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Postsecondary Teachers - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
For faculty a major goal in the traditional academic career is attaining tenure, which can take approximately 7 years, with faculty moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions as they meet specific criteria. The ranks are instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Colleges and universities usually hire new tenure-track faculty as instructors or assistant professors under term contracts. At the end of the period, their record of teaching, research, and overall contribution to the institution is reviewed, and tenure may be granted if the review is favorable. Those denied tenure usually must leave the institution. Tenured professors cannot be fired without just cause and due process. Tenure protects the faculty member's academic freedom—the ability to advocate controversial or unpopular ideas through teaching and conducting research without fear of being fired. Tenure also gives both faculty and institutions the stability needed for effective research and teaching, and it provides financial security for faculty. Some institutions have adopted post-tenure review policies to encourage ongoing evaluation of tenured faculty.

The number of tenure-track positions is declining as institutions seek flexibility in dealing with financial matters and changing student interests. Institutions are relying more heavily on limited-term contracts and part-time, or adjunct, faculty, thus shrinking the total pool of tenured faculty. Limited-term contracts, typically for 2 to 5 years, may be terminated or extended when they expire and generally do not lead to the granting of tenure. In addition, some institutions have limited the percentage of the faculty that can be tenured.

For tenured postsecondary teachers, further advancement involves a move into an administrative or managerial position, such as departmental chairperson, dean, or president. At 4-year institutions, such advancement requires a doctoral degree. At 2-year colleges, a doctorate is helpful but not usually required for advancement, except for advancement to some top administrative positions, which generally required a doctorate.

Employment
Postsecondary teachers held nearly 1.7 million jobs in 2008.

Job Outlook
Job openings will stem from faster than the average employment growth and many expected retirements. Competition is expected for tenure-track positions; better opportunities are expected for part-time or non-tenure-track positions. Ph.D. recipients should experience the best job prospects.

Job Growth
Postsecondary teachers are expected to grow by 15 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Projected growth in the occupation will be due primarily to increases in college and university enrollment over the next decade. This enrollment growth stems mainly from the expected increase in the population of 18- to 24-year-olds, who constitute the majority of students at postsecondary institutions, and from the increasing number of high school graduates who choose to attend these institutions. Adults returning to college to enhance their career prospects or to update their skills also will continue to create new opportunities for postsecondary teachers, particularly at community colleges and for-profit institutions that cater to working adults. However, many postsecondary educational institutions receive a significant portion of their funding from State and local governments, so expansion of public higher education will be limited by State and local budgets.

Competition is expected for tenure-track positions; better opportunities are expected for part-time or non-tenure-track positions. A significant number of openings in this occupation will be created by growth in enrollments and the need to replace the large numbers of postsecondary teachers who are likely to retire over the next decade. Many postsecondary teachers were hired in the late 1960s and the 1970s to teach members of the baby-boom generation, and they are expected to retire in growing numbers in the years ahead. Ph.D. recipients should experience the best job prospects.

Although competition will remain tight for tenure-track positions at 4-year colleges and universities, there will be available a considerable number of part-time and renewable term appointments at these institutions and at community colleges. Opportunities will be available for master's degree holders because there will be considerable growth at community colleges, career education programs, and other institutions that employ them.

Opportunities for graduate teaching assistants are expected to be good, reflecting expectations of higher undergraduate enrollments. Graduate teaching assistants play an integral role in the postsecondary education system, and they are expected to continue to do so in the future.

One of the main reasons students attend postsecondary institutions is to prepare themselves for careers, so the best job prospects for postsecondary teachers are likely to be in rapidly growing fields that offer many nonacademic career options, such as business, nursing and other health specialties, and biological sciences.

Earnings
Median annual earnings of all postsecondary teachers in May 2008 were $58,830. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,600 and $83,960. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,850.

Earnings for college faculty vary with the rank and type of institution, geographic area, and field. According to a 2008–09 survey by the American Association of University Professors, salaries for full-time faculty averaged $79,439. By rank, the average was $108,749 for professors, $76,147 for associate professors, $63,827 for assistant professors, $45,977 for instructors, and $52,436 for lecturers. In 2008–09, full-time faculty salaries averaged $92,257 in private independent institutions, $77,009 in public institutions, and $71,857 in religiously affiliated private colleges and universities. Faculty in 4-year institutions earn higher salaries, on average, than do those in 2-year schools. In fields with high-paying nonacademic alternatives—medicine, law, engineering, and business, among others—earnings exceed these averages. In others fields, such as the humanities and education, earnings are lower. Earnings for postsecondary career and technical education teachers vary widely by subject, academic credentials, experience, and region of the country.

Many faculty members have significant earnings from consulting, teaching additional courses, research, writing for publication, or other employment, in addition to their base salary. Many college and university faculty enjoy unique benefits, including access to campus facilities, tuition waivers for dependents, housing and travel allowances, and paid leave for sabbaticals. Part-time faculty and instructors usually have fewer benefits than full-time faculty have.

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