Adjunct Instructors – Professional Mentoring in Higher Education

In recent years the economy and employment have been on the minds of most people. An unsurprising side-effect has been the boom of the education industry. Technical colleges, online degree programs and adult education opportunities are springing up all over the country. According to the American Association of University Professors, thirty percent of all faculty in degree-granting institutions in the United States were part-time workers in 1975. By 2007, that total had risen sharply to over fifty percent.

Adjunct professors do not require a terminal degree in most institutions, so some critics contend that adjunct faculty lower the quality of education received by the student. The same critics also cite that colleges and universities are simply using the adjunct designation to allow them to higher part-time workers, avoiding costly benefits in the process.

Though these are respectable criticisms, there are valid reasons for an institution to rely heavily on adjunct faculty. The growing popularity of technical colleges challenges the critics. In some cases, a part-time instructor may be just the right person for the role.


Technology Training

Students in technology programs are looking for real-world experience. Most adjunct instructors at career colleges are professionals currently practicing in the field. While there is an advantage to having faculty that can devote their full attention to teaching, there is also an advantage in the instructor that can relay current examples to the learner. In the computer technology field, being out of the field for over a year can put an instructor behind the curve of modern equipment and software.

Nursing Training

Generally, nursing instructors are required to have and maintain a current license as a registered nurse with clinical experience. Adding in the continuing education requirements, most nursing instructors need to be practicing in the field as well as teaching.

Drafting and Design Training

Visual communications is a changing field. With constant software and hardware upgrades, designers have to keep in touch with the movement of business. Students also value the experience of the instructor and the ability to use real-world tasks as projects.

A more positive view of adjunct staff in technical schools may be that practicing professionals can serve as mentors for their future colleagues. By being the instructor, a professional can help ensure that the students learn the skill set required to be employable in the chosen career field.

Though the climb in adjunct numbers seems drastic, it could simply be a sign of the changing demand for education. More and more students are opting for technical education over general education.