If you’re an adjunct professor, chances are you didn’t get into teaching for the money. According to a 2017 report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the average total pay for part-time faculty members at a single institution was $20,508 annually. This number is far below the salary of full-time or tenured professors. For the 2016-’17 academic year, the average salary for full-time faculty members was $80,095.
Statistics like these make it seem as though all part-time professors live on low wages and struggle to make ends meet. While this is true in some cases, not as much attention is paid to professors who choose to teach part-time because it gives them the option to pursue other, more lucrative opportunities.
Enter The Academic Entrepreneur
Dubbed academic entrepreneurs, there’s a new subset of the adjunct teaching cohort that has embraced the idea of an alternative academic career path. These instructors and lecturers have found a balance between doing what they love — teaching — while also seeking out freelance opportunities that pay far better than being an adjunct.
Some of these entrepreneurial-minded professors go on to run successful businesses, while others focus more on teaching, but still offset their wages as an adjunct with higher-paying gigs. In the world of higher education, many lament the prevalence of adjunct teaching. However, adjunct professors often have more power and say in their academic careers than they think they do. For academics who are tired of being poorly-paid adjuncts, it’s time to shift one’s mindset and start exploring one’s career prospects beyond higher education.
Popular Ways Professors Boost Their Income
There are multiple ways for adjuncts to earn a good living through freelancing. Here are a few of the most common ways professors supplement their income outside of academia:
- Consulting — Working as a consultant can be very advantageous for professors. In the business world, professors can work as consultants and teach workshops for executives. Professors can also use their research and expertise to consult for companies and corporations. In the tech industry, it’s not uncommon for scientists to offer their services as a consultant on projects that involve engineering, design or manufacturing. Professors who teach subjects like psychology or business can also act as consultants. For example, a professor working as a consultant might help companies create a happier and more productive work environment for their employees.
For professors, promoting your services as a consultant can be a bit tricky, in that many colleges and universities have rules and policies about consulting. Adjuncts should check with their institution or get advice from another professor who was worked as a consultant before. The hourly rate varies, but some professors get paid well to be consultants.
- Speaking engagements — Speaking at conferences and events is another way professors can earn additional income. Professors are often invited to speak at other institutions or participate in seminars and colloquiums. Some professors report that the pay for these speaking opportunities ranges from null to upwards of $4,000. However, well-known professors can command rates higher than this if they are the keynote speaker or distinguished lecturer for an event.
The most in-demand speakers can earn $20,000 to $40,000 per speaking engagement, but usually these professors are associated with a very prestigious university, like MIT or Harvard Business School. However, even professors who aren’t in the top tier of the speaker circuit can still seek out speaking opportunities at colleges, universities and in the corporate world.
- Online teaching — Creating online courses can be an easy way for professors to earn extra money. There are multiple online platforms that pay professors to teach and design an online course. Udemy, an online education company, allows professors to charge roughly $20 to $200 per student and gives teachers a percentage of the revenue.
Some platforms that offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) recruit professors and pay them a flat rate to design a course. As MOOCs have grown in popularity, many universities have enacted guidelines for professors who want to teach non-credit online courses. Online teaching is definitely an option for professors who want to make more money, depending on the platform or education company they go through.
Avoiding The ‘Side Hustle Trap
We’re currently living the age of the “side hustle.” It is estimated that “gig workers” represent about 34 percent of the U.S. workforce. Some predict that gig workers will make up 43 percent of the workforce by 2020.
Whether you’re an adjunct professor or not, nearly everyone with a job is encouraged to get some sort of “side gig” to make more money. Drive for Uber or Lyft. Rent your home or apartment out on AirBnB. Turn your passion project into a side business and reap the rewards. These sound like easy, money-making ventures, but how profitable are they really? For adjuncts, getting a job as a Lyft driver might not be the best use of their time — or their potential.
Utilizing Your Teaching Skills In The Business World
Smart professors who understand the value of their skills shouldn’t have to settle for low-paying “gigs” or “side hustles.” In the business world, professors bring a lot to the table. Not only do professors have research skills and a wealth of knowledge about many subjects, they are also experienced teachers, motivators and managers.
Instead of looking for part-time jobs outside of teaching that merely pay the bills, professors with the mindset of an academic entrepreneur can expand their career prospects and increase their income in more sustainable ways. It’s important for professors to learn about entrepreneurship and think about how their skills can translate to the corporate world.
Adjunct professors shouldn’t sell themselves short, and they don’t have to. There are a variety of better-paying freelance opportunities available to professors in the nonprofit, business and government sectors. While the landscape of higher education is changing rapidly, adjunct professors are not without choices or options. By leveraging their teaching skills and qualifications, adjunct professors might just find that there’s a lot they can do — and a lot of money to be made — outside of academia.
Helping Adjunct Professors Reach Their Full Potential
Inside Scholar is an educational resource for adjunct professors, part-time teachers, academics and anyone pursuing a career related to higher education. Inside Scholar aims to connect expert and qualified professors with small businesses, nonprofits, large companies and startups. Keep reading Inside Scholar for more information about the challenges many adjuncts face today — and how to navigate a successful career in both academia and the business world.