(Closed) Professor Bees? Do you teach at college?

posted 8 years ago in Career
Post # 3
4997 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

To teach at a university, you almost always have to have a Ph.D. In some cases they will let someone with a master’s degree be a lecturer, but usually at smaller schools or online universities. I have my masters and am getting my Ph.D. (in 6 months!!) and teach a lab section as a T.A. and I don’t like it. I have taught 4 semesters, so a total of 2 years. I never really wanted to teach, it’s just how we get our tuition covered and a small stipend so we all do it. I get very frustrated with the low level of knowledge, interest, and effort from the students. I’m at a huge university, but it’s not known for it’s academic rigor so that may be a little biased. There are a lot of things you do as a teacher other than teaching- a lot of grading, making power point presentations for lectures, making a syllabus, answering emails, etc. I do like it when I can explain something complicated and actually get my students to understand it, but I don’t feel like that happens too often. If you have a Ph.D. and only teach (don’t do any research), you’re looking at $50-60K annual salary. If you do reseach as well with a tenure track or tenured position, salary probably ranges from $80-110K but those positions are very competitive. Depending on your field, you may have to write grants to conduct your research as well. 

Post # 4
202 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

RunnerBride13 is totally right about usually needing a PhD to teach at the college level.  That doesn’t have to be true, but it usually is.  Some community colleges (and the occasional smaller university) hire people with a Masters degree.  What field are you looking to teach in?  Some fields are much more flexible (for instance, some fields like Information Systems will hire less educated people if they have a lot of work experience.

To answer some of your questions, I LOVE teaching.  However, I think I would prefer to teach at the high school level, where you get to know your students better.

The pay totally depends on the field in which you teach.  A lecturer in Economics (my field) will probably make around $50k for teaching 3 classes per semester.  On the other hand, a lecturer in a humanities field probably makes only about $20k for the same amount of work.

Obviously the pay is totally different if you get your PhD.  If that makes you think, “Hey, getting my PhD sounds like a great idea so that I can teach at the college level.” DON’T DO IT.  A PhD requires a ton of work and complete dedication to research.  They don’t care about your teaching.  It’s not worth the five years that you will suffer through at near-poverty level pay if all you want to do is teach.  

Some feedback from you at this point might lead to better answers from people 🙂

Post # 6
2959 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

Yes, I agree, a PhD is essential. I primarily teach biochemistry and also genetics. I have been teaching since 2000 and I earned tenure as of 2005. Unfortunately, our college is phasing out tenure-track positions and there is an increasing use of adjuncts. In general I do like my job but I can certainly do without committee meetings! I also rather despise grading but it is part of the job, so oh well. I do agree with a PP, there is a hell of a lot more involved than simply teaching! I started at about 38K. My base pay is around 51K now. Even when I teach in the summers, I still get around seven weeks of vacation a year.

Post # 7
8 posts
  • Wedding: July 2011

@Omgbunnies:  I rarely post on WB but I read this and wanted to chime in.

I just graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing and am looking for adjunct teaching jobs.  My very honest advice:  Do not get an MFA unless you are passionate about your writing and want time to work on it–don’t do it for any other reason.  Don’t think you can count on finding a teaching job (even a shitty one) after graduation.  I have always wanted to be a teacher and it’s my long-term goal to become a professor.  I worked my ass off teaching during my time in grad school and I can’t find a job to save my life.  Higher ed (particularly the humanities) has been hit by this economy just like every other industry.  

You’re correct that an MFA is still technically the terminal degree in the CW field, but times are changing, and there are now quite a few PhDs in Creative Writing (they are traditional English or Literature PhDs with creative dissertation options).  Every tenure-track CW position’s minimum qualifications require you to have an MFA and at least one book published OR a PhD and publications.  Many job postings also want you to have publications in at least two genres.

I know this all sounds really negative, but I went into my MFA thinking it would be pretty easy to find teaching jobs after graduation, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to go into it without a realistic idea.  It’s not impossible to find a teaching job–I actually have an interview for one today, and several of my friends have found teaching jobs as well–but it’s a difficult and uncertain life to lead, because when you’re an adjunct, you don’t have a guaranteed position every year–it varies term to term.  One term you might work full time while another term you might only teach one class.  Many people have adjunct positions at several different universities and/or community colleges to make ends meet.  I really wasn’t aware of how all that worked before starting my MFA.

All that said:  I wouldn’t trade getting my MFA for anything.  I grew so much as a writer it’s shocking, I worked with incredible professors, I was inspired by my peers, I loved teaching, I could go on and on.  Since you’re considering an MFA, I highly recommend this book:


It will really help you understand what an MFA is all about, and it has invaluable advice for the actual application process.

I hope this has been helpful!  I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have.

Post # 8
1249 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: January 1992

I went to a really small private college, and our adjunct professors only had masters.  They did hire a couple people on that were finishing their dissertation, but this is definitely the exception. 

I’m starting a masters in history from my state college, which I am paying for out of pocket, and planning on teaching 1-2 adjunct classes a semester.  It’s just for fun/extra money.  I wouldn’t do it as a career – I don’t like research, just teaching, and research is a HUGE part of a tenured professor’s job. 

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