As far as I'm aware, the base requirement to be a teacher or substitute requires a degree. However in my case, I've been working in my career field for going on 10 years. I'm wondering if it's possible to move to Academia, either part-time or full-time without having a formal college degree.

Lately, I've been having an "itch" to impart my own experiences and knowledge on students that are just starting out. I haven't decided on what exactly I want, but it could be anything from a guest speaker to teaching a full-time class.

  • 4
    At what level are you interested in teaching? This site focuses on college/university education; if you are interested in teaching primary/secondary school, this is not the place to ask. (I'm just guessing based on your use of the word "teacher" versus "professor".) Sep 6, 2018 at 18:52
  • 1
    I'll note, however, that at the pre-college level, teaching is nearly always constrained/controlled by state law. You need certain credentials everywhere (or nearly so) to teach HS and below. But laws differ widely by State. Some permit exceptions for "private" schools.
    – Buffy
    Sep 6, 2018 at 19:54
  • You might look into extension programs or job-training organizations that more commonly hire experienced professionals. Sep 6, 2018 at 20:08
  • 1
    For university education, 10 years sounds like quite a short time, though may be meaningful at some levels. Just to compare, people who have gone through the academic track will likely have 10 years experience in academia before going on to some sort of teaching role (not counting teaching assistantships of course). It would be different if you were one of the founders of a field 30 years ago where your lack of credentials means nothing compared to your experience.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 6, 2018 at 20:16
  • Could you add information about your country? This will differ depending on where you are.
    – user64845
    Sep 6, 2018 at 23:35

2 Answers 2


I would highly recommend contacting a department head at either a local community college, trade school, or university to see about being a guest speaker for a class. They are almost always looking for people to speak for their classes, and it'd be a great way to scratch that "itch" without having to leave your current position.

Beyond that, It really depends on what you want to teach and where: Anything K-12 you will need an appropriate teaching degree.

At a university, you will almost certainly need a degree. It can happen that they hire industry specialists, but they tend to be more guest lecturers than actual professors and teachers.

At a community college, things are often more grey. At the college I attended, a lot of the early courses were taught by a professor who did not have any degree, but worked in the field for about 15 years and had a proven track record. The College pressured him a lot to finish his Bachelor's degree, but he never did. However, he was an outlier, and was the only professor I knew of who did not have an advanced degree (Masters+), and he was near retirement when I was there. Further, the department head noted that the classes he taught were not transferable to four year universities, and focused primarily on industry certifications, which were then tested by independent third parties.


Traditionally, most higher education faculty positions require advanced degrees and usually terminal degrees (e.g., PhD, MD, Master of Fine Arts) and lectures at universities often have master-level degrees.

Some universities now have "Professor of Practice" positions (e.g., UCSB for people with non-traditional backgrounds. (Hat tip to Buffy for this feedback).

Community/Technical colleges often have faculty with less formal education. Although faculty often hold PhDs, many have master's degrees. However, for some technical, trade positions less formal education is required. For example, browsing Google jobs for "welding instructors" show many positions that require an associates degree plus experience.

Usually, guest speakers have no formal requirements other than being invited by the course instructor.

  • 1
    Actually, in CS, and perhaps other fields, some quite fine Universities (Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Duke, ...) have a special track for educators, recognizing that undergrads need to be taught and research professors may not be the best teachers at that level. The positions are quite stable, though I don't know about tenurable. The stated ranks include "Professor of the Practice". These positions are open to, at least, people with Master's degrees, though they are also held by some with doctorates. It is just a different career track. But I doubt that this would be open to the OP, here.
    – Buffy
    Sep 6, 2018 at 19:43
  • @Buffy Thank you for sharing that. I was unaware of that. I've updated my answer based upon your comment. Sep 6, 2018 at 19:47

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .