Here is my situation, I'm about to graduate with a Ph.D. within the next few months. My dissertation is done, so I can dedicate quite a bit of time to the issue I'm describing.

At the moment, I have never taught a college level course. For the entire length of my program I've been on the research side. I'm very frustrated by this, as "teaching" was always my personal number 2 choice after graduation (number 1 is not in academia, a long shot and not relevant to this conversation). (And just to remove those suggesting that I should have asked to teach, I have -- for years -- but that's water under the bridge as they say)

Due to this lack of teaching, I've done everything I could think of: I've taught mini classes to staff and my cohort on specific topics (e.g. LaTeX), and when available, I've taught at university programs for high schoolers. And, I've recently, applied to every community college in a two hour radius (our university is in the sticks, so that isn't actually very many), to try to get an adjunct job.

But my fear is that the community colleges won't care about my research or other experience -- they will just note that I don't have teaching experience, so I won't get those positions either -- which means I'll graduate without ever really teaching.

So, here is my question: Is there something I should be doing that I'm not already? What have others done in similar situations? I'm starting to get very concerned about the long term implications of this hole in my CV -- especially given I could really see myself at a lib arts university.

  • Is a research postdoc a possibility?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


First of all, put down all of that experience on your CV, and when you apply for jobs, make sure you write a great teaching statement on some of these experiences. Make sure to talk about any courses you designed (the LaTeX one, perhaps?), and don't disregard the high school teaching at all. I was a high school teacher for seven years before I went to get my PhD, and when applying for college teaching positions, I played up the fact that teaching high school is (in some ways) more challenging and that it made me a better teacher.

I believe that with your current experience, you have a good chance at one of those community college adjunct positions (depending on your field), so don't sell yourself short yet.

One other option that might not sound so great but could at least get you into the classroom is to apply to adjunct positions with for-profit colleges (U. of Phoenix, etc.). If you can disregard any problems you might have with that "type" of education and dedicate yourself to doing the best you can for the students, it would give you experience. The problem may be that you're in the sticks.

Speaking of living in the sticks, are you able to move for a semester? If you're flexible enough, you will be able to find that adjunct position (Alaska? Kansas? Puerto Rico?).

Let's say you can't find a teaching position. What's stopping you from developing a full-up course, even if you won't teach it now (or ever)? Be creative, and design the course you've always wanted to teach! You can then put down, "designed xx undergraduate course, which included a unique assessment plan and a flipped classroom approach, blah, blah, blah." A bit hokey, maybe, but it's something.

Depending on your field, you could branch out and apply for positions or volunteer to teach classes that aren't directly in your field.

The bottom line is (and you seem to already know this): you have to be as flexible as you can if your goal is simply to get college teaching experience. But try to think if there are other ways you can be even more flexible, and something is likely to come your way.

  • I agree with Chris about highlighting the already non-negligible teaching experience you… maybe you could also get a teaching position along with one of the senior staff? Some students get to teach part of a course, or do some teaching-assistant job in practicals or exercises sessions… either paid or on a pro bono basis
    – F'x
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 19:18
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. Just an update for someone reading this and a little low on hope. About a week after I posted this, I was offered a teaching position at my institution, then a week after that, I was offered an adjunct at the institution nearest to me. Both jobs I had given up hope on because I applied many months ago and the terms are starting in a couple of weeks. So, I guess the lesson is (a) to never loose hope on items out of your control and (b) never underestimate the ability of people to procrastinate.
    – tazz_ben
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 13:26

Chris Gregg's answer is truly excellent. I would just add one more thought.

You might consider teaching for free. There are countless opportunities to educate if you do not require compensation. At my university, they are always eager to help the students...especially if they can do so without spending any money. I am sure they would offer me the facilities (room, etc.) if I were willing to 'donate' my time to teach an extra course.

Of course, this requires you to design a course which is desired by students as well as acceptable by the school which is not already offered.

There are plenty of other opportunities - if you have facilities or can afford to rent them. Put an ad in the paper and start teaching. Disadvantaged youths, high school, university students hoping to understand how to get better grades...there should be lots of choices.

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