Qualifications Needed to Teach at a Community College
You have knowledge. You want to share it. But how? You can teach, but what ages and levels do you want to teach? And can you teach at those levels? While not all community colleges have the same requirements, there are some basic requirements that you need to know about so you can prepare for your career in higher education.
Have you ever wanted to teach a class?
Basic Requirements to Teach at a Community College
Depending on the class and the college, you may find that there are two different sets of requirements.
On the “credit” side of the college, where classes that lead to a degree or certificate are covered, there are often two types of classes: transferable classes and non-transferrable classes. Transferable classes are those that can be taken to another institution; in other words, they can be “transferred” to another school. Non-transferrable classes do not let the student take the credit to another school. Generally, transferable classes are those that are freshman or sophomore level classes, such as English Composition I and II, College Algebra, etc. Non-transferrable classes are often the developmental classes, such as Developmental English, Reading, and Developmental Math. They do not transfer because they are developmental and are often required for a student if the student does not do well enough on standardized placement tests.
To teach non-transferrable classes, most community colleges require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in the area being taught. So, for example, a person with a Bachelor’s degree in English would be able to teach Development English classes. Teaching experience is preferred, but it is not always required.
To teach transferable classes, most community colleges require a minimum of a Master’s degree and 18 hours at graduate level in the subject being taught. This is slightly different than a Master’s degree in the subject area. What it means is that you can have a Master’s Degree in English, then take 18 credit hours (at the graduate level) in history and be able to teach history. Some colleges may require the degree to match the courses being taught, or they may use that as a way to weed out applicants if there are too many who apply for a position.
Keep in mind that those are the minimum requirements. Unlike teaching in the K-12 world, a teaching degree or certificate is not required. Only mastery of the content being taught is required.
Accreditation Requirements at Community Colleges
To determine the minimum requirements for your area, you can look at the regional accreditation agencies. Community colleges must meet these requirements in order to stay accredited. While not all colleges are regionally accredited, regional accreditation is normally required for classes to transfer, and most community colleges are regionally accredited so that they can be part of the larger system.
Regional Accreditation Agencies
- Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs – Accreditation Agency List
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Colleges and Schools, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College
Additional Skills and Experience That Help Land the Job
There are ways to help get a job teaching at a community college.
First, attend continuing education in your field. Many publishers offer free webinars, and universities also offer speaker and lecture series. There are also conferences and organizations that you can join that will offer continuing education, although the costs may be prohibitive. Make sure to document each time you attend an event, where it was, when it was, and what it was about.
Second, if possible, present at conferences and events. If you are still in school, you may be able to take part in a poster presentation (depending on your field). You can also offer to give lectures at local libraries and other public venues that rely on free speakers. While you may not get paid, it will give you a good history of presenting in public.
Third, volunteer in teaching positions. If you teach creative writing, for example, you may want to find out if any local retirement communities are looking for events for their residents. Pitch a class, and see if you get any takers. It’s another great way to show that you have experience teaching.
Fourth, become a tutor. There are numerous nation-wide tutoring companies. Some offer on-line tutoring, some offer in-person tutoring. You may be able to work as a tutor while you’re still in school, which will help show your ability to work with students. You can also look at the college you’re interesting in teaching at later on – many of them have “learning labs” or other tutoring centers where they employ tutors.
Fifth, get published in your field. There are journals for every field. Find ones for your field and look at what they publish. You may even have papers from your graduate classes that you can submit. While community colleges don't necessarily believe in "publish or perish," the way universities tend to, it will help enhance your qualifications if you can show that you are respected in the field through publication.
Continuing Education at Community Colleges
Another option if you want to teach at a community college is to teach continuing education or workforce development. For these classes, you don’t typically need the same level of education. In many cases, work experience alone is enough to get the job.
Continuing education tends to be classes that are meant to enrich a person, and so they focus on personal development, such as art, music, writing, or even computer skills.
Workforce development focuses more on preparing people to enter the workforce, and so the classes will often be on particular computer software or other business-related skills.
However, since these classes are not part of the curriculum for a degree, they do not have the same educational requirements as credit classes. Because of that, continuing education positions may require experience only and workforce development many only require certification in the area being taught. Each college will have different requirements based on their individual needs, and in some cases, the colleges are open to new courses suggested by potential teachers, and they will allow you to send in descriptions of classes that they will list in their course catalogs.
Links to Jobs within Higher Education
Where to Find Jobs Teaching at Community Colleges
You can easily find the local community colleges in your area by doing a Google search and then going to each one’s website and searching their HR department. But there are also three websites that are free for job seekers that list jobs within higher education.