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No Job Security for Adjunct Professors

It’s June again. And I’m waiting to find out if I have a job in August. This fall will ostensibly be my fourth year as a college professor. If I’m offered my job again, that is. Living as an adjunct means living with uncertainty. Job security is an illusion in most professions, but it seems to be even more illusory in higher education. Like most adjuncts, I’m employed for 10-month stretches, after which I just have to wait and see if I will be rehired.

I never know what to tell my students who always ask what I’ll be teaching next year. They want to recommend me to friends and some even want me to teach their advanced writing and literature classes. What should I say? Should I tell them I’ll be unemployed in May? Should I tell them I’ll find out what/if I’m teaching when my name shows up in the schedule book? Should I tell them that the adjunct life means no job security regardless of how many years I’ve been doing it?

Job SecurityIt’s a tough position to be in. On one hand, I understand why schools do it. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. Especially when it comes to courses like freshman composition, where enrollment fluctuates right up until the last days of add/drop. My department can’t possibly plan for last minute shifts in student schedules, so they need to maintain some level of flexibility. I get it.

That being said, it seems like some of us who have been around for a few years and who are doing good work could probably get some kind of reasonable assurance about our future employment. After all, we know there’ll be dozens of sections. Somebody will have to teach them. I mean, I have no reason to believe that I won’t be offered classes in the fall, but I also have no reason to believe that I will be.

I guess I should be glad that I get a 10-month contract. Most adjuncts don’t even get that level of job security. The Adjunct Project reveals that about 95% of adjuncts teach with no more than four months of job security–one semester at a time. Could you imagine if you were laid off EVERY four months and had to reapply for your job? It sounds completely absurd when you put it that way.

Why do adjuncts do it? Why do we keep coming back despite this total lack of job security? I wish I had a good answer to that question. The college teaching profession seems to be getting worse and worse every year. I wonder if someday it’ll get so bad that professors like this one will decide it’s not worth it? What will happen then? I guess when the supply of willing teachers drops off, demand will grow. If so, salaries will increase and maybe some level of job security will be added to the package.

It’d be nice if this would happen, but I’m not holding my breath. I like teaching, but I’m looking for a new career path. I know I’m worth more. I know I have more to offer. I’ll miss the students, but it’s just something I have to do.

  • Jbrown3rd

    I have to agree. The need for adjuncts is increasing. I also understand the need but where is the line drawn where some of these quality instructors will be taken on as full-time instructors. Has the educational system deteriorated to the point that our learners level of learning is dependent upon funding totally?