I'm looking at quitting my PhD (4.5 years in) in engineering in the U.S at an R1. My advisor and I tried a new tack after I broached quitting this Spring, but I'm concerned that things aren't improving, and I would like to make sure I know my options if I make the decision to leave.

For background, I'm ABD (all but dissertation), love teaching, hate research. I have taught a few courses and have an internship under my belt. I particularly love teaching at the college level because I can experiment with different assessments and teaching styles and don't have to teach to standardized testing. I also enjoy teaching in my specific discipline. Looking for insight:

  1. How feasible is it to get hired for a lecturer/instructional professor position with only a master's? My department won't do it. They literally fired the only person who knew anything about one topic because he didn't have a PhD. Is this common?

  2. How feasible is it to get hired teaching math at a community college? My discipline does not exist at the community college level, but it's kind of math-heavy, so I was thinking about math departments. Do I stand a chance without an engineering PhD, much less a math PhD?

I appreciate any advice or suggestions!

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    The potential loss of opportunities is so high for the cost ... why can't you finish? Nov 18, 2020 at 5:43
  • Thanks for your comment @AzorAhai-him-. I hate research. At the end of the day, finishing (...and starting) my dissertation would be at least one more year of misery when all I really want to do is teach. Nov 18, 2020 at 5:45
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    Owing to falling birth rates, teaching jobs are tough to find the US. None of your personal circumstances will change that fact. Nov 18, 2020 at 5:50
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    Every community college (CC) I've known about from applying or from my acquaintances or from places I've lived (combined includes over 100), the absolute minimum requirement is a Masters degree (specialization doesn't matter) and 18 (semester) graduate credit hours in mathematics, although a few are more stringent than this. But the primary issue is not your graduate schoolwork background (although statistics helps more than, say, general topology) but demonstrable teaching background and excellence. For high schools, see my answer here. Nov 18, 2020 at 7:11
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    Daniel R. Collins, a frequent contributor to Academia Stack Exchange, works at a CC, and at some point he's likely to step in and provide more authoritative advice. Whether this happens or not, I encourage you to look over his current 164 many answers here, as many of these will give you a bit of insight about teaching at a CC. BTW, you might have better luck teaching industrial engineering stuff (CC, or a specialized HS), since my experience has been they have difficulty in finding qualified teachers, more so than for math. Nov 18, 2020 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


There are some opportunities, but less than if you finish. Lots of community college teachers have a masters only. Some to secondary schools are a lot like colleges but without the research. In both of these, you probably have enough math and maybe some other things that give you the background, since both teach only lower level courses.

Some four year teaching colleges in the US will also hire people without a doctorate, but the more prestigious, the less likely, I'd suspect.

In addition, there are a few top research schools (Duke, Stanford, CMU, ...) in which a person with a Masters can serve as a "Professor of the Practice" which is a long term untenured position. Such people are responsible for quite a lot of the undergraduate teaching, especially at lower levels. A friend of mine is an ABD at Duke, for example, with title Lecturer IIRC. but it is a long term position.

In all of these, even top secondary schools, there will be some competition with people holding doctorates but preferring to teach rather than do (serious) research. But many of them also do some research, perhaps in the pedagogy of their field or in less technical aspects.

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