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Become An Adjunct Psychology Instructor

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Working As An Adjunct Psychology Instructor

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Getting Information
  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Make Decisions

  • $50,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Adjunct Psychology Instructor Do

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.


Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills
  • Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards
  • Plan lessons and assignments
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Conduct research and experiments to advance knowledge in their field
  • Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees
  • Publish original research and analysis in books and academic journals
  • Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, or advise on hiring and promotions within their department

Postsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors or faculty, specialize in a variety of subjects and fields. Some teach academic subjects, such as English or philosophy. Others focus on career-related subjects, such as law, nursing, or culinary arts.

At colleges and universities, professors are organized into departments that specialize in a subject, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, spend most of their time teaching students.

Professors may teach large classes of several hundred students (often with the help of graduate teaching assistants), smaller classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors need to keep up with developments in their field by reading scholarly articles, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences. A tenured professor must do original research, such as experiments, document analysis, or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use websites to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors communicate with students by email and by phone and might never meet their students in person.

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How To Become An Adjunct Psychology Instructor

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Most commonly, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. In career and technical schools, work experience may be important for getting a postsecondary teaching job.


Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. They spend time completing a master’s degree and then writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, in some fields, there are more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Postsecondary teachers who teach career and technical education courses, such as culinary arts or cosmetology, may not be required to have graduate-level education. At a minimum they must hold the degree of the program in which they are teaching. For example, the teacher must hold an associate’s degree if they teach a program that is at the associate’s degree level. In addition, work experience or certification may be just as important as education for getting a postsecondary teaching job at a career or technical school.

Other Experience

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve working for 2 to 3 years as a research associate or in a similar position, often at a college or university.

Some postsecondary teachers gain teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants—students who are enrolled in a graduate program and teach classes in the institution in which they are enrolled.

Some postsecondary teachers, especially adjunct professors, have another job in addition to teaching.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Postsecondary teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration, may need to have—or they may benefit from having—the same credential. For example, a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license or a postsecondary education teacher might need a teaching license.


A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time faculty.

Some tenured professors advance to administrative positions, such as dean or president. For information on deans and other administrative positions, see the profile on postsecondary education administrators. For more information about college and university presidents, see the profile on top executives.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. To challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need good critical-thinking skills.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to be able to present information in a way that students will understand. They need to adapt to the different learning styles of their students and teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good communication skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.

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Adjunct Psychology Instructor Career Paths

Adjunct Psychology Instructor
Adjunct Instructor Adjunct Professor
11 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Instructor Owner Assistant Director
Center Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Instructor Assistant Professor Adjunct Professor
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Psychology Instructor Psychologist Adjunct Professor
Department Chairperson
7 Yearsyrs
Psychology Instructor Psychologist Faculty
Board Member
5 Yearsyrs
Psychology Instructor Therapist Lead Teacher
Education Director
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Case Manager Director Of Admissions
Campus Director
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Administrator Assistant Principal
High School Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Psychologist Faculty Assistant Professor
Senior Lecturer
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Psychology Professor Clinician Chairperson
Academic Affairs Dean
12 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Psychology Professor Clinician Assistant Professor
Assistant Dean
8 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Psychology Professor Clinician Faculty
Associate Dean
11 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Recruiter Instructor
Vocational Training Instructor
5 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Trainer Instructional Designer
Senior Instructional Designer
9 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Lead Teacher Assistant Principal
Director Of Instruction
7 Yearsyrs
School Psychologist Education Consultant
Educational Manager
7 Yearsyrs
School Psychologist Education Consultant Assistant Principal
Instruction Dean
9 Yearsyrs
School Psychologist Education Consultant Department Chairperson
Academic Dean
10 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Lead Teacher Department Chairperson
Academic Director
7 Yearsyrs
Licensed Professional Counselor Clinical Counselor Guidance Counselor
Student Dean
7 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Psychology Teacher 3.1 years
English Instructor 2.8 years
Instructor 2.8 years
Writing Instructor 2.5 years
Student Instructor 1.7 years
Co-Instructor 1.3 years
Top Careers Before Adjunct Psychology Instructor
Counselor 9.2%
Internship 8.1%
Instructor 6.9%
Teacher 5.7%
Therapist 5.2%
Director 3.1%
Top Careers After Adjunct Psychology Instructor
Therapist 9.0%
Counselor 8.3%
Owner 3.0%
Volunteer 3.0%

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Top Skills for An Adjunct Psychology Instructor

  1. Psychology
  2. Classroom Discussions
  3. Online Courses
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Arranged learning experiences for students enrolled in psychology courses in accordance with lower division general educational requirements.
  • Initiated thought-provoking classroom discussions to help students develop their critical thinking abilities.
  • Teach multiple sections of face to face and online courses.
  • Initial duties include teaching and course/curriculum development.
  • Developed and implemented interesting and interactive learning mediums to increase student understanding of course materials.

Adjunct Psychology Instructor Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken







Adjunct Psychology Instructor Education


Walden University


Capella University


University of Phoenix


Wayne State University


University of Houston - Clear Lake


Troy University


Northcentral University


Liberty University


Pittsburg State University


University of West Alabama


Grand Canyon University


University of Alabama


University of San Francisco


Louisiana Tech University


Argosy University-Phoenix


University of Houston


University of Oklahoma


University of Kansas


Nova Southeastern University


Illinois State University

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Counseling Psychology


Clinical Psychology


School Counseling




General Education, Specific Areas


Experimental Psychology


Educational Leadership


Family Therapy


Social Work


Mental Health Counseling


Special Education


Elementary Education






Human Services


Criminal Justice


Public Health


Health Care Administration


Human Development

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