What Does a Visiting Lecturer Do?

Lainie Petersen

A visiting lecturer is an academic or professional who lectures or teaches at an academic institution that is not his permanent employer. Depending on his agreement with the school, the visiting lecturer may simply lecture on a topic or several topics or may actually assume the role of a teacher at the school for a limited period of time. In many cases, a visiting lecturer is someone of significant accomplishment within his field, although this is not always the case. Each college or university has its own policies on inviting, hiring, and compensating speakers and temporary staff.

A visiting lecturer may speak at universities to help broaden students' understanding of material.
A visiting lecturer may speak at universities to help broaden students' understanding of material.

In the United States, the term “lecturer” can refer to academics who assume temporary teaching positions at colleges and universities. These are not tenure-track positions, and academics who hold them have no guarantee of continuing employment after their contract expires. In other countries, a lecturer may be a university teacher with a more secure position and who may be working on achieving tenure. A final use of the term is in the more conventional sense of someone who speaks to an audience on a particular topic but does not assume an instructional role. Many colleges and universities routinely invite academics and professionals to lecture on various topics for the benefit of both faculty and students and will also invite individuals to teach a course or courses throughout the school year.

Visiting lecturers may host special lectures on different topics.
Visiting lecturers may host special lectures on different topics.

A visiting lecturer who is expected to speak only on certain topics may offer a series of lectures during his time on campus. Some of these lectures may be restricted to certain groups, such as faculty or graduate students, while others may be open to the entire campus or general public. A visiting lecturer may be provided with a stipend as well as accommodations while on campus. In some cases, he may be paid from an endowed fund that was created to attract prominent speakers to the school.

When an academic or professional takes on a temporary teaching role, his employment arrangements can become more complex. If the visiting lecturer is someone of significant renown, he may be offered the opportunity to teach advanced courses within his specialization. He may also be asked to offer special lectures throughout the school year. As he will be teaching student courses, his employment will typically be either for a term or an entire school year. While on campus, he will generally have the privileges of most academics, including access to the library, laboratories, and faculty lounges or parking.

A visiting lecturer may be provided with accommodations, and a stipend while on campus.
A visiting lecturer may be provided with accommodations, and a stipend while on campus.

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