Adjunct Faculty: Personal Finances and Retirement Savings

March 2019

The ranks of adjunct faculty have increased rapidly in recent decades. How are these individuals faring financially?


Adjuncts – defined as part-time nontenure-track faculty who have neither retired from a tenured position nor have a career outside higher education – account for about a third of all faculty today. This report leverages data from the TIAA Institute’s 2018 Adjunct Faculty Survey to examine adjuncts’ personal finances and financial behavior, including their retirement savings, across all sectors of American higher education. A previous TIAA Institute report based on the same survey data examined adjuncts’ demographic characteristics and work experiences.

Key Insights
Adjuncts are paid an average of $3,000 per course, but almost 60% receive less than that.
More than 40% of adjuncts reported working for pay in addition to their college or university employment.
Three-quarters of adjunct households carry debt, most commonly from credit cards and home mortgages.
Almost two-thirds of adjuncts report personally saving for retirement in the past year.
Forty-one percent of adjunct households have received financial advice from a professional advisor within the past two years.

This report’s findings are based on an online survey of 502 adjunct faculty members conducted from May 14 to June 8, 2018. Respondents were selected from members of the Research Now online research panel – one of the most comprehensive and deeply profiled online survey panels available – and represent all sectors of higher education.