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How to Begin a Career as an Online Adjunct Instructor

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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have an impact on employment and our daily lives, it is a good time to consider employment opportunities that exist during this time. Since the onset of the pandemic, many colleges and universities around the United States have increased their online course offerings and need adjunct instructors to teach those courses.

Adjunct instructors are part-time teachers who typically work on a contractual basis with a university. The contracts are often renewed for each course that is taught by the adjunct faculty member.

In my experience of over 11 years in online higher education, I believe that now is the best time to explore this type of career. Universities have invested a lot of money into effective learning management systems that make it more straightforward and more rewarding to teach online. Also, more and more students have turned to online education during the coronavirus pandemic due to on-campus restrictions.

Adjunct Instructors Make Up Nearly Half of All Faculty Members in Higher Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of the faculty members at degree-granting post-secondary institutions are adjunct faculty. The advantage to universities in hiring adjunct faculty is that those faculty members bring real-world practitioner experience from the field within the academic discipline that they teach.

There are also advantages to teaching as an online adjunct instructor. This type of job allows faculty members to earn additional income while remaining engaged in their full-time career field.

In my career, I have found that online adjunct career opportunities were more beneficial to me than brick-and-mortar adjunct teaching because online adjunct work is typically asynchronous. In other words, the faculty member and students are not required to be in the online class at the same time. This asynchronous format enables both the faculty member and their students to have flexibility in their schedules and to more easily manage different responsibilities, such as full-time work and their families.

Getting Hired as an Online Adjunct Instructor

There are several factors that can assist a prospective online adjunct instructor in landing a job. Since applicants for online positions and employers do not meet in person, the applicant’s resume and job interview should reflect excellent communication skills, especially since interviews are typically conducted via a phone call or video teleconference.

The responsibilities of an online adjunct instructor typically involve creating the course syllabus, grading assigned coursework, collaborating with students in discussion forums and helping students overcome unexpected events that may interfere with their progress in the course. These teaching skills also need to be evident on a resume and brought up in an interview.

Even if an applicant does not have prior teaching experience, it is possible to be successful in landing an online adjunct faculty position by communicating how one’s work experience aligns with the position’s responsibilities. For example, emphasizing one’s strengths in organizational skills, time management skills, collaboration with coworkers, problem solving to overcome unexpected events in the workplace and mentoring others can be very helpful. Applicants for online adjunct instructor positions should also demonstrate their ability to connect the theories associated with discipline-specific course objectives to real-world applications in the field. 

Start with a Well-Written Resume and Use Online Tools to Find Adjunct Faculty Positions

The first step to engage in an online adjunct career is to develop a well-written resume. Since most adjunct instructors come to a university with real-world practitioner career experience versus an extensive background in academia, it is likely that a resume will be sufficient until the applicant develops more experience working in higher education.

To locate job openings, it may be helpful to use a free online tool that lists current open online adjunct positions. One such tool is Adjunct World. Another helpful resource that I have used is HigherEdJobs.

Teaching Online Is Rewarding

Teaching online is very rewarding, because it provides the opportunity to share experiences from the field that relate to the course objectives and content. In addition, helping students reach their academic goals is equally gratifying.

From my experience, I enjoy mentoring students as they pursue their education and career goals. Serving as a dissertation chair has been especially rewarding for me because I can help students overcome the challenges associated with data collection and analysis, as well as in drawing their research conclusions. Overall, becoming an online adjunct instructor is a profession well worth seeking.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor and has over two decades in the field of homeland security. He has 11 years of online higher education experience. His expertise includes human trafficking, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction, and intelligence gathering. Jarrod recently conducted in-country research in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He has served as a consultant and speaker to the key stakeholders in law enforcement, defense forces, and criminal justice in Belize on the topics of human trafficking and drug trafficking.

In late 2020, Jarrod served as a consultant for the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime on human trafficking and organized crime in Central America. His contributions will be reflected on the worldwide Organized Crime Index that will be published in 2021. His research on drug trafficking was published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report in 2019.

Most recently, Jarrod presented at the 2020 International Human Trafficking Conference where he presented his research on human trafficking in South America. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Central America, and Europe on the topics of human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, police responses to domestic terrorism, and various topics in policing. Jarrod can be reached through his website at www.Sadulski.com for consulting and speaking engagements.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies at APU. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.

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