Some very good and blunt advice from “Piss Poor Prof” in Inside Higher Ed, “Can You Afford to Be An Adjunct?” Just about everything he says here is spot-on to me: the money isn’t worth it, it is not a “back door” into a more permanent job, it’s something only worth doing while doing something else (e.g., finishing a novel or a dissertation), and be prepared to teach at a bunch of different schools at the same time.
When I was the program adviser, I used to talk to plenty of current or perspective grad students who wanted to finish our MA and then teach at an area community college or part-time teach at a place like EMU. I wish I had had this article to show them. Making matters worse– at least at EMU– is we just aren’t hiring as many adjuncts as we used to. The situation here has more to do with local politics and general education shifts, but I suspect that there is something similar going on at places where budget problems are being solved by increasing teaching loads. It kind of feels to me like academia has been in some version of a recession for a lot longer than the rest of the economy.
Anyway, good advice. If you want to teach one or two classes as an adjunct while doing something else– and there is something to be said for having one’s sources of income diversified in an economy like this– that’s great. But it ain’t a long-term solution and it ain’t a career.
Oh, and since I read some of the CHE stuff online after I read the above article: No, “For Adjuncts, Stitching Together Part-Time Jobs Into Full-Time Pay While Staying Put” is not a viable and long-term strategy for anyone– administrators, faculty, adjuncts themselves, and most definitely not for students. But yes, “Adjunct and Tenure-Track Professors Need One Another, Say Speakers at AAUP Meeting” and can clearly work together just fine, as is the case in my department. But when part-timers or non-tenure-track folks are put into positions that really should be occupied by permanent and tenure-track folks, well, that relationship gets testy.