Interesting, if Pessimistic, Article about Surviving on an Adjunct's Wage

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by Mark A. Sykes, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. Mark A. Sykes

    Mark A. Sykes Member

    "Can you Afford to Be an Adjunct?," a career advice article from Inside Higher Ed. The writer emphasizes that adjunct teachers do not often transition to the tenure track: "Don’t consider using adjuncting as a “back door” into a specific department. You are the academic equivalent of a fry cook."

  2. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    And yet ... they just keep on coming. For example, degreeinfo is full of people posting threads about their efforts to become adjuncts. A quick review of the initial posts here in the "Online & DL Teaching" section easily finds quotes like the following:

    There seem to be a great many people out there with a strong innate desire -- almost like an addiction -- to teach at the college level. They want to teach so badly that they are prepared to accept sub-minimum wages, or will even (as the quote above proves) volunteer to teach for free.

    So there is no incentive to offer adjuncts a decent wage. A school can offer pathetic wages, yet still get qualified candidates who will jump at the opportunity to fulfill their dream of teaching. And more and more such people enter the market every year, so the market continues to deteriorate.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2009
  3. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    I'm extremely happy to adjunct for $9 an hour. It's higher than minimum wage and I'm making more than the crew chief at Burger King. :) :eek:
  4. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    But consider In-N-Out Burger, which offers starting wages for a new associate of $10 an hour, plus benefits (no joke).

    And ... you get a free burger every day, which is much better than a Whopper. Given the salary, benefits, and meal plan, flipping burgers at In-N-Out may be a more rational career decision than adjunct teaching.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2009
  5. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    The writer of the article makes some strong points. It is true that you can't survive on adjunct teaching, unless you have another source of income, and it is often an academic dead end.
  6. BlackBird

    BlackBird Member

    Let me throw my two cent in here...

    I work at what was formerly the world's largest community college. Now it is a four year degree college. It has about 170,000 students. 2/3 of the faculty are adjuncts. In my opinion, the most creative, innovative, exciting faculty are primarily adjunct in nature. This is because they tend to still have hope, are not stuck in complacency, and usually practice their profession in the marketplace. They have the cutting edge in terms of being up-to-date in their knowledge, for the most part.

    Adjuncts are also the lowest on the rung in the category of professional staff. If we get any benefits it is a crappy insurance program that will be used up quickly in case of a catastrophic medical event. We might get a retirement account with some investment company. That's pretty much it. In my case, I have been teaching as an adjunct since about 2003. I've done so at the maximum amount of permitted classes per year. I get stellar survey reviews from my students. Students beg to get into my classes. All my classes pack out quickly. I can honestly say, I am one of the best teachers on the campus. I have students following me all around the campus (not to shoot me) :) ...I have applied twice for fulltime openings only to be eliminated in the last interview. I'm not sure I will try again. I am tired of the game. I agree, adjuncts are "fry cooks." I make the best "fried chicken" but "it don't matter." I'm sure if I disappeared it would cause a tiny ripple for a few seconds in the time warp of my institution. Sigh... gotta get back to frying... <sizzle>
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2009
  7. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    There seem to be a great many people out there with a strong innate desire -- almost like an addiction -- to teach at the college level. They want to teach so badly that they are prepared to accept sub-minimum wages, or will even (as the quote above proves) volunteer to teach for free.

    Ah! Another parallel to being a fry cook! LOL In fairness, fry cooks generally get promoted to line cooks Dedicated line cooks who are fast-accurate and consistent can work on an AM or PM lead position..then when they land a sous chef position it's onto salary...then after that they either become chefs or get out. The promotional ladder, for the able, is reliably achievable without any additional education. The down side- is that chefs earn roughly $35,000 and have no job security (or insurance, 401K, etc). Cheffing IS the top of that ladder. So, while $10 and hour for entry level sounds great, a chef earning $35K and working 70 hours per week is also making the same thing +/- a few bucks.

    Not the case with adjuncts who are trying to land full time positions and willing to accumulate 18 hours of grad credit in various disciplines to make it happen.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2009
  8. edowave

    edowave Active Member

    When I worked at Starbucks, I got $10/hour, plus tips, health care, 401k, all the coffee I wanted to drink while working, and a free pound of beans a week to take home.

    If only UF could give me that!
  9. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    This is mainly triggered by books like the "make 100K by teaching online". The article in question is more realistic. I agree that most of the adjuncts are never hired as tenure track. We are seeing as cheap labor, when a new position becomes available, Universities tend to hire fresh PhD graduates from the best school they can get and not adjuncts with a PhD from low tier schools.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2009
  10. jodyw1

    jodyw1 New Member

    Sadly, the moral here is that things are tough and they are only getting tougher....

  11. Tom H.

    Tom H. New Member

    That is a bitter dose of reality and it is tough to accept. It us undeniabably true all the same, so go into "adjuncting" with full knowledge that it's not "getting your foot in the door" or "making contacts" that will help you slide into a full time assistant professors job in the future.
  12. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    I like to see it as a sweet dose of reality where many doors are open for adjuncts because it is preferred to hiring full time instructors. If you complete a PhD from a lower tier school, you probably have a "full time" job - perhaps a high paying corporate job. I see it like this:
    Complete a lower tier PhD while working full time
    Aim for being debt free by working full time and adjuncting on the side
    Become debt free and semi-retire by age 50
    Adjunct for several schools and experience freedom to do what I want when I want and still make 50-60K a year because adjuncts will be in high demand.

    I guess it depends on what you want and how you look at it.
  13. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I agree with your view. If you are realistic and use your cards right, adjunct work can still be profitable. For example, 50K might be low pay in the US but you can always move to a country with a cheaper life cost and live like a king with 50K. I know few people that moved to Buenos Aires where life is very cheap and the city has the European life style, the average salary for professionals in this city is in the 20-30K range so 50K is already double the salary. Also, adjunct work can be a good way to sell yourself as a consultant as this adds credibility to your resume.

    You also have community colleges or 4 year schools that care more about teaching skills than research, for these schools an adjunct position might be the way to get a full time gig. The problem with research universities is that they have the pressure to attract research grants, when they make a hiring decision they have to take the best candidate with the highest chances of getting government funding. Full time adjuncts or professionals don't have time to conduct complex research and online schools don't seem to care much about publication requirements so this makes it very difficult for this group to qualify for full time tenure positions at a research based University.
  14. truckie270

    truckie270 New Member

    My view as well - if I wanted to be a tenured faculty member, I would have taken that direction. I can make far more in my full time job with adjuncting on the side than I could as a tenured faculty member.
  15. jodyw1

    jodyw1 New Member

    I actually wonder how that holds up for tenured jobs that required terminal M.F.As. (Okay, an MFA is pretty much terminal by definition.)

    In the art / music / writing / screenwriting / directing / acting academic paths, I wonder if it's more difficult now than it used to be to get a tenured job in those fields, too.

    My guess is that it would be. M.F.A. level tenured positions were always in short supply in the first place. With the economy and budget cuts, I would imagine you have quite a few more people than before competing for what was already a limited commodity.
  16. AV8R

    AV8R Active Member

    This is something that I've been seriously considering for myself, although not in South America. I've been heavily researching The Philippines as a place to relocate to and adjunct from. The Philippines is one of the most popular destinations for American expats. Why the Philippines? It is a tropical paradise for one thing. It has been described as looking very much like Hawaii did before it became heavily commercialized. English is commonly spoken in the Philippines. All major newspapers there are printed in English. In fact, The Philippines actually has the third largest English speaking population in the world. Australia and Canada rank as numbers four and five, respectively. It is dirt-cheap to live in the Philippines. You can live like a King (or Queen) on $1,000 per month. That includes a full-time live-in domestic helper (the average wage for such a helper is $40 USD per month). A person can still live quite comfortably on half as much. So, even if a person only acquires $30k in adjunct work per year, what more do you need if you live in the Philippines?

    Here's a link to one US expat who moved to the Philippines, married one of the locals and opened a small "resort." I like to check out the pics from time to time:
  17. BrandeX

    BrandeX New Member

    I think that is a very innacurate viewpoint on Phillipines. The average local will typically do anything they can to get out of that country. It has the world's highest rate of homicide due to knife stabbings. (saw that fact form some documentary) i'm living overseas atm near there, and know some Phillipinos, none of them have ever had anything good to say about where they came from. Your idea is a valid point otherwise though, I'd just choose a safer locale. Also to note, I have often seen information which implies online adjucts are required to live in the USA, although that might be hard to verify where you actually are.
  18. AV8R

    AV8R Active Member

    Well, I think what you're saying is a bit of a stretch myself. Not everyone in the Philippines is spending every waking moment trying to plan their big escape from the homeland. I too know some Filipinos. None have ever mentioned to me that they have plans to leave. None have ever asked me for financial assistance. I did a quick search on the homicide rate per country. Hey, guess what? The Philippines ranks below the U.S. and many other countries. The homicide rate you mentioned was specifically with KNIFE ATTACKS. A homicide is a homicide. Regardless of the method used, it's going to sting a bit and leave a bruise. The fact that you saw it on "some documentary" makes it all the more valid.
  19. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Filipinos normally leave their country due to economical issues, if you have money you can live like a king there for sure. As a matter of fact, life style is better in those places where the money is scarce. The only risk that I see is that online adjunct positions are far from being secure, many schools go bankrupt or just close programs everyday. If you are going to do this, you better off try to get adjunct positions from established places and avoid startup schools.
  20. zanger

    zanger member

    Indira Gandhi Open University in India pays as little as the equivalent of $5.00 per course to instructors. That is the lowest pay I know of.

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