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Qualifications Needed to Teach at a Community College

Katherine teaches English and currently holds an MA in Liberal Arts, an MA in English literature, and an MFA in Creative Writing.

Learn what you need to become a community college teacher

Learn what you need to become a community college teacher

A Career in Higher Education

You have knowledge you want to share, but how?

Through teaching.

But teaching at different levels has different requirements. While not all community colleges have similar requirements, there are some basic requirements you need to know to prepare for your higher education career.

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 and non-transferrable. 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 freshman- or sophomore-level classes, such as English Composition I and II, College Algebra, etc. Non-transferrable classes are often developmental, 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 transferable classes, most community colleges require a minimum of a Master’s degree and 18 hours at the 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. My Master’s degree was in English, but the college I taught for classified their media class as an English class, so I was able to teach it.

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. I began teaching English classes with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, but I had already enrolled in a Master’s degree in English and completed half of the program. For non-transferable courses, colleges often create their own rules.

The requirements above are considered the minimum. Unlike teaching in the K-12 world, a teaching degree or certificate is not required. The only requirement is mastery of the content being taught.

Make sure you check all the boxes with your application.

Make sure you check all the boxes with your application.

Accreditation Requirements at Community Colleges

To determine any changes in 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 required for classes to transfer, and most community colleges are regionally accredited so that they can be part of the larger system.

Many business colleges or non-regionally accredited colleges have less stringent requirements because their classes do not transfer due to their lack of accreditation.

Regional Accreditation Agencies

Additional Skills and Experience That Help Land the Job

There are things you can do to help your chances of getting a teaching job at a community college.

First, attend continuing education in your field. Many textbook publishers offer free webinars, and universities also offer speaker and lecture series. There are 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, 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 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 and can fill in the teaching experience background.

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 interested in teaching at later on – many of them have “learning labs” or other tutoring centers.

Fifth, get published in your field. There are journals for every field. Find ones that are in the right 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 publications.

Publications can help bring your application to the top of the list. Books and journal articles can show off your knowledge.

Publications can help bring your application to the top of the list. Books and journal articles can show off your knowledge.

Continuing Education at Community Colleges

Another option if you want to teach at a community college is teaching continuing education or workforce development. For these classes, you don’t 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, including 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 teacher 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 colleges, they 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.

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. If you're looking for something at a higher level, there's the Chronicle of Higher Education and their job page. Beyond that, normal sites like list teaching positions.

Questions & Answers

Question: I am a highly accomplished nonprofit executive with 25 years of experience with local and national nonprofits. I am very interested in teaching nonprofit management courses, but I do not have a master's degree. I have developed and taught nonprofit workshops for over 20 years. Is it possible to teach classes at a college?

Answer: You can teach non-credit classes if you don't have a master's degree. If the college has a certificate program - or if the college does not have credits transfer to another college, such as a non-regionally accredited technical college - then you are able to teach there. Definitely contact your local colleges! They might be looking for someone with your skills.

Question: Can an adjunct instructor be classified a professor?

Answer: There are many titles, and it depends on where you work what your title will be. You can say you're a part-time professor, instructor, etc. I would suggest using the title you're given. Generally, professors are at universities, but, again, it will depend on the college where you work.


Jn Evens on August 27, 2018:

I enjoy reading your post. I always wanted to be a French teacher. I'm about to graduate with a double major in Arts and Sciences. So, I was looking for more information about teaching here in the US. I speak French fluently and also took some independent studies in French at the University of Texas at Tyler.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 12, 2016:

I taught a non-credit course at a local community college, and found it an enjoyable experience. The course was aimed at adults in the workforce, so I had students who were motivated to learn. I've also taught at the graduate school level, but never considered teaching as a career. I think your hub may encourage some people in that direction. I enjoyed reading it.

torrilynn on February 24, 2013:

Hi Kat,

i really liked your hub

and i find that this can be helpful to those looking to teach

at a community college

thanks, voted up