How To Get Your First Job Teaching At a Two-Year College

Practice Your Passion in a Brand New Venue

Chemistry teacher

Many teachers interested in trying a new venue, looking to supplement their income, or seeking the first step in the transition to becoming a college professor find teaching at a two-year college to be a rewarding experience. If you have ever considered trying your hand at teaching at a two-year school, here are some steps that may help you land that job.

  1. Consider your skills, experience, and credentials. Two-year colleges, unlike their four-year counterparts, do not strictly hire PhDs or people in doctoral programs. Many two-year colleges accept applicants who have a master's degree or field experience. If you have a master's degree in education or in another field, this will often be sufficient to get a two-year college adjunct instructor job. So, when you are preparing your application, resume/curriculum vitae (C.V.), or cover letter, don't worry if you don't have that 'terminal degree;' just be sure to include your credentials, the highest level of education you have, special professional development courses you may have taken, and any job-related experience that is relevant (such as curriculum development).
  2. Learn about the faculty structure. Currently, many colleges, both four-year and two-year, hire a lot of adjunct instructors. An adjunct is more or less a part-time, non-tenured, contract instructor. (You can see why they are common: They are less expensive than full-time professors with benefits.) They, for the most part, get paid a stipend based on how many credits or courses they teach. They usually do not have benefits, and they have little by way of job security. These are the jobs most often open to new hires. If you are used to a union job and tenure, this may be a shock to the system, but it's the reality out there. Sometimes, two-year colleges will be looking for full-time, tenure-track assistant professors. These jobs often go to people already on the faculty in an adjunct or other role, or to qualified outside candidates who have experience teaching at other colleges. In short, like many businesses, two-year colleges give preference to people with credentials, experience and an advanced degree. Keep this in mind when you seek a job at a two-year college so you have realistic expectations about the kind of work you will find available.
  3. Gather the materials you will need for your application. Many two-year colleges have their own specific application process, but often, you will find certain things are needed across the board if you want to apply for a teaching job. You will need college and graduate school transcripts. You will need letters of recommendation or at least names and contact information for professional references. If you have taught at any level before, you may be asked to provide sample syllabi for evaluation. And you will need a resume or C.V. Make sure to have all of these items on hand to submit upon request.
  4. Don't wait for a job opening to send your resume. One reality about many two-year colleges is that the faculty turnover rate is pretty high, particularly for classes that adjuncts teach - usually first-year, introductory courses (your basic "101's"). You can certainly do a job search and target schools with current openings. However, there is no reason not to contact Human Resources at local two-year colleges, see what their application process requires, and then send along the necessary information for them to have on file if possible. This may give you a jump on the competition when an opening comes up.
  5. Keep current in your field of expertise. While many teachers at the secondary level are given teacher training and opportunities to hone their teaching skills, they may not always get the chance (or have the time) to keep up on recent trends within their specific discipline, particularly trends that affect college students rather than secondary students. While getting your first job at a two-year school will definitely require you to be conversant in educational philosophies (particularly your own) and teaching trends, you will also want to know what's currently going on in your field, specifically. So, attend conferences, read journals, visit websites, and stay as current as you can.

Teaching at a two-year college can be a very rewarding experience. You are sharing what you know and love in order to help a student move forward to the next step of her own life's plan. Whether your students are trying to go on to a four-year school or increase their marketability in the job force, they will have a better shot at reaching their goals because you shared your knowledge with them.

 

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