Who is an adjunct professor?

Adjunct professors are non-tenured faculty teaching in higher education and are hired by institutions on a part-time basis.

Adjuncts are usually hired to teach classes that regular faculty might not have a lot of knowledge in or introductory courses in high demand among students. Most universities require adjuncts to have a master’s degree in order to be considered for employment. Teaching experience is also preferred.

The role of these adjunct professors continues to grow in education due to shrinking budgets and fewer full-time faculty employment opportunities.

The number of adjunct professors has increased dramatically since the 1970s. Adjuncts made up 24 percent of all instructional staff in 1975. Now, adjuncts account for more than 40 percent of all faculty at universities across the nation.

Adjunct professor Judith Nicely, 77, is a retired judge who teaches family law practicum at the University of Akron. Nicely said being an adjunct requires more work than she initially thought.

“I think adjunct professors are ideal for people who have the time or retired,” Nicely said. “I’m retired from being an acting judge 13 years ago, so I do not have any interference with working. I don’t think I could do both now. That would have been impossible because it requires a lot of time, more so than I realized.”

Although adjuncts are required to do less than tenured-faculty, they still have a sizeable work-load, taking up most of their free time. Some of their daily tasks include:

  • Teaching graduate and undergraduate students in a specific field
  • Creating and managing the class syllabus and to make sure the syllabus meets department standards
  • Planning and developing lectures and assignments
  • Grading papers, quizzes and exams
  • Collaborating with colleagues on course curriculum
  • Advising students on how to be successful in class
  • Staying updated on innovations and changes within their course field

With college enrollment rising, adjunct professors are becoming a more ideal way for universities to accommodate the increase in enrollment. Adjuncts usually spend the most time with their students and must have flexible schedules in order to meet all of their educational needs.


Mark Turner is an executive news editor at the Akron Beacon Journal and has been teaching as an adjunct professor at Kent State University since 2006. Here is Turner explaining why he became an adjunct.