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I am an adjunct instructor in English. I do not have a PhD and don't actually want one. What I really want is a full-time lectureship that would offer job stability. However, I was recently told that they are often offered for one year and then not offered the next year. I want to know if that is how things typically go, or if some full-time lectureships are renewed after the first year. A local public university offers full-time positions that come with tenure-like benefits after five years at the institution. What are the odds they will keep me around for four years and then not renew me so that they don't have to offer the job protection?

(Edit: This is the US, NYC to be exact.)

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    Which country are you talking about? – RoboKaren Feb 19 '16 at 0:31
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    In the US, the way a university will look at full time lecturers may vary a lot, even between departments. Ask other lecturers how renewable the position is. It may be a set one or two year gig, and it may be effectively permanent so long as enrollment numbers are mostly consistent. At my university, after ten years, a lecturer becomes a senior lecturer and gets contracts of three years rather than one. I don't know of anyone being let go of right before the tenth year. Yay anecdata – user0721090601 Feb 19 '16 at 4:19
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I'm in the humanities in NYC, and I think I know the institution you're talking about. (I have friends who teach in similar places, at the very least.) Usually a lecturership in a school like that is a term-limited thing. You might get a one-year contract, or a two-year contract, maybe you'll even get lucky and get the opportunity to renew that contract a second time. But it will be made very clear in the contract you sign that the contract is not open-ended. That means that if they're going to have to pay more money for you in year 5, in terms of benefits, or negotiated salary increases, then your contract will not be renewed for year 5.

If an open-ended position does come open, the dean, or the chair of the department, or both, will want to conduct a national search to hire someone for one of those open-ended, tenure-like positions. The fact that you have taught at that school, and have relationships with those faculty will mean absolutely zero in that search. You'll be competing against several hundred faculty, most of whom will have not only PhDs but an increasing number will even have prestigious publications.

There's not really a way to sneak into academia through the back door, especially in a geographically desirable location like NYC. You might be able to go somewhere rural and find a community college type job without a PhD, but even those are increasingly competitive.

  • So then the promise of CCE is just a lure? – L. Lee Feb 20 '16 at 0:39
  • @L.Lee I can't say for absolutely certain, of course. But if I were looking at such an opportunity, I'd approach it with great skepticism. – shane Feb 20 '16 at 14:39
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    Actually, let me be more specific. Approaching the offer with skepticism means, asking how often hires like this have succeeded in the future, asking for something in writing to say that your contract will be renewed in year 5 contingent on satisfactory performance, etc. I wouldn't say "never even apply" just "be cautious". – shane Feb 20 '16 at 14:46
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We can't know what your university's plan is for you, but you can find out how long the other lecturers in the department you are considering have been there.

As a general rule (assuming that you are in the United States), lecturer positions at large universities are intended to be long term simply because (i) they are cheaper than tenure track faculty, (ii) the need to teach large introductory classes will not go away any time soon. Universities are not well served by having a revolving door for lecturers because a long-term employee carries a lot of experience that is necessary to be a successful teacher.

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    Although lecturers tend to hang around for a long time, and departments like to keep experienced lecturers around, there is usually no formal assurance of continued employment from year to year, even if the lecturer has been doing a good job. If and when budget cuts force layoffs, "permanent" lecturers will typically be laid off after aprt time adjuncts but before tenured/tenure track faculty. – Brian Borchers Feb 19 '16 at 3:55
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    @BrianBorchers True, but I feel we academics are sometimes a bit hung up on tenure. Yes, not knowing 100% for sure that your job will exist in a year is worse than having tenure, but still equal or better job security than most regular jobs. – xLeitix Feb 19 '16 at 14:47
  • Correct. We promise our lectures one year's notice if they were to be laid off, and that increases to two years after a while (3 or 4 years) in the department. For all purposes, we treat them as permanents. I can only imagine that this is the case for all major universities. – Wolfgang Bangerth Feb 19 '16 at 19:49

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