Adjunct professors serve as instructors and/or researchers for the institution at which they teach. Most often, adjunct professors are not full-time professors seeking a tenured position at a university. Rather, they are typically professionals working in a particular field who have part-time professor status teaching within that same field at a university; universities benefit because these professors have real-world experience working in the field and do not require the same employment benefits of full-time professors.
To be considered for the role of adjunct professor, individuals must typically hold a doctoral degree in the field in which they work and intend to teach; fields that do not require a doctorate to perform at the highest level and fields that have a licensed, sub-doctoral tier, such as counseling psychology, are exceptions. Community colleges and vocational schools often require only a master’s degree of their adjunct professors, while the doctorate is a common requirement of universities.
As with full-time professors, adjunct professors teach classes in a particular field of study. These classes might be for undergraduates or graduates. In addition, adjunct professors often conduct research and mentor students. One notable exception to these typical duties is the field of medicine. In teaching hospitals, Ph.D.s and M.D.s are routinely made adjunct professors for the associated university or medical school, regardless of whether they teach any courses. This practice allows the doctors to conduct research under the auspices of the university and to teach classes in the future, should they be required to do so.
The setting in which adjunct professors work varies widely by the field. Required skills include excellent communication and analytical skills, as well as leadership abilities. Because adjunct professors are responsible for educating students, their verbal and writing skills must be exemplary. Skills related to working in the field of study are often not sufficient to translate to good teaching abilities in the same field. Adjunct professors must be able to translate their experiences and knowledge into effective classwork and lectures.
Adjunct Professor Tasks
- Develop the syllabus and prepare and lead discussions, lectures, tests, and assignments.
- Grade assignments and provide students with timely feedback.
- Teach on a contractual basis at one or more colleges.