This is one of the questions I’m asked most frequently when people hear that my full-time museum job was eliminated. Often, it turns out that the asker is thinking about college or community college teaching.
I totally understand why this seems logical. After all my career has mostly been in teaching and learning–albeit outside the classroom–and in a core subject that almost every institution of higher learning has multiple classes in every semester. I don’t have a Ph.D., but I do have a subject area MA, which is generally enough to qualify you to teach in community colleges and maybe, sometimes, in certain circumstances, to teach special classes at four year colleges (though almost never on an ongoing or full-time basis).
I exist on the fringes of the academic world, sort of on the periphery of a cluster of occupations that are coming to be known as alt-ac, or alternate academic careers — the sort of things that involve advanced learning and are often embedded in, or contiguous to the academic context without actually constituting the traditional faculty role. So I’m pretty attuned to what’s going on in academia in ways that I forget many people are not.
It’s worth the time to take a look at the links if you’re interested in higher education or labor conditions. Or if you’re thinking about going to graduate school in the humanities. But for those who don’t have the time, the bottom line is that most teaching jobs these days involve adjunct positions (i.e. part-time, pay-per-course gigs). As summarized in the ProfHacker post linked above, this often means you max out the number of courses you can teach, while earning about $375 / week. “Depending on the number of hours this faculty member spends with course preparation, teaching, grading, and student conferencing, this professor’s hourly rate is often below the national minimum wage. It’s important to keep in mind that this rate does not usually include any kind of health insurance or retirement benefits.”
It is not, unfortunately, particularly unusual for those college teachers to qualify for food stamps or other forms of public assistance, or to find that they’re stuck in a pattern that they can’t get out of, partly because they’re working every spare minute to keep their heads above water.
That, in a nutshell, is why I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about teaching.