Also known as an adjunct instructor, an adjunct professor is an education professional who teaches at colleges, universities, and technical schools on a contract basis. Unencumbered by the departmental and administrative tasks that full-time educators face, he or she has the ability to teach as many or as few courses as desired. In some areas, adjunct teaching professionals contract to teach specific courses during the term and are not considered employees of the educational institution. Other areas require that the professor be considered a part-time employee and expect the educator to accept a minimum number of teaching assignments each term in order to maintain that status.
The main function of this professor is to teach. This involves complying with institutional standards in terms of following the designated curriculum, and making sure that students are exposed to the material required for successfully completing the course. He or she is usually free to develop his or her own technique in presenting the curriculum materials. As long as the method is effective in conveying the information to the students in a manner they can grasp, it is unlikely that administrators will step in to manage the teaching process.
An adjunct professor does perform several other functions that full-time educators are expected to provide. Adjuncts some times sit in on faculty meetings, and may participate in any discussion that takes place. The typical adjunct teaching position requires instructors to keep meticulous records in relation to grades and attendance. In some universities, this professor will meet with students outside the classroom to discuss issues relevant to the course.
Adjunct jobs are found at most colleges and universities. In cities where several institutions of higher learning are in operation, a qualified candidate may accept adjunct assignments at more than one school. With the advent of distance learning programs, he or she may also function as an online adjunct. This allows the professor to work as much or as little as desired. While he or she does not enjoy the protection of tenure, a competent professor can normally secure as many teaching assignments as he or she likes, making it possible to simply discontinue accepting assignments if problems arise with one a particular school.
One major drawback to adjunct teaching is the lower salary and lack of benefits. It is not unusual for an adjunct professor to earn less than half the salary paid to a tenured professor for the same duties. Adjuncts normally provide their own health care coverage, and do not receive paid vacation or sick time, unless those issues are specifically addressed in their agreement. Still, many educators who want to avoid university politics and the duties that come with full time university employment find that this type of teaching is an ideal situation.