The Career Experience of Academics in Adjunct Faculty Positions

May 2015
Related Topics

While they enjoy the work itself, adjunct faculty have concerns about salary, job security and retirement readiness.

Summary

Half of today’s higher education faculty are employed part time on a nontenure track—i.e., “adjuncts.” The rest are full-time nontenure track (20%) and tenured or tenure track (30%). This report examines adjuncts’ views and experiences concerning their jobs, careers and retirement readiness.

Key Insights
Forty-one percent of adjuncts are very satisfied with their academic career; by comparison, 69% of tenured and tenure-track faculty feel this way.
Ninety percent say they enjoy teaching and interacting with students, and 28% feel strongly that nothing outside academia would provide the same sense of fulfillment.
Half view their level of debt as problematic; 13% consider it a major problem.
When asked “what keeps you from being very satisfied” with your career, the top reasons given are level of pay (cited by 25%), not having a full-time position (23%), not having a tenure-track position (22%) and lack of job security (14%).
Only 19% are very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. This is slightly higher than that of all U.S. workers (18%), but notably lower than that of tenured and tenure-track faculty (31%).
Methodology

This report analyzes data from the 2014 Faculty Career and Retirement Survey, a representative sample of U.S. college and university faculty that included 1,200 tenured or tenure-track faculty and 500 academics in adjunct faculty positions. Respondents classified as adjuncts neither hold a full-time position outside of academia nor work full time at a single institution under a multi-year contract.