Teaching in Retirement

A large percentage of retirees express an interest have an interest in part-time work. A Google search will bring up dozens of ideas for working in retirement. For the most part, when I look at the suggestions on say, the AARP website, I find none of them even remotely interesting – Librarian Assistant, Bookkeeper, Home Care Aid, Handyman, and Medical Assistant. Nothing wrong with these jobs, just not something I want to do during retirement.

I’d like to suggest an alternative that I believe many would find quite attractive.  In particular, for those recently retired from a professional position who might like to give something back to the younger generation, teaching at the college level offers great possibilities. I’m not referring to a permanent position at a university, but something along the lines of an adjunct. Many of you have undoubtedly heard not so flattering accounts of the treatment of adjuncts and non-tenure track faculty at universities. In some cases, I suspect the accounts are true, primarily for those for whom the position is their primary source of income. The hours can be long and the salary low. For a retiree however, with years of industry or teaching experience and a different view on life, the adjunct route may be perfect.

Why do departments need to hire adjuncts? Several reasons, but primarily because they have lost the services of a professor who previously taught the class and need someone to fill in for a semester. For instance, every six years most tenured faculty become eligible for a year-long sabbatical leave. They were typically teaching from 2 to 5 courses over the academic year, depending on the university and discipline. The required courses in particular, will need to be covered. Or a faculty member quits after the fall semester and that opening can’t be filled until the following fall. Some schools hire part-time faculty to teach large sections of courses required of all students, such as introductory mathematics classes. These scenarios happen all the time and offer an opportunity for those willing to step up.

How does one get started? If you live in proximity to a college or university that has a degree program related to your background, make an appointment to meet the department chair. Bring a CV and let them know your background, and ask to be considered for any future opportunities to teach a class. Freshman and sophomore level classes may require a B.S. degree as a “prerequisite” along with industry experience and competence in the field. Upper division courses may require a graduate degree. Many adjuncts bring a level of practical experience to the classroom that professors who have been on the academic track their entire career cannot match. The key is, make a contact and make your interest and qualifications known.

What salary could one expect? Depends on the school and discipline. In the field of engineering, for which I am familiar, numbers range from perhaps a low of $3,000 per course to $8,000 or more at the upper end. The work load will typically be 3 lecture hours per week over a 15 week period along with 3-6 hours per week of office hours. You will likely have sufficient free time during the office hours to develop your lecture material. Or the department may already have a set of notes for the course you can reference. On a dollars per hour basis, this comes to $20 to $80 per hour.  As you gain experience you can expect the number of prep hours to drop significantly.

What other part-time retirement gig lets you meet a variety of new people and pass on a lifetime of experiences to younger generations while still permitting the freedom most retirees want?

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