The Nation’s Real Future: Advantages of Teaching at Community College

Modern Languages at Finger Lakes Community College - Costa Rica 2013

The Nation’s Real Future: Advantages of Teaching at Community College

Even in the changing world of education, there’s still something of a stigma attached to community college. But with a greater national focus on the massive cost and inherent difficulty in securing and completing higher education, two-year institutions are being recognized as the path to success for more students than ever. And for community college instructors, teaching at these schools can be much more rewarding. The Modern Language Institute reports that a national study of community college professors found that nearly 75 percent are happy with their work and over 70 percent believe they make a difference. With overall teacher job satisfaction dropping 25 percent in recent years, why are these professors so content with their jobs? It could be a question of environment and educational philosophy.

1. A Less Traditional Student

College students at all kinds of educational institutions are getting older, with more than 1.5 million undergraduates now over the age of 40. Older students often report a much better experience at college the second time around because of a shift in their attitudes and priorities. They value their education much more and respect instructors and classmates. Teaching the kind of students who are genuinely grateful to be learning can have a hugely positive effect on a professor. Even community college kids of a more traditional age are more likely to have faced real-world struggles and understand what it means to be a hard worker. In the past, community college was thought of as a place where students who couldn’t get into the big universities went. Now, the New York Times reports that 4 out of 5 community college students are there because they want to transfer to a university but can’t afford an insurmountable 4-year tuition bill.

Modern Languages at Finger Lakes Community College - Costa Rica 2013

2. A Focus on Teaching

Community college instructors typically carry a heavier class load than traditional professors, sometimes teaching 5 to 7 courses every semester. Like all public schools, community colleges struggle with budget cuts and oversized classes, but a certain kind of teacher can thrive in this environment. Unlike seasoned professors, community college teachers spend less than 30 percent of their time doing research, so if you got into teaching higher education because you wanted to be in the classroom engaging with students, this is a job more suited for you. When you combine that with the flexible schedule of 2-year-colleges, it’s little wonder that the jobs they afford can be rewarding and stimulating, especially for less jaded teachers. The diversity of the faces that fill your classroom is also a selling point – nowhere else offers such a range of ages, races, and backgrounds.

3. Reaching Out to the Community

As a community college instructor, you’re in a better position than other professors to be directly involved in helping junior high and high school students prepare to start college. Outreach programs help kids of all ages learn about the curriculum and requirements they need to start at a 2-year institution and all about the benefits of attending and the path to transferring. Most low-income students will begin their college careers at a community college, and instructors often play a role in letting them know that college is not out of their reach financially and is in fact more instrumental to a successful future today than ever before. Not only can you make a difference for older students returning to school, you can make a difference for students who have yet to begin.

Community colleges are a huge and vital part of America’s education system, and without their affordable or even free tuition, many students might never go on to complete degrees. Teaching at community colleges is tailored for the kind of professor who wants to directly impact a student’s life in tangible ways, and those kind of teachers can find themselves really happy there. The future of America is not exclusive to the halls of Ivy League universities, an sometimes it pays to go where what you instruct will really matter.

Writer Brett Harris is an avid blogger. If you’re interested in teaching at a community college, you may be interested in getting an online masters in education.

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