Community colleges are crucial to the U.S. education system. For millions of prospective college students, bachelor’s degree programs are simply not a viable option. While four-year colleges and universities have traditionally held more prestige than their two-year counterparts, the higher ed landscape is changing. With the tuition of four-year institutions on the rise, community colleges are elevating their offerings — expanding their fields of study and improving the quality of education. This shift has inspired an upswing in students opting for associate degree programs.
It’s an exciting time to be a community college teacher. You have the unique opportunity to provide an excellent and competitive education to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to earn their degree. If you want to make an impact, becoming a community college teacher is a solid pathway to truly make a difference.
Can you teach community college with a bachelor’s degree?
In most cases, the answer is no. Most community colleges require a master’s degree in the subject they are teaching. However, you may not need a teaching certification. And unlike in a 4-year school, you won’t be required to have a Ph.D.
Teaching at a community college does allow you to focus more on teaching students. This is in comparison to those teaching in a 4-year college, who focus more on research and publication. Both, however, teach courses in their subject area, work with students and colleagues to plan the courses, assess student learning, and advise students about classes.
The post-secondary job field is growing as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is expanding at a rate of 11% a year, much faster than the average job growth (BLS, 2020).
At a glance: community college teachers
The demand for qualified community college teachers is expected to rise as the number of people enrolling in higher education programs (especially community colleges) continues to increase each year.
Community college teacher job description
Educating students effectively in the designated subject matter is paramount in this preparatory setting. Community college teachers must convey relevant information efficiently and help students learn the best methods of inquiry in the subject area of the course.
Students attending community colleges are diverse in every way — age, race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic background. In addition to students just out of high school, many working adults attend community college courses as a means to change careers or progress in their present job.
The most important day-to-day duties of a community college teacher include:
- Teaching the material in one- to three-hour classroom sessions
- Developing and managing the class syllabus and ensuring that the syllabus meets department and college standards
- Planning and creating lectures, in-class discussions, and assignments
- Grading assigned papers, quizzes, and exams
- Assessing grades for students based on participation, performance in class, assignments, and examinations
- Reporting student learning outcomes, class reviews, and analyzing student data
- Collaborating with colleagues on course curriculum
- Advising students on how to be successful and achieve goals
- Staying updated on innovations and changes within their course field
Community colleges also have students who need remedial education, so teachers must be prepared to help their students catch up to the skill level needed to take on college-level coursework.
Who makes a good community college teacher?
Someone who is:
- Inquisitive, creative, and curious
- Sociable and easy to talk to
- Passionate about connecting with students
- Patient and resourceful
- Organized and careful about time management
- Devoted to learning
- Attentive to details
- A lover of reading
- Able to laugh and have a sense of humor
- Thoughtful about interacting with people from diverse backgrounds
- Excellent at oral and written communication
- Highly knowledgeable about their subject area
- Qualified with a master’s degree in an education-related field, or a field related to the subject he/she teaches
Community college teacher in-depth
- Education: Doctorate or master’s degree
- Typical study time: 5-10 years
A community college teacher needs at least a master’s degree. Like most collegiate institutions, preference may be given to a candidate with a PhD. Community colleges also want instructors with prior teaching experience. Occasionally, community colleges will employ those with relevant work experience in a particular field as well.
Different types of community college teachers
There are two main types of community college teachers: Adjunct and full-time faculty. The main differences between adjunct and full-time faculty community college teachers are course load, pay, benefits, and job security.
Adjunct community college teachers
Adjunct teachers represent a majority of instructors at U.S. community colleges. They teach courses at community colleges on a part-time basis.
Full-time faculty community college teachers
Full-time faculty are community college teachers who are on tenure track. This means they earn an annual salary, benefits, and the opportunity for long-term job security.
Average salaries for community college teacher
Salaries for community college teachers vary depending on location, academic specialty, the instructor’s degree type, and previous experience. There’s also a substantial gap between the earnings of full-time teachers and adjunct instructors. According to Tough Nickel, the average annual pay for full-time faculty ranged from $46,858 to $57,599.
Here is a current snapshot of average salaries for community college teachers:
- Glassdoor.com: $41,268
- PayScale.com: $46,276
- ZipRecruiter.com: $47,894
The income of a community college teacher can vary based on several factors including:
- Education beyond a master’s degree
- Length of employment at a particular institution
- Field of study- science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) classes, or in another field that is typically difficult to fill
- Summer classes or additional classes beyond the regular 9-10 month contract (when available)
- Private vs. state college
Job outlook for community college teachers
Students will continue to enroll in higher education, gaining the essential knowledge and skills necessary to obtain their career goals. The job outlook for post-secondary teachers is expected to grow 11% through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This forecast includes part-time post-secondary teachers as well.
Certain subjects are in higher demand than others. According to the job outlook data from the BLS, post-secondary professor employment projections will increase in these subjects by 2028:
- Business: 16%
- Biological science: 12%
- Psychology: 12%
- Health specialties: 23%
- Nursing instructors: 20%
Challenges and opportunities for community college teachers
- Not all community colleges offer tenure (a guarantee that a teacher will not be fired without a just cause)
- There is not as much institutional support for research and/or publishing
- Extra time and support needed for at-risk students
- Salary is often less than professors at four-year colleges and universities
- More flexibility in where you teach, as community colleges are located all over the country
- More focus on students and teaching as community colleges are less interested in faculty research and publication
- Contact with a huge diversity of students
- Lower enrollment numbers means a smaller community
Many community college teachers continue to take courses to keep up-to-date on the latest discoveries in their subject area. And there’s always the option to go back to school to earn a doctorate, which will expand your job opportunities even further.
Hiring at community colleges is more locally based than at four-year universities, which often conduct nationwide candidate searches. Local newspapers, online postings, and the Chronicle of Higher Education are frequently used to advertise open positions. A candidate will be expected to have familiarity with the community college system, the local community, and the field of study associated with the job. Showing enthusiasm for the community college setting, as well as the discipline, will often go a long way toward impressing the people on the interview committee.
Several professional organizations work to support the careers of community college teachers:
- American Association of Community Colleges
- Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
- The National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs
- Rural Community College Alliance
Interested in becoming a community college teacher?
Check out this video to get a better sense of what it’s like to be a community college teacher.
How to Teach Psychology at a Community College
Psychology is a popular subject at community colleges, attracting students from various backgrounds and interests. When teaching psychology in this setting, there are several key strategies to keep in mind:
- Understand Your Audience: Community college students often have diverse educational backgrounds, so tailoring your approach to accommodate a wide range of experiences is crucial.
- Engage and Relate: Make the subject matter relevant to students’ lives and experiences. Discuss real-world applications and encourage discussions that draw on their own experiences.
- Active Learning: Incorporate active learning strategies such as group activities, discussions, and hands-on experiments to make the material come to life.
- Accessibility: Ensure that your teaching materials are accessible and accommodating to students with different learning needs.
- Lifelong Learning: Encourage the idea of lifelong learning. Show students that psychology is a field that continually evolves, and staying curious is essential.
How to Teach in a Community College
Teaching in a community college involves more than just delivering lectures. It’s about fostering a supportive learning environment and connecting with students on a personal level. Here are some fundamental aspects to consider:
- Know Your Institution: Familiarize yourself with the culture, mission, and policies of your community college. Each institution has its own unique characteristics.
- Student-Centered Approach: Prioritize your students’ success. Offer guidance, mentorship, and support to help them navigate their educational journey.
- Teaching Strategies: Explore a variety of teaching strategies, from traditional lectures to active learning, to cater to different learning styles.
- Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial. Be approachable, responsive, and open to feedback.
- Collaborate: Work with your colleagues and collaborate on initiatives that can benefit your students and the institution as a whole.
How to Teach a Community College Class
The structure of your class can greatly influence the learning experience for your students. Consider these tips for designing an effective community college class:
- Clear Objectives: Start with clear learning objectives. Students should know what they will gain from your course.
- Syllabus and Schedule: Create a comprehensive syllabus with a clear schedule of topics, assignments, and assessments. Stick to the schedule as much as possible.
- Engagement and Interaction: Encourage student participation through discussions, group work, and activities. Foster a sense of community within the classroom.
- Assessment and Feedback: Implement fair and meaningful assessments. Provide timely feedback to help students understand their progress.
- Flexibility: Be adaptable to the needs and challenges that community college students often face, such as work, family, and other commitments.
Can You Teach at a Community College with a Bachelor’s Degree?
A common question aspiring educators have is whether a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to teach at a community college. The answer depends on several factors, including the institution and the subject you intend to teach.
While a master’s degree or higher is often preferred, many community colleges do hire instructors with a bachelor’s degree, especially if they have extensive industry experience or relevant certifications. To improve your chances of securing a teaching position with a bachelor’s degree, consider the following:
- Relevant Experience: Build a strong résumé with experience related to the subject you want to teach. Industry expertise can compensate for the lack of an advanced degree.
- Certifications: Obtain relevant certifications or qualifications that demonstrate your expertise in the field.
- Networking: Establish connections with faculty and administrators in the community college system. Networking can help you learn about job openings and make your application more visible.
- Continuing Education: Pursue further education or professional development opportunities to enhance your qualifications.
In conclusion, teaching at a community college offers a unique and gratifying experience. By understanding your students, adapting your teaching style, and considering your institution’s specific needs, you can become a successful community college educator. Whether you have a bachelor’s degree or a higher qualification, a passion for teaching and a commitment to student success are essential qualities for those pursuing a career in this educational setting.