A Community College Teaching Career

MLA Committee on Community Colleges 2006

1. Why Consider a Career in the Community College?

When you open up your job search to the community college, a tremendous range of opportunities that satisfies practical as well as career goals becomes available. Our brief essay provides introductory material that will help you explore this option as we cover characteristics of two-year colleges and their students, professional opportunities and challenges for faculty members, the peculiarities of the two-year-college job search, adjunct teaching as a career path, and resources for the job search. Approximately 22% of all full-time faculty members teach in two-year colleges; they do so for the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of their students and in their communities.

General Characteristics

The first public community college, Joliet Junior College, opened in 1901, and since then community colleges have placed publicly funded higher education, open to all, close to home. According to the American Association of Community Colleges Web site, as of January 2006 there were 986 public two-year colleges in the United States and 29 tribal colleges; including independent two-year colleges and branch campuses, there were 1,600 community colleges. These institutions may be called junior colleges, tribal colleges, technical colleges, two-year colleges, or community colleges. (The terms "two-year college" and "community college" will be used interchangeably throughout this document to refer to all two-year colleges, unless otherwise noted.) Also known as "the people's colleges," community colleges are regionally accredited and award the associate degree as their highest credential (Pierce 3). Although all two-year colleges are "centers of educational opportunity," they also vary: "Each community college is a distinct educational institution, loosely linked to other community colleges by the shared goals of access and service. Open admissions and the tradition of charging low tuition are among the practices they have in common" (Amer. Assn. of Community Colls.).

Most community colleges (58%) are characterized as "small," enrolling under 4,500 students, while only 8% are "extra large," with enrollments of 15,000 students or higher (Engaging 23). They are equally likely to be located in rural (37%) and urban (39%) areas, with the remaining 24% in suburban areas (Engaging 23). These colleges offer lower-division general education and major preparation courses leading to an associate degree and/or transfer to a four-year college or university (the transfer education function). They also provide education and training in selected occupational fields leading to job entry, advancement, retraining, and certification and to associate degrees (the career-oriented function). Community colleges also provide transitional education programs and courses for students needing preparation to succeed in college-level work (the basic skills and adult education function). Both English courses and foreign language courses fulfill requirements for students on each of these three paths.

In terms of the sheer number of students they reach, two-year colleges have an enormous impact on American higher education. The California Community College System alone is composed of 109 colleges, serves more than 2.5 million students, and is the largest system of public higher education in the world, according to the system's Chancellor's Office Web page. A recent United States Department of Education analysis conducted by Clifford Adelman shows that roughly two-fifths of traditional-age students (18-24) began their college education at the community college; three-fifths of students over the age of 24 entered college at the community college. As of 2006, the American Association of Community Colleges reported that about 11.6 million students were enrolled in two-year colleges, 6.6 million in credit-bearing courses; these colleges award over 486,000 associate degrees and 235,000 certificates annually. Community college enrollment is expected to grow and the colleges to confer more associate degrees as the overall US population increases.

Who attends a two-year college? The most recent data from the American Association of Community Colleges indicate that the average age of the community college student is 29 and about 47% receive financial aid. Currently, more women than men enroll in US colleges, and this is even more true of two-year colleges, where 59% of the enrollees are female and 41% male. Although most community college students are in the middle socioeconomically and educationally (Leinbach), Adelman's review of United States Department of Education data finds that students from the lowest quintile socioeconomic status are increasingly more likely to begin postsecondary education at a community college. Thirty years ago, Adelman notes, 44% of these students started their coursework at community colleges; today 55% do. One reason is that community colleges are more affordable: the average cost of tuition and fees at a public two-year college in 2005-06 was $2,191, as opposed to $5,491 for in-state tuition and fees at a public four-year college and $21,235 at a private four-year college (Baum and Payea). Two groups of minority students are more likely to begin college at the two-year level, Hispanics (55% of whom attend community colleges) and Native Americans (57% of whom do), whereas African Americans (47%) and Asians and Pacific Islanders (47%) are slightly less likely to do so, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

Community College Teaching: A Rewarding and Challenging Profession

Most two-year-college faculty members find their work deeply satisfying. A recent national survey of community college faculty members found that 73% report experiencing "joy" in their work and 71% believe their work is meaningful ("Views" B10). Teaching is a mission, not just a job, because community college faculty members change lives every day. But this work is not for everyone, as Anne Breznau has argued in an ADE Bulletin essay: "It is for the committed teacher who wants to help all kinds of people make better lives for themselves. It is also for the teacher-citizen who is ready to become involved in creating a better institution within the culture of a local community he or she is willing to call home."

As Breznau's phrase "all kinds of people" suggests, students in the typical community college class have a wide range of ages and life experiences and varying degrees of academic preparation. Students' ages may run from 16 to 80. Some are still in high school, some are ready to transfer to a university, and some hold advanced degrees. While this diversity is exciting, it also makes community college teaching more challenging. Instructors must be flexible and creative to meet these students' needs. A one-size-fits-all pedagogy simply does not work at a community college. As an English instructor chairing a hiring committee commented in an interview, two-year colleges need experienced teachers "who [can] go into the classroom with a bunch of twenty-five people with twenty-five different interests all going in different directions and get them focused and keep them focused" (qtd. in Twombly 432).

In addition to being "diverse" in the broadest sense, community college students are three to four times more likely than their four-year counterparts to need remediation, to delay their entry to college after graduating from high school, to enroll part-time, to be single parents, to have children, to work more than thirty hours a week, to be financially independent, and to be the first in their families to attend college--all factors that make them "high risk" (Engaging 5). In fact, almost half of all new community college students are "underprepared" as measured by institutional placement assessments (Engaging 6). At the same time, however, two-year-college students tend to be goal oriented and highly motivated. Research shows that teaching them can be tremendously satisfying because they are more likely to be "engaged" in their education in terms of spending more time studying and writing papers, working harder to meet instructors' expectations, attending class regularly, and coming to class prepared (Engaging 5).

Another reward--and challenge--is that faculty members at community colleges are expected to be proficient in the use of instructional technologies, including presentation software like PowerPoint, teaching in classrooms equipped with the latest technology ("smart" classrooms), developing supplemental Web sites for their classes, teaching online or through other distance learning media like cable TV, developing independent learning sections of foreign language courses, and so on. While new technologies are transforming how higher education delivers courses, their uses are particularly important at community colleges given their mission of making education accessible and accommodating students' different learning styles.

A Unique Opportunity: Relations with K-12 Systems and Four-Year Transfer Partners

As part of their "community" role, community colleges typically develop close relationships not only with other colleges in their districts but also with local K-12 systems and nearby universities. Usually, a community college has an identified set of "feeder districts" whose students attend that college because of its proximity. In turn, the community college sends the majority of its transfer students to a core group of four-year institutions. It is thus in the best interests of the community college student for the institution to have close professional ties to these transfer partners. Alternately, of course, some two-year colleges are regional campuses within a university. Transfer from the two-year college is articulated through program design and agreements with the partner college.

Two-year-college faculty members are often asked to do outreach to the local K-12 systems both to articulate coursework and to publicize programs to recruit new students. Many community colleges sponsor visitation days for high school students and even for elementary school students, especially those in less advantaged districts, to encourage student goal setting to include attendance at the community college. Faculty members open their classes for visitations, which can build enrollment while serving the community.

Instructors may also be involved in meetings with the faculty of their disciplines at nearby four-year institutions to assist articulation and transfer efforts for community college students. Some colleges have assigned outreach administrators to facilitate such meetings. In other cases, they are faculty generated. Such meetings can facilitate networking and participation in area grant proposals, student exchanges, and curriculum development.

Placed in "the middle," the community college program needs close alignment with its transfer partners at each end if students are to be well served. These considerations are unique to the community college and can foster very satisfying professional activities.

Your Role as a Foreign Language or English Instructor

Several aspects of community college teaching are clearly distinct from those of the four-year college.

  • Teaching load. Because teaching is the central role of a community college instructor, the teaching load at a two-year college is generally heavier than at a four-year institution. Fifteen units a semester is common, which translates into about four foreign language courses or five English courses a semester. Class sizes may also be larger than average. According to the 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, faculty members at public community colleges spend an average of 18.1 hours a week teaching and have 431 contact hours (the number of hours teaching multiplied by the total number of students enrolled in courses) a week, as opposed to an average of only 8.1 hours teaching and 287 contact hours a week for faculty members at public doctoral institutions (Cataldi, Bradburn, and Fahimi 31).

  • Absence of teaching assistants in the grading of papers and the offering of sections of introductory classes. Student assistants may be available for tutoring and small-group work, but practices vary.

  • Requirements for reappointment, promotion, and tenure. Evidence of teaching excellence, not research, is the means by which most community colleges award tenure and promote faculty members, at institutions where tenure and promotion are available. Research is viewed as an add-on after success in teaching except for two-year colleges that are incorporated into four-year university systems, which usually do require research and publication. Faculty members at public community colleges report spending 79.8% of their time teaching but only 3.5% on research, compared with public doctoral university faculty members, who report spending 50.8% of their time teaching and 28.2% on research (Cataldi, Bradburn, and Fahimi 29).

  • Salaries. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) publishes annual surveys of faculty salaries. In many areas of the country salaries at two-year colleges are competitive with (and sometimes exceed) those of neighboring four-year colleges. The 2005–06 AAUP survey shows that the average salary for full-time faculty members at two-year public colleges with ranks is $52,719 compared to $56,902 at public four-year colleges ("Devaluing" 37), with salaries varying regionally from a low average of $45,336 in East South Central states to a high average of $59,061 in the Middle Atlantic states ("Devaluing" 39). The faculties of many public community colleges are unionized, and salary advancement is structured, based on years of service and on rank at some colleges. This may mean more regular increases than at four-year institutions, where a number of factors influence these adjustments and advancements may not be automatic.

  • Rank. Some institutions call all faculty members "Instructors." At other colleges, academic rank (Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor) is determined by such factors as degree, promotion, and years of service.

  • Office hours. The number is often set by union contract. Five to ten hours a week are not unusual.

  • Opportunities for administrative roles. Foreign languages and English are often set in a division rather than in, for example, a College of Arts and Sciences, which is more common at the four-year institution. Two-year colleges often fill positions of division chairs or deans internally, allowing faculty members who aspire to administrative roles the opportunity to serve in a leadership role while retaining the right to return to a tenured teaching position if they choose.

  • Teaching assignments. Foreign language instructors can expect to spend the bulk of their time teaching the first four semesters of language study. In heavily enrolled languages, there will also likely be separate courses for conversation, culture, composition, introduction to literature, and language for business purposes. Film, women's studies, and comparative literature courses are possible as well. For English instructors, courses range from basic reading and writing and ESL courses to university-parallel composition and literature courses, honors courses, creative writing, technical and professional writing, and genre and survey courses in literature. As with the foreign languages, English faculty members may have the opportunity to teach film, cultural studies, humanities, journalism, and so on, depending on their background and training. Usually, however, new two-year English faculty members teach composition.

2. The Hiring Process

The hiring process for any individual community college position may be different from that of a four-year institution and may vary widely from that of a different community college. Candidates who apply for a position at a two-year college should be aware of these differences from the outset and adjust their expectations accordingly. The following paragraphs sketch out some of these differences and the reasons behind them. Please note, though, that hiring practices at two-year colleges are as diverse as the colleges themselves. Always ask the college for clarification if the process is not clear.

The Position Itself

Colleges usually have a campus-wide mechanism for deciding which positions will be opened in a given year. The proposal for a new position begins with the department, but the process of obtaining a new full-time line is competitive, based on the projected college budget for the next year and enrollment and program demands as measured by statistical data. New positions may not be announced until late in the fall semester or early in the spring semester. It is also common to advertise in the summer for temporary full-time positions replacing faculty members on leave or unexpected retirees.

The Processes

These are often controlled by the college governing board policy, union agreements, and strict state guidelines for public community colleges. The human resources department often directs the process and may require a standard format for the interviews and similar interaction of committee members with all candidates. Human resources will often be the first point of contact for community college applicants. Typically, candidates should expect less social interaction with those making hiring decisions at a public community college than at four-year colleges or universities, especially private ones. The hiring process may not include lunch or dinner with department faculty members, a campus tour, or even a coffee break. Job candidates should not be put off by these practices; while candidates may interpret community college hiring practices as impersonal or unfriendly, community colleges are simply striving to treat all candidates equally.

The Budget for the Interview Process

Historically, budgets for hiring are very limited at two-year colleges. In part, this may be due to the fact that community colleges, even when they advertise nationally, tend to attract enough qualified candidates regionally, thus avoiding the expenses of a true national search (Twombly 438–41; Breznau). Advertising for a position may take place in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in local newspapers, and in any statewide registries of positions. Rarely do community colleges send a committee to the annual MLA convention. Many colleges pay no travel expenses for on-campus interviews, while some will award a stipend, if it is requested, especially to low-income or underrepresented group candidates. The candidate should learn what expenses, if any, will be paid before agreeing to the interview.

3. Secrets of the Interview

How to get an interview

Although the exact sequence of steps in the hiring process differs from college to college, the patterns we describe are common practice. The initial interview committee usually is selected to represent the whole college, not just the discipline, with about 5–12 members including faculty members in the discipline and related fields, employees from other offices of the college, a student, an administrator, and so forth. This committee will screen the applications. If your field is English or Spanish there may be three hundred applications for the fifteen or fewer interviews that will occur. Some colleges use phone interviews as an initial screening device as well. (For specific tips on how to handle phone interviews, see Breznau.) If you are selected for an interview, you will be contacted by a department administrator or the human relations department to arrange an interview time. To enhance your chances of being selected, consider these suggestions:

  • Respond exactly to the questions on the application and those of any assigned essay. Be sure to complete all required forms and submit all required letters and transcripts, if any, on time. Consider developing two versions of your curriculum vitae, one for a community college job search and one for four-year colleges. On the community college CV, emphasize teaching experience and interests, community involvement and volunteer work, and experience on college or university committees. Also, consider creating a job match sheet that lists in one column every qualification identified in the announcement and shows in a second column how you meet or exceed the minimum qualifications of each of these. This makes it very clear to the committee why you should be interviewed. You do not want to make a harried committee member search hard to discover how you meet these qualifications.

  • Many states have minimum qualifications by discipline that guide the hiring of community college instructors. The MA in your field is the typical minimum requirement, although many candidates possess a PhD. Meeting the minimum qualifications does not, of course, guarantee an interview.

  • If you do not meet the posted job requirements, do not apply. It is common for screening committees to eliminate half of all applicants because they do not meet requirements or do not follow directions, a waste of time and energy for everyone involved (Breznau; Kort).

  • Compose your cover letter carefully. This 1–2-page letter should bring the CV to life, not merely restate information on the CV. The letter should highlight your qualifications that meet the requirements of the prospective job, including graduate work that is relevant to teaching, but it may be desirable to downplay your research interests if they are not relevant to the position. And keep your audience in mind: the committee will be looking for evidence of your ability to communicate effectively with readers of all kinds. The letter should be clearly written and free from theoretical or technical jargon.

  • If the job notice does not preclude it, include materials in your application that demonstrate evidence of your teaching ability, such as teaching evaluations. Ask those who write your letters of reference to observe your classes and to include comments about your teaching in their letters.

Planning for the Interview

  • Research the college, its campus, and its community beforehand. The college Web site and catalog should provide good basic information. Read the mission statement of the college. Try to read also (online or at the college library) a copy of the college's last accreditation self-study or the college master plan. These documents often include details about the student population and the population in the area served by the community college and frequently current issues and current directions of your proposed department as well.

  • Become familiar with the history of the community college movement, and spend time reflecting on your pedagogical practices. Community colleges seek candidates who display an unconditional commitment to and regard for students from diverse backgrounds who need faculty members to guide them through the transition from work or high school to college-level study. The idea of weeding students out or tossing them into the pool and exhorting them to "sink or swim" runs counter to the ethos of community college teaching.

  • Arrive early and talk with students on the campus. Pay attention to student demographics but recognize that community colleges have different populations for day and evening or weekend classes. Reference what you have learned about the students during your interview.

  • Plan out how to present yourself to your best advantage in your introductory and concluding comments. What do you want the committee to remember about you? What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

  • Consider how you will respond to common interview questions asked by screening committees.

General Questions

  • Why are you interested in teaching at a community college?

  • What is your understanding of the mission of a community college?

  • What are the greatest challenges for higher education in the next ten years? for community colleges and their missions?

  • What service contributions can you make to this college?

  • What contributions can you make to your profession through your work at this college?

  • Describe your experiences with developmental education or with meeting the needs of students with disabilities.

  • Describe your experiences incorporating technology into your teaching.

  • Explain specifically how you incorporate the concept of diversity into your classes.

  • What are your experiences with distance learning?

  • What have you done in your courses to maximize students' success in learning?

  • How do you identify students' needs and how do you meet them in and out of class? Give specific examples.

  • What do you know about our college or student population?

  • What experiences have you had with defining student learning outcomes and assessing them?

  • What's your greatest teaching success? Why? What's your greatest teaching failure? How did you handle it? What have you learned from it?

  • How did you prepare for this interview today?

Questions for Foreign Language Positions

  • How do you incorporate learning about the culture of those who speak the language you teach? Give us some specific examples.

  • How do you balance teaching for proficiency with developing grammatical accuracy? What role does error correction play in the above?

  • How and when do you incorporate literature into the beginning, elementary, and intermediate language course?

  • To what extent do "The 5 C's" and "The ACTFL Guidelines" guide your development of curriculum?

  • Explain how you incorporate workbooks, language lab manuals, CD-ROMs, videos, computer exercises, and so forth into your first- and second-year course.

  • What authors would you include in a second-year language course? What authors would you include in a literature course?

  • What is your approach to teaching mixed-level courses?

  • How do you meet the needs of heritage speakers in your courses? How does your teaching approach differ for this group compared to nonheritage speakers?

  • Explain in the target language how you would teach the present subjunctive (or another difficult grammar topic). [This question is a way to evaluate your language proficiency as well as your answer to the question.]

  • How do you respond to disruptive behavior in the classroom?

  • For example, how would you deal with students who speak in English when you have asked them to speak in the target language?

  • Discuss your experiences teaching a first- or second-year language course in a distance format. What is your opinion of this delivery method?

  • How do you incorporate film into your classes?

  • Describe what you've learned about making small-group work successful.

Questions for English Positions

  • Respond to a student writing sample, often from a basic writer. You should be able to identify strengths and weaknesses of the sample and present them as if you were talking directly to the student in a conference. One of the committee members may role-play as the student and ask follow-up questions.

  • How do you approach teaching writing to students who have had only negative experiences with reading and writing?

  • What is your philosophy on and experience with teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, introductory literature classes (especially to students with little interest in literature or experience reading it), critical thinking, and so on?

  • Explain how you can apply what you have learned in graduate classes to teaching at a community college. What composition theories have informed your teaching of writing? What literary theories have informed your teaching of literature? If you have graduate coursework in linguistics, reading, or education, apply those as well.

  • Explain your stance on issues such as literacy, Ebonics, Standard Written English, students' right to their own language, teaching grammar in a writing class, whether expressivist or academic writing should be stressed, and so forth. (Tact counts here since you will not always be able to discern the department's stance on these controversies nor should you necessarily play to it.)

  • What is your ideal composition course, complete with textbooks and assignment sequences?

  • What are your experiences using educational technologies in the classroom, and what, if any, distance learning courses have you taught? (Express interest in teaching distance learning courses and ask about opportunities to teach writing online.)

  • Explain the concepts of service learning and outcomes-based learning and assessment and how they fit into a writing program. Ask about the results of the college's most recent outcomes assessment for writing if you have the opportunity.

Other General Points

  • Be prepared to demonstrate your teaching skills as part of the initial screening interview. Candidates are often asked to teach a short lesson, sometimes on an assigned topic. Ask about time limits, audience, and other parameters, if possible, before you come to campus. If you get to choose your topic, remember that demonstrations of your ability to teach a well-defined, concrete concept work best, especially when they address common problems in the discipline. Above all, committees are interested in your presentation skills. One administrator on an interviewing committee explains how candidates are evaluated: "Do they stand up there and just give a straight lecture? Do they just talk to us? Their eye contact is absent. Do they just kind of meander up there? . . .  Do they engage the audience? Do they use interactive things? . . .  What types of learning activities do they include?" (qtd. in Twombly 436).

  • Have a few suitable questions in mind to ask about the position or your department or the college, if given the chance. Committees are not impressed by candidates who have no questions or who only want to know about salary and benefits or opportunities for teaching more advanced courses or for obtaining released time for research. Instead, ask about the administrative structure of the college (if that has not already been made clear), opportunities for faculty development, the reappointment, promotion and tenure procedure, challenges facing the college, and opportunities to serve on committees or to become involved with student groups or the community. Let the committee know that you will engage with the institution if hired.

  • Be aware of the time limits of the interview and be sure your answers are delivered in a succinct, energetic manner. The committee will be observing you closely during the interview to determine how you will engage with students.

  • What not to do? This is not the place for an exhaustive study of poor interviewing technique, which would be similar at any rate in a four-year or two-year interview. Do realize that the committee is seeking an instructor committed to the specific mission of that community college with a focus on teaching. Committee members want to assure themselves that you are really interested in a career at their college, not just interviewing there as a second choice because there is no position down the road at the university. Be clear in your mind about your commitment to the position and be sure that this commitment is communicated to the committee.

What Else to Expect at the First Interview

Some colleges have only one interview while others have a committee interview followed by an administrative interview for finalists. Your initial interview will probably last one to two hours. Interview questions are often reviewed in advance by human resources personnel and administrators before being assigned by the screening committee chair to individual committee members to ask. All candidates will be asked the same questions, usually in the same order, though follow-up questions may differ depending on your answers. The committee's need to ensure uniformity and fairness can give the interview a stilted feel, but do not take this personally or be put off by it. You may be offered a tour of the campus on the day of the interview, but this is not a given. Community college instructors teach several hours every day, so interviews and tours are wedged into this schedule. Wise committee members realize that they are "selling" the campus to the candidates as much as the reverse, but the time-limited format of the community college interview does not necessarily support this effort.

The Finalist Interview(s)

After the initial interviews are concluded, the committee may have the authority to rank candidates or may be able only to make recommendations and present perhaps three to five names to the administration. Some colleges simply offer the position to the top-ranked candidate at this point. Other colleges invite the top candidates to a second interview with a dean or vice president. If you are invited to this second interview and are interested in the position, do accept the invitation! Do not hesitate to mention financial limitations and ask for support if this is a factor for you. Often, accommodation can be arranged through teleconferencing or a telephone interview if finalists do not live within commuting distance of the college.

If you are chosen for the position, some colleges arrange for you to meet with the college president for final approval and negotiation of placement on the salary schedule, based on past teaching experience. At some public community colleges, you are only "hired" officially after the governing board meets (usually biweekly or monthly) and approves your hiring.

4. The Adjunct Position at the Community College

The discussion above has been directed to those seeking a full-time, tenure-track position at a community college. What about the part-time or adjunct position--either as a route to obtaining a full-time position or simply as an alternative? Throughout their history, community colleges have hired part-time instructors for the occupational expertise they bring to the classroom. In more recent decades, as public funding has tightened, community colleges have begun to rely more on adjunct faculty members across the curriculum as a way to keep salary costs down. Adjunct instructors are usually limited to teaching up to 60% of the annual load of a contract faculty member at the institution. And although the minimum qualifications for adjunct and full-time positions are often identical, the pay per course is often only a fraction of what the full-time faculty member receives. The AAUP analyzed United States Department of Education data for 2003 and found that the salary per course at public two-year colleges ranged from a low of $1,397 at the 25th percentile to a high of $3,000 at the 90th percentile; in hourly wages, the median pay for an adjunct at a two-year college was only $11.19 ("Devaluing" 33). This limited pay from any single institution leads many adjuncts to teach part-time at two or three colleges to earn a living wage, yielding the phenomenon of the "freeway flyer."

Some institutions (the colleges of the University of Cincinnati are one such example) have a new layer of adjunct faculty, field service representatives, who are full-time, untenured faculty members, with indefinite reappointment possibilities. They receive the same minimum pay and benefits as tenure-track faculty members and have obligations to faculty development and service. This example is but one indication of greatly varying options for adjunct faculty members at two-year colleges.

Is there any good reason to accept this employment while searching for a job if a permanent position is your goal? It is difficult to suggest to graduate students that they consider being underpaid in such a position with few reemployment rights. But here are several reasons to consider such a position:

  • Teaching at a community college for a semester or two is the best way to determine if this kind of work suits you.

  • Having teaching experience at the community college will often make a difference between getting or not getting an interview when a full-time position opens up and may be important for being offered the position as well. Two-year colleges often favor the candidate with teaching experience at a community college over the candidate with a higher degree and university teaching experience. The interview questions themselves will resonate differently with each candidate. The answers of candidates who have already taught at the community college will tend to ring more true, especially as to their commitment to teaching at this level.

  • Successful adjunct instructors may have a better chance to obtain a full-time position at the institution where they have been teaching, if that experience has been successful. Although many community college administrators view good part-time faculty members as a pool of potential tenure-track hires (Twombly 441), adjunct experience does not guarantee that you will be interviewed for a tenure-track position, which often leads to hurt feelings among the part-time staff.

  • If your search is limited to one geographic area because of family commitments or continuing work with your graduate institution as you complete your doctorate, it may make sense to interview for a part-time position at a neighboring college and begin being known by the faculty in the institutions of your area. Again, since two-year colleges tend to hire from within a region, you may have an advantage over candidates who are not familiar with the community and its students.

  • If you accept an adjunct position, take advantage of opportunities to work with your colleagues and get to know the field (as time permits). Attending faculty meetings and serving on committees allows you to stay informed about your field and about college life, even though this service is usually optional for adjunct faculty members. Use student evaluations and supervisor or peer evaluations to your advantage; when your evaluations are good, ask those who observed your class to serve as references or write you a letter of recommendation.

Individuals will need to decide for themselves if adjunct teaching is a legitimate step on a career path in two-year college teaching.

5. Resources

  • The Modern Language Association Web site (www.mla.org) has many resources for job seekers at the community college. See especially the Job Information Lists, the Committee on Community College link, and the possibilities of job counseling at the MLA annual meeting.

  • The National Council of Teachers of English (www.ncte.org) has information about its organization for two-year college faculty members, the Two-Year College English Association (http://www.ncte.org/groups/tyca), and its regional subgroups; a refereed journal, Teaching English in the Two-Year College; and an annual conference that includes job interviews, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4 C's) (www.ncte.org/cccc/).

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education (online as well as in print) lists academic positions weekly and periodically publishes "The Two-Year Track," a series of columns by Rob Jenkins on teaching in the community college. "The Two-Year Track" archives are available online at chronicle.com. The Chronicle also hosts a job market discussion forum (chronicle.com/forums/).

  • The American Association of Community Colleges provides a wealth of data and information about two-year colleges (www.aacc.nche.edu). The AACC publishes a compendium called National Profile of Community Colleges: Trends and Statistics, which offers a comprehensive view of community colleges.

  • Another resource is the ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges (www.eric.ed.gov). There you can search the ERIC database for journal articles and documents relating to community colleges.

  • The League for Innovation in the Community College (www.league.org) has information on its member colleges and hosts a "jobnet."

  • Many states maintain lists and notifications of available community college positions. See, for example, www.cccco.edu, the Web site of the California Community College Chancellor's Office.

  • Professional organizations list openings in their journals and on their Web sites.

  • Regional and national newspapers list positions as well.

Works Cited

Adelman, Clifford. "Executive Summary: Moving into Town--and Moving On: The Community College in the Lives of Traditional-Age Students." US Dept. of Educ. Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Feb. 2005. 19 Oct. 2006 <http://www.ed.gov/print/rschstat/research/pubs/comcollege/index.html>.

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