The Career Experience of Academics in Adjunct Faculty Positions

May 2015
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While they enjoy the work itself, adjunct faculty have concerns about salary, job security and retirement readiness.


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%).

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.