Where the Want-Ads Are: Job Listings for College Teaching Positions

All of you are here in the program because of your love for literature and academic study, and for many of you that intellectual enrichment is the point, is the reason why you pursue the MA. Some of you, though, are also here with career hopes. This post is for that latter group. There are a few “industry” job sites which you should know about, and some words of advice I can give you about hunting for jobs in the field. Read on, if interested:

First, be aware that the MA degree qualifies you to apply to most full-time junior college/community college professorships, and to adjunct (i.e. teach part-time) at most senior/4-year colleges. I say “most” because though I’ve never encountered a situation where the MA didn’t qualify you for these things, I’m sure that there are some exceptions somewhere out there in the world. In most cases though you’ll see in want-ads that community colleges require the MA in English for English professorships, same for senior college adjunct pools. To apply to full-time English professorships at senior/4-year colleges, the terminal degree, meaning the PhD, is required; except, upon occasion, for creative writing positions for which the MFA is sometimes considered the terminal degree.  Even that’s changing though.

Side note: the term “adjunct pool” refers to the pool of adjunct professors any particular college keeps on file, and from which it draws teachers each semester to staff many of its courses. Few institutions have enough full-time faculty to staff all their courses, and so most institutions rely (sometimes heavily) on adjunct professors to teach a significant portion of courses each semester. Some people adjunct to gain experience for when applying to full-time positions or PhD programs; some do it to provide a stimulating supplement to some other job they might hold; some do it as a secondary income source for a household; and some actually adjunct “full time” by which I mean they put themselves into multiple institutions’ adjunct pools and so weave together a full-time schedule each year teaching across different colleges.

So, where does one even begin to search for any of these teaching positions? The most popular and common job site is probably the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The Chronicle is the most popular news source for college academia, and maintains a popular job-board which I’ve linked there. Another popular site is Higher Ed Jobs. Both of those sites are free to use, and have a variety of search features which allow you to rarify your search, including by geographical region. A third site is the Job information List of the MLA however be advised that this is a paid subscription site. Those are the big three national job boards.

Additionally, all sorts of less centralized boards exist, and these you just have to discover by searching. For example California maintains the most brilliant example of a dedicated state-specific community college job board, the CCC Registry. And some institutions don’t necessarily post every job opening on the big national boards, but rather just post them on their Human Resources website (see for example Occidental College’s current faculty openings listed only on their HR site). Oftentimes calls for adjuncts will only be posted on a college’s HR site, and no-where else. Other local job boards exist, for example the California State Careers job board which lists all faculty openings in the Cal State system, some but not all of which are cross-listed on the national job boards. My examples are from California since that’s my old state, the one I know best, but the point is you should search the national job boards and also just do detective work and search around your state and local college websites to determine what more local job boards might exist near you. Always look for the Human Resources section of any college’s website; that’s almost always where they either list their job openings, or list a link to relevant job boards for their institution.

Here’s a final way to go about the job search, particularly in terms of adjuncting: the cold call. Many institutions don’t even post want-ads for adjuncts on any board or even on their HR site because it’s relatively common practice for people interested in adjuncting to simply put together the paperwork (a cover letter and a curriculum vitae, which is not the same thing as a resume) and cold-call a department or program head (or whomever does the course staffing, which you’d want to determine beforehand through your detective work). It’s not inappropriate to approach, either in person or through email/phone, the staffing person of a dept./program and simply present yourself for consideration for future adjunct work.

One last thing to explain is the annual hiring cycle. Full-time professorships for 4-year colleges typically post in the fall semester, starting in September. Community college professorships usually post in the spring semester, as early as January or February. Adjunct calls will post year round. Anomalous timing happens so it’s always good to keep an eye on the boards year-round if you’re in the job hunt. For example there’s often a small burst of job ads at the end of spring, early summer, which bespeak unsuccessful earlier searches they’re now trying to fill quickly prior to the start of the fall semester. Faculty positions almost always begin in whatever is the next/upcoming fall semester.

Okay, in a future post I’ll go into the difference between a curriculum vitae, or CV, and resume. For now, that’s your overview of how to search for a college teaching position. Best, -CL