The Life of an Adjunct Despite its challenges, part-time teaching can help clinicians expand their skill sets and share their excitement for the professions. Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   September 01, 2016
The Life of an Adjunct
Author Notes
  • SallyAnn Giess, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an assistant professor in the Center for Communication Disorders at Murray State University in Kentucky. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 10, Issues in Higher Education; 11, Administration and Supervision; and 16, School-Based Issues. sallyann.giess@gmail.com
    SallyAnn Giess, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an assistant professor in the Center for Communication Disorders at Murray State University in Kentucky. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 10, Issues in Higher Education; 11, Administration and Supervision; and 16, School-Based Issues. sallyann.giess@gmail.com×
  • Kerry Lenius, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a clinical coordinator at the University of Florida Health Shands Rehab Hospital and adjunct professor in UF’s Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She is an affiliate of ASHA SIG 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders. leniuk@shands.ufl.edu
    Kerry Lenius, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a clinical coordinator at the University of Florida Health Shands Rehab Hospital and adjunct professor in UF’s Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She is an affiliate of ASHA SIG 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders. leniuk@shands.ufl.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   September 01, 2016
The Life of an Adjunct
The ASHA Leader, September 2016, Vol. 21, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.21092016.36
The ASHA Leader, September 2016, Vol. 21, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.21092016.36
Do you find yourself rushing from your 9-to-5 job to teach a 7 p.m. class? Or perhaps you instruct graduate students at one campus on Monday, teach undergraduates at a second campus on Tuesday and Thursday, and supervise graduate-student clinicians on yet a third campus on Friday.
If your life involves these or similar scenarios, you are most likely living the life of an adjunct instructor. This work—although interesting and rewarding—can also be stressful and challenging.
An adjunct professor is a part-time professor who teaches or supervises specific classes under a contract rather than holding a tenured and permanent position. Using adjuncts is a less expensive and more flexible option for universities.
It is not unusual for audiologists and speech-language pathologists to be adjunct instructors. Communication science and disorders programs commonly employ adjuncts—about 37 percent to 39 percent of faculty positions in the past several academic years—and their numbers continue to grow as class sizes increase, budgets decrease and new programs emerge. Those who take the posts do so for many different reasons (see sidebar below), and this part-time approach comes with both pros and cons.
Pros
One of the most rewarding aspects of adjunct service is the opportunity to interact with students and faculty and share excitement about our chosen profession. Adjunct teaching provides intellectual stimulation and encourages upkeep of knowledge. It also provides an avenue to broaden your professional skill set, as adjuncts can conduct research, teach courses at all levels and supervise clinicians.
Also, affiliation with a college or university provides access to the institution’s library and library services, use of the campus facilities, discounted tickets for campus performances and athletic events, and other services and programs. Depending on a state’s requirements, adjuncts may also qualify to participate in the state teachers’ retirement system.

A good program director should communicate the program’s vision and mission, and should help all employees understand how their contributions advance the program’s overall efforts.

Cons
The realities of adjunct positions can be daunting, however, starting with the combination of hard work and low pay. Many adjuncts teach in addition to working in a traditional, full-time job—but for a very low per-course salary. Your salary will vary based on geographic area, highest degree earned and rank (lecturer vs. assistant professor, for example), but will most likely be lower per course than a prorated percent of a comparable, full-time position.
And logistical and administrative difficulties often pose obstacles. For example, adjunct instructors are often on campus when other program faculty and staff have left for the day and cannot offer support. You can work to build connections at other times or through email for help or opportunities to collaborate.
Parking may be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the campus—and you also may have to buy a parking permit, even if you are teaching only one class. Office space, if you have any, is often shared with other adjuncts and office supplies may be hard to obtain.
Programmatically, you may find it difficult to know how the one or two classes you teach fit in with the program’s overall philosophy, goals and mission. A good program director, however, should communicate the program’s vision and mission, and should help all employees understand how their contributions advance the program’s overall efforts.
Strategies for success
If you are working as an adjunct or considering taking an adjunct position, these suggestions may help enhance your experience.
  • Check the institution’s faculty handbook to learn the role, responsibilities, salary and benefits of adjunct faculty to gain insight into the overall role of adjuncts.

  • Know what paperwork you must complete to get paid, and follow up with the appropriate administrators to make sure the paperwork is processed expeditiously.

  • Ask for a teaching assistant if you have a large class or if you are teaching more than one course.

  • Limit the number of courses you teach or the number of students you supervise if your time is limited.

  • Take advantage of orientations offered for part-time employees or adjuncts.

  • Get to know people in your department and on campus.

  • Share your clinical experiences with your students—these are often the most valued in-class experiences they have.

  • Ask questions about anything and everything.

  • Enjoy the students!

Is being an adjunct worth it? We absolutely believe so, because we are committed to preparing our future audiologists and SLPs and because we love teaching and our profession. For us, challenges are far outweighed by the benefits gained from contributing to our profession.
Why Be an Adjunct?
The authors share their own journeys to adjunct positions.
SallyAnn Giess

Work as an adjunct instructor began as a means of survival after I arrived back in California after leaving a full-time faculty position in another state. The opportunity to teach a course at San Francisco State University prompted me to move from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay area. Eventually, and perhaps unintentionally, I ended up putting together the equivalent of full-time work, in terms of workload, as an adjunct instructor at four different universities.

I am amazed at how much I learned professionally and personally over the past year, as well as how many professional and personal obstacles I overcame. Over the course of two semesters, I supervised graduate-student clinicians, taught undergraduate and graduate students, and had my first experience developing and teaching a fully online course for speech-language pathology assistants. I also learned how to navigate four different administrative departments. My biggest struggle has been financial; despite this full-time course load, money has been a constant worry.

Kerry Lenius

I began adjunct teaching while also holding a full-time clinical position. Shortly after giving birth to my first child, I was juggling motherhood, a full-time job and teaching. Although the courses I taught were online—offering more time flexibility—I often spent long, late nights and weekends working on them. However, despite the sleep deprivation, this experience strengthened my desire to teach and forced me to develop efficient methods for course preparation and grading.

I now teach an onsite evening graduate course. I rush to the class directly from my regular job, eating dinner in the car on the way. It is exciting to be able to incorporate cases from the patients I see during the day directly into class discussion. However, this scheduling taxes my ability to maintain adequate brainpower until the class ends at 8:30 p.m. Like many people juggling multiple jobs, my biggest struggle is finding work/life balance.

2 Comments
September 6, 2016
Jennifer Batore
Now the How
Great information! But can you back up a step and talk about how to get an adjunct job? Thank you!
September 7, 2016
Kerry Lenius
How to get an adjunct job
Hello Jennifer. Great question. In my experience, these jobs are often not advertised. I suggest you reach out to the department where you would like to work. If you know any of the permanent faculty you could ask them if they have a need for your area of expertise. You can contact the chair with a letter of interest and provide your CV. Good luck!
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September 2016
Volume 21, Issue 9