Adjunct Professors are Free Agents

It’s common for adjunct professors to hold down more than one job. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reports that 60% of part-time professors have at least one or more jobs in addition to teaching. The question remains: how does an adjunct professor make more money?

There are two paths to take.

The traditional path for an adjunct professor is to “moonlight”. Moonlighting is work that is done on the side – a side hustle. It’s lesser work and akin to being an Uber Driver with a PH.D. in the off-hours. That’s great for flexibility, but the income is rarely sustainable or lucrative.

The second path starts with a slight shift in mindset. An adjunct professor can choose to honor and leverage their skill set and grab opportunities as a free agent, or freelancer. Free agency empowers a career beyond the bounds of academia.

Making the Move from Adjunct Professor to Freelancer

Freelancers are in high demand. Businesses want experienced and talented experts who are not only great at what they do but can also teach others. Professors are experts in their field of study. They have a body of knowledge that many in the business world simply don’t have or haven’t had the time to acquire. This is advantageous for those who make the move from adjunct professor to freelancer.

Former associate professor Jonathan Herzog, a Ph.D. at MIT, explained via his blog the pathway of a successful adjunct entrepreneur perfectly:

“[My] academic job allowed me to consult, and that’s where the real money is to be found. Not only was consulting a valuable source of real-world experience and interesting-and-important problems, but it was extremely lucrative. I quoted a rate of $120/hour to nonprofits and government agencies and $240/hour to commercial clients– and I got it. Being able to say, ” I’m a professor was a huge credential that allowed me to charge these rates.”

Professors Have Untapped Skills and Potential

Freelancers pivot from being adjuncts to becoming adjunct entrepreneurs. Many skills in academia cross over to the business world.

  • Creating a syllabus is like creating a business plan. It’s a step-by-step outline of what comes next and determines the resources needed from start to finish.
  • Pitching investors to raise funds is like applying for grant money. Both require the author to distill complex concepts into compelling arguments with measurable gains.
  • Motivating employees is like engaging students. Both audiences excel when driven to do their best work.

The move from teaching to consulting is a pivot, not a leap: from doing academic research to driving development for a company, from inspiring students to pushing businesses to expand their horizons, from teaching process to improving processes. It’s time to transition from moonlighting, to free agency, to freelancer. One is a diversion from a career, the other fuels it.