What Does Adjunct Mean?

What Does Adjunct Mean?

People frequently ask me, what does the word adjunct mean? This is usually followed up with the question, why do people want to be an adjunct? These are simple questions with multi-layered answers. The concept of being an adjunct professor can mean different things to different people. Likewise, there are many possible reasons a person would want to be an adjunct.

The classic dictionary definition of the word adjunct is, “Attached temporarily to staff” or, “Assigned temporarily or as an auxiliary member to the staff of an institution”. Thus, an adjunct is a part-time professor. However, these part-time professor do not necessarily have teaching duties. They can be in charge of science laboratories as well as those for math, statistics, foreign languages, and English. An adjunct professor can be hired to conduct research rather than teaching. In the traditional use of the term, an adjunct professor is hired to teach a specific subject on a course-by-course basis. Renewal of the teaching contract is based on the ability of the professor to teach well, the availability of funds, and student enrollments. Usually, part-time teachers are requested to teach for the institution every semester because good part-time professors are hard to find. Part-time professors are usually treated the same as full-time faculty and are held to the same standards. The advantage to being a part-time professor is that they have are no other duties. When the class is over for the day, the adjunct professor may leave and go home or to another teaching assignment at a different school. Full-time professors must go to committee meetings, provide guidance to students, have office hours, and many other tasks.

Many professionals make a career teaching as a part-time professor since they can devote all of their time to teaching classes and earning money. Others use adjunct teaching as a way to supplement their regular income. A few retired people have told me that they teach as an adjunct to remain busy and to keep their minds alert. Many people teach because it brings them prestige to be called a college professor or that it enhances their image as an authority in their field. Yet others teach because they feel uplifted because they are making a difference in the lives of their students. Regardless of the reasons people become professors, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Most of my friends who are adjunct professors have embraced part-time teaching as a second career. They either retired early or quit their previous jobs. The fact that they are all successful in meeting their income goals indicates that this is a plausible career-path. This is not a way to get rich but it is a way to make a comfortable living.

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