Teaching at a College

Updated on October 23, 2010
L.C. asks from Cypress, TX
10 answers

Hello! I currently work full time as a HR professional but I've always wanted to teach at a University. I've always had the desire to stay at home or work a flexible schedule so that I can be closer to my daughter (and future babies) and plus, I would love to teach once I've retired from the corporate world.

I know that a University requires a Masters and so I thought for now, to gain teaching experience, I would teach at a local community college since I have a Bachelors...like remedial classes. I have tried applying to local colleges but wanted to know if any moms out there have any tips or advice to offer that would help me to get my foot in the door. I don't really have any "in-class" teaching experience so I'm not sure if obtaining a Teaching certificate would help or really what to do to increase my chances.

Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated. I'm just trying to find a job that would still supply income but provide flexibility in schedule. Some times I wish my job would allow me to work from home on a part time basis but that's wishful thinking, haha! Oh it's hard being a working mom! Thanks!

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answers from Tulsa on

In my experience you must have a Masters to teach at Community College or Jr. College and a full doctorate to be a full professor at University.

The non-degreed teachers are usually master's/doctoral students that have Stipends that are in lieu of financial aid. They work as part of the funding and are under the supervision of a full professor. That Professor has the job of overseeing their class schedules, helping them make the tests and grading guidelines, etc....

If you are trying to become a College Professor then I would think enrolling in the program you are going to teach would be the best way to teach within that program. For example, if you wanted to eventually teach at a University level in the Mathematics department then you could enroll in the doctoral or Master's program and apply for a stipend to help with finances and then you would get all the teaching experience you need teaching beginning and Intermediate algebra, maybe even some other beginning level classes. Once you gain educational and teaching experience they would put you over more and more classes.

At least this is how it worked with my friends that are teachers at Jr. college levels or professors at university. One is a MSW/Ph.d in the Sociology Dept. and the other is a Professor in Mathematics.

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answers from Chicago on

In order to teach at a university, you would need an earned doctoral degree (not an ABD, although some will accept these). At a community college, you would likely need a masters or a truckload of experience and be an expert in your area.

You do not need a teaching certificate to teach at a college. In fact, the vast majority of professors (tenure track, non-tenure track, associate, assistant, adjunct or what have you) do not have ANY training in pedagogy whatsoever. They're content specialists who may also participate in research, grant-writing, and professional writing (getting authored, published, etc.). Teacher training would help you be a better instructor because you would learn how to 'teach', how to lecture, how to stimulate group discussions, small-group activities, how to write/grade exams, how to teach to a wide variety of students with specialized needs, etc. I definitely had professors in college who were just absolutely brilliant scholars in their field but couldn't teach worth a damn. If you're wanting to teach remedial courses, it would be helpful to have an understanding of how people 'learn'...in order to best get them through their remedial courses.

I'm not sure how the salary compares to what you're doing right now but it is typically very, very low. Community colleges do not pay a whole lot and the classes tend to be scheduled to meet the needs of the non-traditional student (afternoon, evening, weekend, summer). In addition, you may also be assigned as an academic advisor to students and will be required to meet regularly with them. You'll also have meetings and other responsibilities that, while are not every day, will fill up your time. Finally, you'll have to plan lessons, create exams and assessment instruments, and grade tests and projects. Adjunct faculty tend to have more flexibility but less job stability, are not usually tenure track, and wind up getting to teach the courses that full-time faculty don't want to teach. University salary is not that stellar either, unless you are working at a major school - and in order to get those types of salaries, you have to get published, secure grants and funding, conduct research, etc. To be honest, a public school elementary/high school teacher will make more money than a community college or division II or III university professor/faculty member may make.

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answers from San Francisco on

I am a community college professor in California. Right now things are very competitive because of budget cuts. Here in California, to teach at a community college, you will need a M.A.. Many teachers, even adjuncts, have PhDs. Also, you need to be minimally qualified in a particular subject matter and those qualifications can be quite specific. You don't mention what your degree is in, but usually your subject area for teaching will be limited by that degree.

To be blunt, in this economy we have been laying off teachers, so you will need teaching experience in order to be competitive. When I first finished grad. school I volunteered as a non-paid TA just to get the experience. You might consider volunteering at learning centers at community colleges. If you determine a discipline that you could teach in, you might want to contact a professor about visiting his or her class.

Good luck!

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answers from San Antonio on

I am tenure-track at a university. I've worked at several schools. You will most likely need a masters before you can get a job at a Community College. A teaching certificate is only needed for K-12. It is competitive, even for adjuncts. If you decide to adjunct, make sure your family has another source of income! Community colleges tend to look for people who understand the community college experience. In between jobs, I kept trying to adjunct at a community college, and never could get hired.

To be at a university, you will need a masters for a full-time lecturer and a terminal degree (usually a Ph.D.) for a tenure-track position. Some universities will only take Ph.D.'s for all their positions. It is hard to get hired without teaching experience. During graduate school, many people are Teaching Assistants, and that is how they get adequate experience to be hired, but some places look for more experience than that. I'd suggest to get started on that masters as soon as you can, and consider going further.

As for flexibility, I am very lucky that I can be there at 8:45 and leave between 4:30 and 5 most days, and I have flexible Fridays (but loads of meetings get scheduled for Friday). With that schedule I still have plenty of work to do outside of school. I say that I'm lucky because many faculty at our school must teach in the evenings. I do get to volunteer at my kids' school on Fridays every now and then, but I still need to find time to do the work that I would have done on that Friday. So, it's not less work; the work needs to get done even if you're not there. If you're in a reasonably small school, the pay for full-time is like a teacher's salary. Profs in big schools that do tons of research are the only ones getting rich! (And I'd never trade places with them--they have no life! Research is very time consuming!)

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answers from San Antonio on

Hi L.! I teach occasionally at a local university as adjunct faculty and it is nice as an extra--though not reliable as you work only as needed when classes cannot be covered by full-time faculty. As a full time faculty member, there is not the kind of flexibility i think you are looking for, though more than in the corporate world I imagine. There's a lot more than just teaching your classes. (Have done that too.) Even to teach an occasional class as an adjunct, at most universities and most fields, you need a doctorate. I also teach occasionally at a community college and they require at least a master's, unless it's a vocational or technical field, or someone is a working artist. You really only need a teaching certificate to teach in a public school, not in higher education. That won't help in college teaching, so unless you want to be in a public school system, I wouldn't bother. You might look over the job postings at your local community college. Often they have special programs such as to help students stay in school that may be part-time. Good luck!

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answers from State College on

Part of it depends on if you are going to be a lecturer or try for professor. Lecturers I believe only teach. At many universities the professors have PhDs and are also required to do research and publish also. For many research is their main job and the teaching is just part of it. I'm guessing you are looking at more of being a lecturer, in which case the hours may be more open. My husband is a prof and he still puts in 40 or more hours a week in the office and travels to conferences frequently. The job market can be highly competitive too depending on which schools you are looking at and many actively recruit.

It won't help on the college level, but being a substitute teacher may be a good fit too if you are interested in working with any of the age groups K-high school. That way you can always say you can't work certain days and when you do work it is just school hours.

For the higher levels I would go in and talk to someone, which may take some time to find the right person to talk to and know what you are interested in teaching. They would be able to tell you requirements, etc for their school.

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answers from Houston on

I taught developmental courses for a number of years at Montgomery College. The requirements for teaching that course have changed. Lone Star College now requires a master's to teach the remedial courses as well. To increase your chances, you'll need a master's degree, even at the community college.
You might consider applying in the Continuing Education department. It offers a variety of courses and your qualifications might be a good fit for them.
Good luck!


answers from Hartford on

As Krista stated, a teaching certificate means nothing at a collegiate level and that the key is to convey your real-world experience or prior education into teachable classes. Also, I do not want to deter you from pursuing this, but I believe most community colleges also require an advanced degree and it is a highly competitive market. Lastly, the per hour earnings as a part-time professor are not much more than minimum wage. But, if it is your passion then you should just keep trying.



answers from New York on

Most college professors do not have a teaching certificate, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. You would really want to focus on your experiences and your ability to convey that knowledge in a meaningful manner. I would suggest looking at online university level syllabi in the content area you are considering and see what topics are being covered. Your resume should reflect an ability to address those key topics!



answers from Minneapolis on

M.R. from Chicago is right on point. You will need your certification and a Masters or have the Masters in the works (Less than 2 years away) to work at the Community College level even as an Adjunt Staff. Hope this helps.

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