

zombie said...

Not all CC job ads are in the JFP. Higheredjobs.com is a better place to look for CC ads.

Anonymous said...

I had been teaching adjunct at multiple schools for about 4 years before I got a TT job at a CC in a major metropolitan area. I interviewed at 5 CC's (in 3 different states) and got two. I have two MA's, and left the Phd program to give a shot at CC teaching. I got extremely lucky, so I don't recommend it. If you are in the PhD program, ride it out as long as possible. The requirements are different depending on the state/region. In CA, and most other states, PhD's aren't officially required, but are often desired. In NY and I think Massachussetts, PhD's are required. Typical load for a semester is 5/5, while it's 4/4/4 for a quarter/trimester system.

If there is a big philosophy department on the campus, it's likely that you'll have several philosophers on the hiring committee. I've experienced a wide range of hetero- and homogeneity. The questioners tend to be stoic and the questions aren't exactly conversation pieces.

I think nothing beats the CC lifestyle. You get paid pretty well and the benefits are great. There are no publishing requirements. Just teach and be a part of a committee or three. The downside is that you do deal with challenged/unprepared students that aren't ready for philosophy.