How To Become A Community College Professor

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

The traditional “one size fits all” approach to higher education, where every student is treated the same way, may no longer be as effective in today’s diverse world as it was a decade ago. Research shows that students who keep in touch with their faculty after they graduate are more likely to stay connected to their college and invest in the next generation of students.

The following article discusses what you must know about how to become a college instructor, community college professor salary community college professor salary, how to become a college professor without a phd, how hard is it to become a community college professor, how to teach at a community college with a bachelors degree& how to become a college professor. Read this article to find out what information you need. 

You will also discover related posts on how long does it take to become a college professor & community college teacher certification on collegelearners.

Community College Professor Certificate

You may be wondering how to teach at a community college, as well as what the requirements to be a community college professor are. Students interested in how to become a community college professor at a local, two-year community college, or junior college, should keep in mind that requirements vary by institution.

However, many of the credentials for community college professors are the same as other postsecondary teachers and usually include formal education, experience, and/or certification. These qualifications may allow students to teach on-campus or become an online professor. Teaching at a community college requirements include education and work experience. Certifications are recommended in some cases.

There are more than 3,000 open faculty positions at community colleges posted on HigherEdJobs. The talent pool may be more diverse than you think. Applicants may not have any experience teaching at a community college. They might be adjuncts, professors at four-year universities, high school teachers, and often times, industry experts looking to apply their field experience in an educational setting.

How do you give yourself an edge when making the transition?

Jerry Boyd made the transition. He started in the restaurant business and now, decades later, he’s the associate vice president for learning and institutional effectiveness at Frederick (Md.) Community College. Part of his job, as dean for the arts and sciences at Frederick, is hiring quality faculty members, just as he did for 18 years when he worked at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). During his time at NOVA he hired more than 40 faculty members and hundreds of adjuncts during a retirement boom in the early 2000s.

Boyd offers tips for aspiring faculty members to make the transition and land a job at a community college, especially for those with no previous teaching experience.

Establish a presence. This doesn’t mean reading a job posting and cold-calling the hiring manager. This starts much earlier. Boyd recommends doing “footwork” by scheduling a meeting with a department chair, asking to observe a class and obtaining first-hand knowledge from professors about what it takes to teach.

Teach a continuing education course. The best entry point is meeting with the director of continuing education. Leading non-credit career training or personal enrichment courses are great ways to obtain teaching experience.

“Once they’ve taught in continuing ed, they have teaching skills,” Boyd says. “So that transfers into a credit area.”

Offer to collaborate. If you’re working in an industry, you are hard at work and may not have time to teach a class on the side. You can still establish a presence and obtain experience by partnering with community colleges by offering students academic-based internships at your company or serving on a community college advisory committee.

“One of the things we love doing is establishing partnerships,” says Boyd. “If somebody is an industry expert and they’re really good at what they do, and they come to the college, the college is hungry for input from the community and from the industry.”

All of Frederick Community College’s career programs have advisory boards that welcome participation from people in industry.

“They can have a major role in helping guide the curriculum of the program with their expertise,” Boyd says. “We’ve had people who joined our advisory boards and then served on our faculty.”

Accentuate your leadership skills. If you’re working outside of higher education there are certain skills you need to highlight on a resume and emphasize during an interview.

“My transition from the restaurant business was facilitated because a lot of what I was doing was training staff,” Boyd says “I was able to articulate that so they hired me without teaching experience because I had underscored the fact that training was part of my job.”

Be an engaging adjunct. If you’ve landed an adjunct position, but would like to move into a full-time faculty position, Boyd’s recommendation is to get to know the college beyond the classroom experience. That means volunteering to serve on committees or participating on an assessment project. Sitting full-time faculty members have an advantage over adjuncts for jobs because some adjuncts don’t have experience with community or governance.

Seek help with classroom management. The biggest challenge for new professors is classroom management, but failing at it is not the biggest mistake. Community colleges can be especially challenging for new instructors to understand the shared learning experience with diverse student bodies consisting of 18-, 30- and 50-year-olds in a classroom, but according to Boyd a common pitfall is going at it alone.

“The mistake is when somebody doesn’t get help when help is needed. There’s plenty of help. We assign mentors (to adjuncts) and (there are) program managers and department chairs and deans all of whom are charged with giving support to faculty,” says Boyd.

You might not want to go back. Boyd couldn’t identify a particular industry whose workers make the transition to a community college professor easier than others, but he said most find it hard to go back after teaching.

“The idea of taking what you know and transferring it in a meaningful way, it’s personally transformational,” says Boyd. “There was nothing more transformational than when I taught my first class. I think that happens with a lot of people.”

Of the faculty Boyd has hired, that’s the one constant theme.

“Nearly everyone one of them at some point in the interview said how enthusiastic they are about working with community college students,” Boyd says. “Once you’ve taught a class, particularly in a community college, it’s really an incredible experience.”

How to Become a Community College Professor

Students wondering how to become a professor at a local, 2-year community college, or junior college, should keep in mind that requirements vary by institution. However, many of the requirements for community college professors are the same as other postsecondary teachers and usually include formal education, experience, and/or certification. These qualifications may allow students to teach on-campus or become an online professor. Learn more about how to become a professor in the steps outlined below.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Aspiring professors must first earn a bachelor’s degree. This degree may be in any number of fields but should help prepare students for their career goal of teaching in a particular subject. For example, a student wishing to someday teach college-level biology may be a biology major or at least earn a degree in a life science. Bachelor’s degree programs are typically 4 years in length and may be offered in on-campus or online formats.

Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree

Unlike professors at 4-year institutions, most community college professors only need a master’s degree. A master’s degree may also be sufficient for some teaching positions at 4-year institutions, depending on the subject and/or if it is a part-time position.

Aspiring professors for community colleges should pursue a master’s degree in the subject area that they wish to teach. Master’s degree programs commonly take 2-years to complete and may require a thesis. Many master’s degree programs are available in online formats in addition to traditional, on-campus education.

Although it is not typically required at the community college level, some students may choose to pursue doctoral study in their field of interest to be more competitive. This would also allow professors to move to a 4-year institution in the future if they so choose, as many 4-year colleges require professors to hold a PhD in their area of expertise.

Step 3: Obtain Work Experience/Certification

Depending on the subject that they teach, some community college professors may need to have prior work experience or professional certification in their field. For example, those in the health industry may need to have hands-on experience to teach, such as experience as a dental hygienist. Another example is a school that prefers professors teaching a subject like accounting to become a CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, through the certification process before teaching.

Step 4: Begin Teaching at a Community College

After applying and being hired to teach at a community college, professors may continue to gain experience teaching a range of courses in their area of expertise. Professors are typically responsible for creating lesson plans and assignments for each course that they teach and being available to assist students. It is also important that, even while they are teaching, professors are staying updated on current developments in their field to provide students with current information.

Postsecondary teachers may begin teaching as part-time or adjunct faculty members. Over time, they may advance to full-time positions and continue from assistant professor to associate professor to professor.

Community College Professor Salary

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average annual salary for postsecondary teachers who worked at junior colleges was $80,620. Junior college professors made up 7.42% of the industry employment, which equated to 53,480.

how to become a college teacher

People who are passionate about one area of study may be interested in pursuing a career as a college professor. Teaching at the college level requires a high level of skill and knowledge and can be an excellent career path for someone who enjoys both learning in a classroom environment and helping others. College professors have the opportunity to share their interests in the classroom and can make a direct impact on students.

In this article, we discuss the different parts of being a college professor as well as provide steps on how to earn a college professor position.

What do college professors do?

College professors design course curriculum and instruct students in their academic specialty at a higher education institution. They also regularly do research in their area of interest and publish articles and books to develop their academic reputation.

Many college professors teach part-time in addition to another career in their field, while others might focus exclusively on teaching and academic research. College professors also provide support and motivation for their students.

Requirements of a college professor

College professors are expected to be experts in their field of study and must prove that they are qualified to teach students earning their college degrees. They should be able to quickly find information for students and discuss the theory of their subject at an advanced level. Although different types of colleges and subjects have different requirements, some higher education and teaching experience is required for any professor position.


Most college professors are required to have a Ph.D. in their field. However, some colleges will accept a master’s degree combined with impressive work experience or publishing history. Many college professors earn multiple master’s degrees or Ph.D.s throughout their careers. While in school, aspiring professors should aim for a high GPA to earn admission to a good graduate program.


If you are interested in becoming a college professor, you should apply for teaching assistant positions to gain experience. Teaching assistantships also serve as a form of financial aid and can sometimes count as credits toward graduation. Also, you should focus on producing post-doctoral research and publishing as many works as possible in respected journals and books.

Steps to become a college professor

There are a wide variety of subjects that college professors can teach, but they generally follow a similar process when gaining their qualifications. Academic careers focus on building knowledge and establishing yourself as an expert on a subject. Use these steps as a guide when planning to achieve your goal of becoming a college professor:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Earn a master’s degree or Ph.D.
  3. Focus on networking.
  4. Gain teaching experience.
  5. Get certified.
  6. Publish in your field.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

Before earning an advanced degree, apply to a college or university and earn a bachelor’s degree. During your undergraduate studies, you can decide on the subject you would like to pursue. Although you can specialize further when earning your postgraduate degree, you should select a major that is related to the subject you eventually want to teach. While earning your bachelor’s degree, focus on creating a strong application for graduate school by working closely with professors and completing research projects.

2. Earn a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Once you have decided on a more specific specialization, research graduate programs in that area. You should select a graduate school that has a good reputation, interesting classes and professors you would like to work with. During your postgraduate education, you will most likely complete one or more major thesis projects that prove your proficiency in a subject.

3. Focus on networking

Building connections with your professors and classmates is an important part of becoming a professor yourself. You should work to build a network of publishers, academics and industry experts. Collaborating with others can be an effective method of building your credibility and gaining career opportunities. Your ability to network will often determine your success in finding a job as a professor.

4. Gain teaching experience

During and after your college education, pursue opportunities to teach or tutor others. Working as a teaching assistant on the graduate level will give you the most hands-on experience in a classroom environment before becoming a professor. You can also work with high schoolers or your classmates to develop your teaching skills.

5. Get certified

Depending on your subject and the state you live in, you may need to get certified to teach college classes. Research the necessary teaching licenses or other certifications that are required in your specific field. Even when an employer does not ask for certifications, taking the time to get certified in your field demonstrates your commitment and knowledge.

6. Publish in your field

To become a college professor, you should publish multiple pieces of writing or research that directly relate to the subject you want to teach. The more peer-reviewed publications you have on your resume, the more impressive you will be to a university.

Many colleges expect professors to be well-known in their community and bring recognition to their programs. By publishing regularly, you can stay relevant in the academic job market.

Useful skills for college professors

In addition to knowledge in their subject area, college professors must have strong research and teaching skills. They also need to have a variety of soft skills to connect with students and collaborate with other teachers. Some of the most important skills for a college professor to have are:

  • Open-mindedness
  • Oral and written communication
  • Integrity
  • Patience
  • Enthusiasm
  • Analytical thinking
  • Curiosity

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