Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hey, Adjuncters....

What do you do the rest of the time?

I recall from the erstwhile RYS days, adjuncters (in Canada we're often called Sessional Instructors, Non Regular Instructors, and anything else that doesn't include the word "Professor" with a capital P, despite having to have a PhD, peer reviewed publications, an ongoing research agenda, and the qualifications to be put in front of a classroom) score academic work by picking up contracts.

If my own local survey is to be trusted, we're split pretty 50/50...those who teach to improve their chances of getting an academic job (poor mislead bastards), and those who take bullshit exploitative jackass teaching work so they can minimally maintain a university affiliation while they build a career elsewhere. Read my profile...I teach minimally so I can keep library access, God knows it wouldn't pay my mortgage and feed my child and me. My consulting practice is what affords any standard of living. Where do the rest of you sit? How do you keep a family afloat? Do you? What's your story?

(Long responses might warrant a new post, short response, a comment)

Dr. Cranky


  1. I fruitlessly look for full-time work. I cashier at a mall for $9 an hour. I turn green when talking to people who complain about the problems at their full-time jobs. I hold an annual memorial for my dreams. I attend therapy. I'm in the process of filing for bankruptcy.

  2. When I was in academia, I was always "lucky" enough to be a high-end adjunct/sessional (just like Julia Roberts was lucky to be a high-end whore in "Pretty Woman"): I usually had a 3/3 or 3/2 courseload of mostly upper-division and graduate classes and full benefits. When I wasn't teaching, I spent my "spare time" serving on dissertation committees, reviewing journal articles and conference abstracts, and oh yes, trying to keep up my research program--for a princely salary of about $32K a year.

    Meanwhile my lazy-ass tenured colleagues, teaching 2/1 (if that) and doing the most half-assed job possible with their administrative and advising tasks, whined endlessly about how hard it was to live off of just $90 grand a year and how impossible it was to do any research when having to spend a whole three hours a week teaching! I finally left academia because the temptation to kill someone was getting to be dangerous.

  3. I live with my elderly mom in her home, which will eventually become mine. I sell many things online for friends and take a commission. I have another job on my campus when I'm not teaching, as well as an online job that brings in a bit more cash. I have also completed training and taken a certification exam in a health occupations-related field in hopes of leaving academia and getting FT work.

  4. I was an adjunct during my last few years of grad school. For most summers, I lined up 2 teaching assignments just to pay the rent.

    Invariably, 1 or both of them got canceled (but at the last minute I was often given one more that actually flew), so I usually had to run to the financial aid office to get a student loan to cover summer rent, etc.

    I do not recommend this strategy for anyone else! Just line up a cashier position (like anon #1 above) in lieu of a sketchy teaching position. And do it before all the undergrads beat you to it!

    I always wonder which admin my friends blew to get 2 reliable summer teaching jobs. They made $7200+ just to teach for 6 weeks! Usually to ~20 students.

    I hate them.

  5. Living in Canada, I have been "lucky" enough to get paid about $6000 per semester course. So, teaching a lopsided 1-3 last year, I pulled in just enough money to pay rent on a very crappy apartment and to feed myself. It would have been impossible to survive if I were trying to provide for anyone else. My standard of living is roughly the same as it was in grad school.

    I spent virtually all of my spare time this past year applying for jobs. I also wrote a couple of conference papers and put together a book prospectus.

  6. I practice full-time in my subject area - teaching is an amalgam of hobby, professional service, second income and a connection to my early professional roots.

  7. I teach fourteen sections a year, including four sections during the summer so as to survive economically. On those days when I'm not depressed, I think that there remains hope of securing full-time employment; on other days I simply practice my clarinet, take walks along the river, and try not to think of what I have to do to survive from year to year.

  8. I adjunct at a couple of places, and work throughout the year (summer, winter holidays, etc). I also like having access to the library. Though....the libraries I have access to aren't great. For one paper, I did research by finding the book on Google Scholar, taking screen shots, and then reading through and taking notes later....

    It's just enough to get by. But I'm always looking for something more stable. Anything. Data entry, temping. There's just not a lot out there right now.

  9. I decided to stop at the MA and not get on that merry-go-round. Instead, I focused on getting a job at a college. (Here in Canada, I think our colleges are like your community colleges, teaching two year programs and first and second year courses for four year degrees. Anywhere that offers four year degrees and graduate programs is called a university, never a college here.) Within a few years, I had a high paying job and was on track to job security. I now have job security, not unlike tenure, a faculty association, great benefits, and a paid semester off each year, two months of which are for "professional development" and two of which are holiday. I can't quite believe my good luck.

    The downside? I teach four courses per semester and have no ta. My students don't have the grades to get into university and it shows; I get all the student grief you guys get, only often worse. I'm paid to teach, not to publish. This last, though, is more of a perk than a downside, isn't it?

  10. P.S. My decision not to become a proffie also means that I get to live in the city of my choice, rather than armpit Nebraska or something.

    All this said, it's actually extremely competitive to get the job I now have so it's not really the best career advice. It just worked out well for me.


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