Thursday, July 16, 2015

Career Trajectories for Academics: Adjuncts, Teaching Faculty, Professors of Practice, ...

For the most part, I have been concerned with conventional scholarly careers. But nowadays universities are hiring a wider range of faculty.

Adjunct faculty usually teach one or two or three courses, typically are chosen because of their practical and professional experience, and bring that experience to the university (where the ordinary faculty have comparatively little experience). They are rarely expected to have scholarly research careers. (Many adjuncts are hired as temporary teachers of more conventional stuff, and here I have little to say.)

Teaching faculty may well have long term contract appointments, may move up the ranks as teaching faculty, but usually do not achieve tenure. They are often as qualified as regular faculty.They are expected to teach a larger number of courses than the regular tenure-track faculty, but are not expected to have scholarly research careers. On the other hand, if they do publish (perhaps at a slower rate than their tenure-track colleagues, although given the rate of some of those colleagues the teaching faculty might well do much better than the slows), they gain further cachet and that is likely to influence how they are evaluated.

Professors of practice are typically quite senior, with deep and distinguished experience sets, and they bring their career knowledge to the university. They may well be respected for that experience set, but given the status consciousness of regular faculty, they are not likely to be seen as being as prestigious as regular faculty even if their external reputations are sterling (although again, some fraction of the regular faculty has stopped publishing or slowed down substantially quite early in their careers).

In each of these roles, publication and dissemination of your ideas and work will increase your status. Adjuncts have professional experience that might well enable them to criticize and contribute to the conventional scholarly literature. Teaching faculty might well have research programs. Professors of practice may well have articles or a book in which they can convey their wisdom and experience, much as I suggest for adjuncts. All may be invited to help journalists, give public presentations and speeches, and generally become more prominent. They may serve on national or international committees. And in many universities, they might well receive external research grants or participate in grants by others of their colleagues.

What's crucial to keep in mind is that just because someone is regular faculty, tenured, and even a full professor does not mean they are still highly productive scholars. There's lots of room for those on the periphery to prove their worth.

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