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Why Teach at a Community College?

Updated on February 24, 2013
Bell Tower at Laredo Community College South, Laredo, TX
Bell Tower at Laredo Community College South, Laredo, TX | Source

Those who get bit by the teaching bug and want to teach adults may have trouble deciding where they want to teach – at a community college, a technical college, or a university. As a teacher at both community colleges and technical colleges for over 10 years, I’ve discovered a number of perks to teach at a community college, but they all boil down to one main reason: the community college allows instructors to be student-focused.

Smaller Class Size

According to education.com, the average size of a community college class is between 25 and 40 students, although some may be even smaller. This lets the instructors get to know their students and really connect with them. Instead of having a huge class with nameless student, instructors can learn their students’ names and their needs. Instructors can be available to help when students are struggling, letting the instructors feel as if they are truly making a difference in their students’ lives.

An art student working on pottery
An art student working on pottery | Source

Developmental and Continuing Education

Community colleges generally offer developmental and continuing education classes. Developmental classes give teachers a chance to really hone their teaching skills, helping students who wouldn’t be able to attend a university because of their lack of basic skills and knowledge. Developmental classes are often considered “gatekeeper” classes in that students who can’t pass them can’t make it through their degree program. Teaching at a community college means that you may be able to help those students make it through and achieve more in their lives. In addition, many teachers, especially in the arts, may choose to make their classes open to both credit and continuing education students, allowing both degree-seeking and non-degree seeking students to benefit.

Teaching Instead of Researching

Since the focus in the community college is on students, faculty members aren’t required to “publish or perish.” While instructors can and often do like to spend their time doing research and writing for publication, it is not a requirement at most community colleges.

A non-traditional student with his proud family at his graduation
A non-traditional student with his proud family at his graduation | Source

Non-Traditional Students

As per The Association of Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE), non-traditional students generally delay enrollment into college, not going straight from high school. They generally attend part-time for at least part of the year, work full-time, and may not be eligible for financial aid because they are considered “financially independent.” In most cases, the non-traditional student also has a family or may be a single parent. Community colleges tend to have a high percentage of non-traditional students. Faculty members may enjoy teaching these older students – they tend to be more responsible and self-motivated to complete college. They often have returned to school in order to change careers or because they have realized their need for an education to advance in their field, so they will be interested in what their instructors say, and they can bring their own real-world experience to the classroom. Since many of them are paying for their classes out of pocket, they also tend to take their work and their grades more seriously.

Good Vacation Time

Unlike some jobs where you slowly build your vacation or only get off for a week a year, teachers at community colleges are set. Some teachers may choose to have a 9-month contract, allowing them to take summers off, but even with a 12-month contract, instructors still get time off over Spring Break, Christmas/Holiday Break, and other holidays. In addition, some community colleges have reduced hours over the summer or even get Fridays off over the summer months due to the reduced class load. In many cases, instructors can set their own hours, often only having to be on campus for 30 hours a week.

Tenure

Community colleges often do not have requirements for tenure that are as stringent as those of universities. In some cases, all teaching positions are eligible for tenure, and some schools even go so far as to automatically grant tenure once an instructor has held a position for a certain number of years.

Teaching Requirements

Community colleges are often more willing to hire those with Master’s degrees, as opposed to PhDs or other terminal degrees, like a Master’s of Fine Arts. Some teaching jobs at community colleges only require Bachelor’s degree. They can be an excellent place to start out and get teaching experience, even if you aren’t intending to stay there forever.

Would you consider teaching at a community college?

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Problems

Unfortunately, teaching at a community college isn’t all wine and roses. There is often less administrative staff, such as secretaries, which means that faculty may have to spend their own time making photo copies and printing things out for their classes. While there are often student workers, there may be more turn-over of the student workers since most students complete their degree in three or less years. Another negative is that faculty members at community colleges do not have teaching assistants. This means that the faculty members generally must grade all the work from their students, teach all their classes themselves, and do all their own online set-up
(when necessary). These additional responsibilities on the part of the faculty members lead to the faculty members not having time to do research or pursue further education as teaching can be far more than a 40 hour a week job.

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      Mklow1 4 years ago

      Great article! It is strange because I have been considering going back to school and getting my MBA so I can teach. I have been struggling to decide if I will pursue my phd, but I really just want to teach and do research at my leisure. This gives me something to add to my pros and cons list. Thanks.