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How Do I Become a Community College Professor?

Chefs who have industry experience may be hired to teach culinary arts classes at a community college.
In addition to having knowledge about the subject they are teaching, community college professors must be able to effectively communicate the information to students.
Community college professors typically teach classes that have a smaller group of students than those led by a university professor.
Many community college professors have a master's degree.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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There are several routes to become a community college professor, but all are mostly concerned in developing expertise in a certain subject typically taught in education settings. Community college professors or junior college (JC) professors generally can expect to teach classes that are equivalent are on par with courses offered in the first two years of most colleges. The way that expertise is established can vary depending on institution.

First, when people want to start a career as a community college professor, they may be confused a bit by the term professor. In general, a professor possesses a doctorate degree, and many community college teachers don’t have this degree. However, a junior or community college may prefer to call their teachers professors, and thus confer the title in a different manner than earning a PhD or related doctorate.

To confuse matters further, some PhDs do teach at community colleges, and in competitive job markets people with doctorates may be preferred over people with master’s degrees. This may depend on area, but those teaching general education subjects should probably be prepared for this by having at least a master’s degree, and possibly a PhD if they want to work in a highly competitive area or college.

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Thus the first minimal step for the person who wants to become a community college professor in most subject areas is to earn a Master’s degree. This means getting a four-year undergraduate degree first and then applying to and finishing a Master’s level program. The major chosen simply has to be something the college teaches.

Since emphasis in the community college is on teaching classes, make sure to take every opportunity to get teaching practice. Tutor, read papers, work as a teaching assistant and even teach classes in a master’s program if this opportunity is available. Moreover, if a person wants to work at a specific community college, start building a relationship with the faculty of that college in the department that makes hiring decisions. Try to take either volunteer or paid positions at the college and perform any jobs well so that going into interviews, the faculty already knows the strength of the candidate applying.

In addition to offering a full complement of general education courses, many community colleges have special certificate classes or training in various fields that don’t always involve traditional college degrees. Another way to become a community college professor is to evolve expertise in one of these special areas. For instance, a JC might have an excellent culinary arts training program for students, and many people have lots of training and experience in this area without possessing a master’s degree. Instead a combination of field experience and training by accepted sources like culinary schools could be a way to gain the experience needed to become a community college professor.

The same holds true in a variety of practical fields. The extremely experienced auto mechanic may be well suited for a professorial role in an auto repair certificate program. Again, in combination with education and experience, getting hired usually comes down to ability to teach. All the experience in the world buys nothing if a person can’t logically convey that experience to others. While gathering expertise in a specific vocational or trade field, also look for ways to teach. Learning how to create lesson plans and evaluate students can be important too, and working as teacher’s assistant may be one of the best ways to do this.

Many community colleges are hard hit by changes in the economy and some may be cutting staff instead of adding it. This can make finding a job difficult, especially in more competitive fields or in high population areas. Lots of professors begin by taking part time work. This is a foot in the door at least, but it’s good to keep searching for more permanent jobs too. People might also consider if they can apply some of their skills to online teaching, which appears to be a growing market.

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anon932880
Post 7

I want to be a community college instructor have a double masters, but have not been working for the last 10 years. How do I get the required experience to become an instructor? I really love teaching and want to teach in a community college near my home.

anon345851
Post 6

I think it's quite silly that someone said that if you work at a community college, you are not a professor, but an instructor. I have 11 years teaching experience, serve as an Asst. Dean, & am in the process of authoring a textbook. I may have only a Masters, but I deserve my title and that is what my college calls me: professor.

anon270926
Post 5

To Anonymous: How can you say that there are no educational requirements to teach at a community college? You make it sound as if they allow any Joe Blow off the street to walk in and start teaching. A master's degree is required to teach at the junior college level, which is hardly "no educational requirement."

anon261918
Post 4

If you teach at a community college - you are an "instructor," not a "professor."

There are virtually no educational requirements to teach at the college level - depending on the subject, typically experience will suffice. It doesn't mean that there aren't some very good college level instructors, but calling them professors is not only incorrect, it cheapens the achievement made by real university professors.

afterall
Post 3

Some people might believe that working at a "junior" college, like attending one, is less substantial than doing so at a four year college or university. However, I attended a community college for one year before entering my university and have to say I had some truly excellent professors. Becoming a community college professor gives you just as much of a chance to really affect students and help people who really want to learn.

Denha
Post 2

For people whose goals include becoming a college professor, it can also help to have the classroom experience fresh in your mind. As someone who just finished a four year bachelor's degree at a liberal arts school, I did have some professors who seemed to have no recollection of what it was like to be a student; this affected everything from their lecture styles to their homework assignments, and it really made the classroom experience less enriching.

panda2006
Post 1

Some people can become instructors in community colleges and other schools thanks to a rare talent as well. For example, if you are the only person in a small town who speaks a rarer language like Japanese or Arabic, you could get a job at a community college teaching that class; if you are a local expert on a world religion or a successful local writer, those could also be skills that could get you community college professor jobs.

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