Do adjunct faculty take students for research projects? I am interested in a research project from adjunct faculty. However, I am not sure if adjunct faculties would take students as regular faculties. To further elaborate on my situation, I am interested in joining the research team of faculty as an MS/Ph.D. student and further my academic degree under their supervison.

  • What country and what kind of project?
    – atom44
    Jan 25 at 18:43
  • @atom44 I made an edit to add these extra information. I hope it helps!
    – yamada
    Jan 26 at 10:39
  • At least in the U.S., this is a significant operational question... I voted to re-open. Jan 27 at 18:50
  • @paulgarrett I want to vote to reopen but I could not find how to do it. This is a significant issue, but I am not sure why people see this as individual problem. Jan 28 at 3:39
  • Is there anything I can do to reverse the closure? Like making a useful edit or addition?
    – yamada
    Jan 30 at 8:50

4 Answers 4


It depends on the project, and the career stage of the adjunct.

If your project requires travel, lab space, telescope time, access to computing power, etc., the answer is almost certainly no.

If your project only requires advising but no resources, then maybe yes. For example: library research, surveys, etc.

If the adjunct has been there for many years, has no chance or joining the tenure-track ranks (or has tried and failed many times), they will most likely not want to take any more unpaid work.

If the adjunct is a recent PhD graduate working as an adjunct in order to get teaching experience on their CV, and has an active research program, then they might welcome your offer for help.

In any case, the university might have strict rules about who can supervise undergraduates. For example, the adjunct might be able to advise you in terms of research, but not give you any academic credit for it (e.g. only Full-Time faculty can officially advise students), etc.


Adjunct faculties (in the US) are not directly working at the university full-time. They are often working somewhere else and are linked with the university because they are collaborating in research with other faculties in the university. They might supervise students in universities by being on a thesis committee or advisory board. However, they may not necessarily actively advise students like regular faculty. Sometimes post-docs are also assigned as adjunct faculty so they can supervise students.

If the faculty is in your college, a better idea is to go and meet them in the office to see if they are actively working in the university or not. If they are, then talk about your research interest and the possibility of hiring.

Also, It's not a bad idea to send an email asking if they are recruiting any students with your CV attached to the email. However, there is very little chance that they are actively recruiting or advising. You may wanna look at their profile to see whom they are collaborating with and ask their collaborator to hire you for research and ask adjunct faculty to be on your committee if you are interested in their research.

  • 2
    ‘wanna’ should be ‘want to’…
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 26 at 1:40

The answer to you question is likely to be both country-dependent and institution-dependent. At my institution in Australia between 1980 and 2010, adjuncts (but only in some faculties) were able to supervise all levels of student including PhDs. A change in university administration then meant that Masters and PhD candidates were required to have an internal, institutional supervisor in addition to the adjunct. Three years later, the requirement for an internal supervisor was extended also to honours-level students. However, the situation is not necessarily the same at other Australian universities, some of which still accept sole-supervision by an adjunct, while other will accept an adjunct only in the capacity of an informal advisor rather than as a formally associated supervisor.


I think that is fairly rare but not impossible. The problem will be that it might be difficult for the university to compensate them.

Before you ask the faculty member, try to have a conversation with the department head to get a sense of how it might work out.

And some adjunct faculty are busy enough that it would be hard for them to take you on.

But it is worth an ask.

  • 5
    I don't think I would involve the department head as the student. Certainly not before talking to the adjunct faculty member directly.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 25 at 15:16
  • @BryanKrause, care to say why? I don't see an issue, actually.
    – Buffy
    Jan 25 at 15:18
  • 6
    I think it's generally rude to do business with someone's boss that you are better off doing with them directly. If there is some policy where the department head needs to sign off, the student and adjunct can go to them together. Otherwise, the student has a question for the adjunct that they should ask them directly.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 25 at 16:07
  • @BryanKrause, my thought was just to ask the head if it would be ok to ask the prof and give them a heads up on the issue. It might give the head some time to try to put something together for an unusual situation. If it is going to get refused anyway I thought it might be better to hold it close. I had no intention of trying to put pressure. And the head might have alternate suggestions.
    – Buffy
    Jan 25 at 16:46
  • 1
    In my experience, departments have chairs, not heads. This may be an important cultural difference. Jan 26 at 5:33

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