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More College and University Instructors are Sought

Think about this: demand is growing for college and university instructors across North America.

"There's a large demand," says Lorna Malcolmson, who works for a community college association. She points out just how many colleges, faculty members and possible subjects there are. "That ranges from social work to arts to media, engineering, software, virtual reality. It's an enormous range."

That wide range of topics means that no matter what your area of interest, you can probably find a classroom in which to share your knowledge and passion. Of course, you need the proper credentials to get the job.

"Often, what's required of a college professor is to have industry experience and appropriate education in the area," says Malcolmson. "If you want to teach social work, they probably require a master's degree in social work."

Although a master's degree is often enough to teach at the college level, university professors typically need to have a PhD in their area of instruction.

Malcolmson's association regularly conducts surveys to find out what types of teaching positions are in greatest need of being filled.

"For the last two times that we've done that [survey], it's positions in the health-care field, and we educate over 60 percent of new health-care workers," says Malcolmson. "And there continues to be demand in a variety of IT [information technology] fields, because IT permeates every industry these days."

The current demand for post-secondary instructors is only expected to increase. That's good news, since it will take you a few years to get all of that education under your belt.

"Because of the baby boomers retiring in the next decade or so -- and a lot of the faculty members are in that age category -- there will be quite a demand for faculty members," says Lyse Huot, who works for another college and university association.

Huot says that the positions opening up will be a combination of permanent, temporary, and part-time positions. And don't think that those jobs will all be in smaller, far-flung communities.

"I think it's, generally speaking, more across the board," says Huot.

Demand for instructors is expected to be particularly strong at community colleges.

"We're the largest sector of higher education and the fastest-growing, and that in itself will fuel demand," says Norma Kent, who is with the American Association of Community Colleges.

Community colleges are located in communities of all sizes and teach any topic you can imagine. They run daytime as well as evening courses, allowing people who work during the day to further their education.

"Our colleges are fairly well known for being very agile in responding to new demands, in terms of developing new programs to teach nanotechnology or those [other] sorts of things that are emerging fields," says Kent.

"Community colleges are likely to respond to that, perhaps in a more agile way than some. There's less bureaucracy and it's just in our DNA to keep our ears to the ground and respond."

Colleges tend to hire a higher proportion of temporary and part-time instructors than universities. This can make it harder to make a living as a college instructor if you're hoping to earn your entire income from teaching. You'll more likely have to earn income from multiple sources, at least at the start of your career.

"We call it 'adjunct', and community colleges do use a fairly high number of adjunct faculty [members]," says Kent.

"There are two reasons. One is that it's more cost-efficient. And [two], if there's a new field that's emerging, we want someone who's actually working in that field. So they can be on the job in their field and they can also be instructing part time. We're very pragmatic."

Community colleges typically get a higher proportion of funding from state and local governments than universities do. This means that the number of instructors they can hire depends to some extent on government budgets, says Kent. An economic downturn can mean smaller budgets and therefore fewer jobs.

Besides working toward a master's degree or PhD, how else can you prepare to enter this field? "If you want to become an instructor, you could start on the continuing education side, where you teach a night-time class," says Malcolmson. "There are thousands and thousands of continuing education classes and that's a way to get your feet wet."

Colleges and universities usually post job openings on their websites. You can also explore options on the job boards found on the websites of professional associations.


American Association of Community Colleges
Find out more about community colleges here

The Chronicle of Higher Education
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