According to ZipRecruiter, as of September 15, 2021, the average annual pay for an online adjunct faculty is $63,542. To put that in perspective, ZipRecruiter points out that this might work out to be a little over $30 an hour.
Given the average pay—and one can certainly earn less, or even significantly more—it is entirely possible to maintain a career of teaching online courses as an adjunct instructor in higher education. (See our article titled How Much Money Does an Adjunct Make Teaching Online? for more information). The need for faculty to teach online courses is growing, as well, and this promises more jobs in the future.
There are many factors that determine whether being an online adjunct faculty can make you a decent living. You’ll need to do some research, naturally. That said, you are not limited in what you can do. Here are some examples.
Teach Further Away Than You Imagine
Let’s look at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus. In a page dedicated to becoming an online instructor for BYU-Idaho, they make a case for a career teaching in an online format. Granted, to teach at BYU-Idaho, you must be a member of the Mormon church, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you are. What do they offer?
For one, the online adjunct faculty does not develop curriculum. There is no need to design or maintain a course—it’s entirely taken care of by the university. Likewise, there is no preparation of lesson plans or lectures that fall on the instructor’s shoulders. The teacher does, however, lead discussions and grade assignments. As an instructor, you would learn how to do all this via a paid training.
BYU-Idaho pays $1,150 per credit if you have at least a master’s degree, and $1,050 if you have a bachelor’s degree—which means, of course, you don’t need a master’s to start teaching. You’ll likely find that this pay is fairly generous, in comparison with other schools. Add the fact that you don’t have to commute (and Idaho is most likely fairly far from you!), and you will find that this is a good salary.
Here’s an interesting note: you can live in most other states beside Idaho and teach in the BYU-Idaho programs. There are only 20 out of 50 states where BYU-Idaho does not have permission to hire, and those are all indicated on their website.
Granted, the limitations of teaching at BYU-Idaho (most notably, the requirement of church membership) will likely cull quite a few instructors from the pool—or most, reasonably. But that by no means suggests that other colleges don’t follow suit, allowing out-of-state employees to teach their classes. And best of all, as I’ve mentioned, there is no commute. So it just goes to show that a pay rate set high because of the cost of living in a certain city (like San Francisco) or state (like California) can be stretched by living somewhere more reasonably priced.
Online Courses are Everywhere
To look at a school with less specific requirements, consider New Mexico State University. Their “Temporary College Instructor” jobs are, by and large, online—and they will expect at least some online teaching experience. They will also expect some teaching with adult learners (as is often the case with online classes, where students are working and raising families) and experience with Canvas, a learning management system.
For a class in General Education, the posted salary is $4,500 per 3-credit course. These courses, which are 8 weeks, are offered twice per semester. Hypothetically, teaching four of these courses a semester would net the instructor $18,000, and doing this over the course of two semesters nets $36,000. The college specifically says, after all, that an instructor can teach one or more of the courses.
It’s important to note, too, that these are lower-division general education courses, at the 100 or 200 level. They will prove demanding in some respects and less demanding in others. Assuming that the demands even out, $4,500 is close to three times the amount that other colleges might offer for a semester-long course.
Online Adjunct Teaching is a Growing Field
The projected job growth for postsecondary teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, will be 9 percent between 2019-2029. Folded into that number are jobs in online adjunct faculty teaching.
In general—and the coronavirus pandemic proved this—online teaching has become a standard. “NTI,” non-traditional instruction, was implemented across the country, in some cases for more than a year; such was the case in the public schools of Louisville, Kentucky, for example. Certainly, there are pros and cons to such learning environments, but one thing we arguably came out of the pandemic with was an appreciation for online learning. And for many kids who did it, whether in elementary or high school, they got, most importantly, a taste for it.
In that regard, those yet to graduate high school will come to expect options like online learning—and colleges are already following suit by offering more. Adult students often require such courses, which they must fit between the obligations of their jobs and families. As more adults change careers and expand their horizons, more online classes will be created to fill that need. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, in some fields job growth in online courses may approach 23 percent!
Become an Online Adjunct Entrepreneur
Armed with a little wisdom, and a healthy sense of the job growth in higher education, the adventurous among us can see the possibility for building a career around teaching online courses. We need only know where to look for the jobs, mindful of their requirements. There is no standardization for those requirements, leaving online adjunct faculty with many possibilities. For those interested in pursuing a career in online teaching, you might click to learn more about our 4-week course titled OnRamp: A Practical Guide to Landing an Online Teaching Job.