If you enjoy teaching, but you're not sure if you want to teach at a four-year college or research-university, then you might want to consider employment at a community college. On June 4, 2014, four professors from Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) came to UCSB for a panel discussion to share their experiences working at a community college setting and to offer some tips to secure a teaching job after graduating from UCSB. Here is the recap of the key points they shared:
Is Community College Right For You?
- You LOVE to teach: All four panelists emphasized this aspect multiple times. The advantage of teaching at a community college is that you really get to focus on teaching. There is no mandate or pressure to conduct research or to publish. If you do want to conduct research, you can, but you probably won’t have much time to do so because you will be quite occupied with your teaching. Plus, there will be no teaching assistants to help you grade students’ papers. Teaching is such a crucial aspect at a community college, and thus, the main evaluation criterion for promotion and tenure.
- You want to work with a DIVERSE student population: The panelists mentioned that teaching at a community college may be different than teaching at a four-year university, mainly due to the diversity of the students' backgrounds, motivations, and interests. Because of this wide range of diversity, it is crucial for instructors to have the capacity AND the flexibility to tailor the curriculum and lessons according to students’ different learning needs and interests.
- You want to be TENURED, perhaps in four years: Becoming a tenured professor may be one of your goals in the near future. Typically, if you’re working at a research university, you are expected to conduct research, publish, and secure grants and funding. But, at a community college, the path to tenure is based primarily on your teaching ability. So, if you’re already an awesome teacher, and your students and colleagues have commended your teaching style and curriculum and assessment design skills, then you should seriously consider working at a community college. And remember, some community colleges, such as SBCC, pay you well.
How to Get a Job at a Community College, specifically at SBCC?
- Be proactive! Don’t rely on the adjunct pool online: All four panelists had a very different route to their jobs at SBCC. However, they were all proactive in reaching out to various departments at SBCC. They did not wait until someone called them from the adjunct pool list. Although you should regularly update your online application materials, an effective way to find a teaching slot is to actually speak with someone who may know more about upcoming openings within a department.
- Gain experience teaching, especially at a community college level: To be a competitive job candidate for a full-time teaching position at SBCC, the panelists highly recommended gaining teaching experience either by volunteering, shadowing, or co-teaching in a community college setting. Although you may have some teaching experience as a teaching assistant, they prefer candidates who have taught community college students.
- Network, network, network: All the panelists emphasized the importance of networking as a key to success in securing a job after graduating UCSB. Nowadays, having a Ph.D. degree will not guarantee a job. The panelists suggest using your professors, colleagues, and your advisor as resources to reach out to a broader network.
If you see yourself in future doing more teaching than research, and if you are capable or have the passion to work with diverse student populations, a community college might be a good career option for you. According to the four UCSB alumni panelists, when people get hired at the community college, they tend to stay until they retire—it is that good. The pay is competitive, and the support system within the department and the college is great. So plan ahead! Be proactive and network with these amazing panelists. Below are the panelists’ bios:
- Dr. Carrie Hutchinson: Dr. Hutchinson obtained her Ph.D. degree in Interpersonal and Intergroup Communication at UCSB. She is currently a tenured Assistant Professor at SBCC, where she teaches Interpersonal Communication, Intercultural Communication, and Communication in Organizations. She also directs the annual study abroad programs taking students to various international destinations, such as Rwanda, India, and South Africa. She has authored two textbooks and several peer-reviewed research articles.
- Dr. Matthew Kay: Dr. Kay was born and raised in Santa Barbara where he developed a love of the natural world. His passion translated into a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from University of Oregon (emphasis in forest biology and mycology). Later, he earned his Master’s degree in Marine Ecology from University of Oregon. For his Ph.D. degree at the UCSB Bren School, he focused on Biology and Fishery Management, specifically the California spiny lobster. After completing his work, he taught as an adjunct instructor at SBCC, started his own consulting business, and worked as a researcher at UCSB. In Fall 2013, Dr. Kay was hired full time at SBCC.
- Dr. Danielle Swiontek: Dr. Swiontek obtained her Ph.D. degree in History at UCSB with an emphasis in U.S. Women’s History. Prior to attending graduate school at UCSB, she worked in marketing, advertising, and public relations for high tech firms in the Bay Area. At SBCC, she currently teaches History and serves as a faculty advisor to the SBCC Feminist Student Club.
- Dr. Jens-Uwe Kuhn: Dr. Kuhn obtained his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from University of Constance in Germany. For his Master’s degree, he studied Chemistry at Northern Arizona University, focusing on Atmospheric Environmental Chemistry. At UCSB, he obtained his Ph.D. in Marine BioInorganic Chemistry. While pursuing his doctoral degree at UCSB, he worked at Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP); he continues to work with CSEP. Prior to teaching at SBCC, Dr. Kuhn taught at several different schools (four-year, two-year, public, and private) in Arizona and California. At SBCC, he teaches mostly introductory, general and Organic Chemistry courses. He also serves as the Department Chair in the Chemistry Department at SBCC and the Faculty Lead for the STEM Transfer Program.
As you consider employment at a community college, you might also find a recent series of articles by Rob Jenkins of use. An associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College, Jenkins writes a regular column for The Chronicle of Higher Education on issues related to two-year colleges. Please see these recent articles:
- “It’s a Viable Career Path” (11.12.12)
- “What Community-College Search Committees Wish You Knew” (3.13.13)
- “Making it Past the First Round” (10.14.13)
- “How the Job Search Differs at Community Colleges” (11.18.13)
- “Why You Should Consider Community Colleges” (1.06.14)
- “The Good that Community Colleges Do, Part 1” (4.30.14)
- “The Good that Community Colleges Do, Part 2” (6.04.14)