Pursuing a career as an adjunct professor isn’t about the money. According to the job site Indeed, the national average salary for an adjunct professor is $67.58 per hour. Likewise, ZipRecruiter posts a state-by-state comparison of average adjunct faculty annual salaries that range from $51-$71K.
Statistics like this paint a picture of a career path fraught with low wages, inaccessibility to benefits, and marginalization. And yet, adjunct professors continue to dominate the workforce. The Anual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, published by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) finds that 67% of Instructional Staff at the 929 US colleges and universities surveyed were not tenured nor on a tenure-track.
Is the shift to a more contingent workforce truly a blessing dressed as a curse? An emerging cohort of professors chooses to teach part-time because it gives them the option to pursue other, more lucrative opportunities.
Enter The Academic Entrepreneur
Dubbed academic entrepreneurs, a new subset of the adjunct teaching cohort has embraced the idea of an alternative academic career path. These instructors and lecturers find a balance between doing what they love — teaching — while seeking out freelance opportunities that pay far better.
In the world of higher education, many lament the prevalence of adjunct teaching. However, adjunct professors often have more power over their academic careers than they think they do. For academics who want to take charge of their career path, it’s time to start exploring hybrid options.
The Top Three Ways Professors Boost Income
Freelancing is about networking and momentum. It is critical for an adjunct professor to get his or her name out there. The second step is to turn one project or gig into a stream of opportunity. There are three prominent pathways to explore.
Though many colleges and universities have rules and policies about consulting, adjuncts are beginning to make out roads into the business world.
Teaching workshops is a natural shift. In many cases, this is an extension of what an adjunct has already published. Research and expertise are remolded for companies looking to improve their knowledge base in a particular area.
Process improvement is a second means of consulting. An adjunct is an established expert and outside resource for many companies looking to design and build without hiring full-time, in-house experts.
And finally, partnering for guided discovery. Professors are adept at collaboration and research. For companies looking to gain a technical advantage, hiring academics as consultants provides the proper stewardship for research to achieve something new.
2. Speaking at conferences and events
Professors are often invited to speak at other institutions or participate in seminars and colloquiums. Starting out, speaking engagements may not command impressive honorariums. As a speaking list of credentials gains momentum, so too will the price tag.
The power of one’s affiliations, publishing record, novelty, or topical timeliness has great influence over success in this area. The journey from a guest speaker to a keynote will also depend on a professor’s ability to negotiate value.
There are multiple online platforms that pay professors to teach and design an online course.
3. Online teaching
For example, Udemy, an online education company, allows professors to charge roughly $20 to $200 per student and gives teachers a percentage of the revenue.
Some platforms that offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) recruit professors and pay them a flat rate to design a course. As MOOCs have grown in popularity, many universities have enacted guidelines for professors who want to teach non-credit online courses.
Large corporations also have internal universities to train their personnel and broaden the expertise of their staff. Adjunct professors are especially adept at providing learning that is engaging for better retention.
While the landscape of higher education is changing rapidly, adjunct professors are not without choices or options. By leveraging their teaching skills and qualifications, adjunct professors who operate as Academic Entrepreneurs will find tremendous complementary opportunity outside of academia.