WANT TO TEACH COLLEGE? BECOME AN ADJUNCTBy
Many accounting professionals consider teaching part-time at some point during their career or after they retire. We can tell you from experience that it can be a rewarding, beneficial, and enjoyable way to spend your time while contributing to your industry and community. It can also help fill an important need within the higher education system.
With projected shortages of professionals with a Ph.D. in accounting and a proliferation of traditional and online business schools, there will be many teaching opportunities. For instance, in their May 2013 Strategic Finance article, “The Accounting Doctorate Shortage: Opportunities for Practitioners,” Douglas M. Boyle, Brian W. Carpenter, Dana R. Hermanson, and Michael O. Mensah estimated that only about 50% of the needed accounting faculty positions are filled. They also noted that accounting practitioners express considerable interest in entering academia. Practioners’ top concern about making the career change, however, is the time it takes to pursue and earn a doctoral degree, which is a requirement for full-time professors at many higher education institutions.
Many schools experiencing large enrollments in accounting are finding it difficult to hire a sufficient number of qualified individuals with a doctorate. The lower rate of new faculty graduating from Ph.D. programs, high accounting enrollments, and the need to replace retiring faculty are straining teaching resources. This high demand for faculty has also resulted in significantly higher salaries for those with a Ph.D., which places further constraints on accounting programs facing reduced budgets in a challenging economic environment. The combination of aging faculty approaching retirement and the significant number of accounting students will generate a high demand for teaching resources in the future.
Many schools rely heavily on accounting professionals to teach part-time. Fortunately, the supply of professionals qualified to teach should increase because more accountants are graduating with advanced degrees and an increasing amount of professional retirees want to remain active. While many professionals may consider teaching, some are uncertain about how to pursue these opportunities effectively.
All three of us have served at various schools as adjunct professors and full-time faculty, and Richard has been an accounting coordinator responsible for hiring adjuncts (see “Adjuncts and IMA”). Busy professionals and retirees interested in part-time adjunct teaching positions that complement their successful accounting careers may find our experiences useful.
GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
When contacting college administrators, accountants need to adopt the same job search strategies often used in industry. The chair of the accounting department usually schedules classes and hires adjuncts for accounting courses. The best opportunity to get your name at the top of the list of candidates is through networking events, which can connect you with business and accounting department chairs. Networking allows you to get involved with the school, demonstrate interest in becoming an adjunct professor, and speak to staff about job openings. After learning more about potential teaching assignments and becoming acquainted with students and faculty at different schools, you’ll have a better understanding of the necessary time and energy commitments that come with being an adjunct.
Accounting professionals interested in teaching need to express their availability to the accounting department chair personally and follow up by sending a résumé. This is most effective when a school regularly hires a large number of adjuncts or is located in less-populated areas with few qualified local professionals. In more-populated urban areas with larger numbers of qualified potential candidates, there’s significantly more competition for adjunct faculty positions. At schools with limited positions and many qualified candidates, it may be necessary to use more proactive strategies to differentiate yourself.
Employing multiple strategies will establish a strong relationship with the school and enhance your prospects for being selected. Adopting these strategies demonstrates your willingness to become involved with the school and your commitment to higher education. They can also convey characteristics and abilities consistent with becoming an effective teacher. Here are some ways you can become more familiar with the people and programs at each school:
Alumni Groups. Alumni of the accounting program are a significant source for adjunct faculty candidates. They have an advantage in obtaining teaching positions: The accounting chair and faculty know them. Graduates are regularly invited to participate in school functions, and they often may be asked to serve as members of the alumni board. Assuming leadership roles in alumni activities makes a very positive impression with decision makers. Alumni who work with department chairs and faculty members may be strong candidates for future adjunct faculty positions.
Advisory Boards. Business schools and accounting programs often ask professionals from the area to serve on their advisory boards. These boards typically meet a few times a year and provide an opportunity for the school to inform the business community about its accomplishments and activities. Board members become actively involved with the decision makers at the school. By serving on these boards, you can make positive contributions to the school, improve your status as a potential adjunct, and become a valuable representative of your company for recruiting and other purposes.
Internships and Employment. The most important contribution a company can make is hiring students as either interns or full-time employees. Accounting practitioners who regularly hire students have a tremendous opportunity to develop strong relationships with schools. Attending accounting program hiring and recruiting events on college campuses helps practitioners become very familiar with the department chair, faculty, and students. Companies may also offer internships to faculty members who need practical experience to obtain their CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) and/or CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designations and improve their expertise in the profession. Faculty interns form very strong and long-lasting relationships with organizations that offer these opportunities. Professionals who consistently employ interns and recent graduates from nearby colleges and universities are greatly appreciated and are often viewed favorably as potential adjuncts.
Involvement in Programs/Class Activities. A professional also adds value to an accounting program by sharing his or her significant practical knowledge and experience in the classroom, at job fairs, while judging student competitions, and during other activities. There are a variety of opportunities to become involved with faculty and students, including:
- Giving presentations as a guest lecturer or helping students with their presentations shows your ability to interact effectively with students. Your ability to communicate effectively is a basis for strong faculty and student recommendations. These activities also provide an insight into the interests of the students at the school.
- Provide student and faculty tours of your company’s facilities. This is an opportunity to promote your business and to explain the types of professional responsibilities students might have after graduation. If you sponsor in-house tours at your company, make sure they’re interesting, well-organized, and tie into current classroom topics.
- Participate as a panelist or advisor when students present research or class projects. You will contribute your expertise to the projects and be able to assist in assessing the results. This contributes to the quality of the projects and helps you become familiar with the faculty and students.
- Make yourself available for mock job interviews with students. It helps them learn about future professional responsibilities, and the supervising faculty member becomes knowledgeable about your work.
- Participate in “job shadowing” activities to give accounting students a firsthand look at their future professional responsibilities. The faculty members may learn about your abilities when the students report on their experience.
- Invite students and faculty to participate in a professional group. For instance, personally extend an invitation to the accounting chair, faculty, and interested students to an IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) chapter meeting or other event. This benefits the chapter and promotes a strong relationship between you and the school.
- Serve as a mentor for students, which benefits both the accounting program and you as a professional. The students gain invaluable practical advice. The coaching skills you demonstrate and knowledge of current student issues will make you a stronger candidate for future adjunct positions.
Research Projects. Professionals who become involved with faculty and student research projects find this to be a great opportunity to become familiar with people and programs. They often have access to business resources that aren’t available to the school, which lets them contribute practical ideas and solutions. A professional who participates in faculty or student research is often viewed as knowledgeable and capable of effectively working with students studying similar issues in the classroom.
Professional Groups. Service to professional groups allows you to work effectively in teams with colleagues from outside your company; lead others in analyzing, developing, and presenting professional issues; and participate as a leader or board or committee member. This provides an opportunity to demonstrate a higher level of knowledge regarding issues that are relevant to the accounting profession. As a volunteer in a professional group, you’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate interpersonal and organizational skills that are essential to effective classroom management. Collaborating with accounting faculty and department chairs allows firsthand observation of your ability to work on a team.
Community Service. Service to the community allows you to help different groups and to exhibit leadership, organizational, and presentation skills. Involvement in school, community, and religious organizations demonstrates a concern for and commitment to helping others. It also shows your ability to deal effectively with nonaccounting professionals of various ages, which is an important element of effective teaching.
DEMONSTRATE TEACHING QUALITIES
Collaborating with schools, industry, and community groups helps demonstrate important qualities that lead to success in the classroom. Educators who participate and collaborate with you in these activities are able to assess your potential as an adjunct. Certain qualities strengthen your résumé for adjunct positions when they become available, including:
Leadership. Leadership skills are essential for conducting classroom activities. Effective leadership in the classroom motivates students and encourages their commitment to the course. Failure to exhibit leadership results in an unsuccessful classroom experience for both the teacher and the students.
Continuous learning. Adjuncts must be knowledgeable about course materials. You’ll need to learn new information regarding course topics, particularly in those areas where you have less practical experience. You must identify unfamiliar material and research those areas as part of class preparation. Adjuncts, as well as full-time professors, continuously research topics to keep abreast of current knowledge and best practices.
Organization. Good organizational skills facilitate coverage of required materials and student learning in the course. Organization of course materials and classroom activities are critical components of a successful classroom experience. End-of-the-semester evaluations typically inquire about student perceptions regarding the instructor’s organizational skills.
Collegiality. A personality that facilitates effective interaction with students and faculty is essential. Adjuncts deal with students who are highly motivated and those who are less motivated. So you must be tolerant of diverse ideas and beliefs held by other faculty and students. You must appear knowledgeable but also be willing to learn and show respect for other reasonable viewpoints.
Communication. As a business professional, you must deliver educational and professional materials to groups of colleagues, peers, and even less-experienced individuals. Similarly, as an adjunct, you’ll teach students with different communication and learning styles, motivations, and capabilities. It’s difficult to balance offering educational value and reasonably challenging opportunities to students who operate at many different levels.
Flexibility. You must be flexible to accommodate the teaching assignments of the accounting program. Professionals with the flexibility to teach day, night, and weekend classes are a significant asset to the accounting chair as she or he prepares the teaching schedules. Clearly communicate times when you’re available and any periods when work or other commitments are too extensive to commit to teaching responsibilities. Additionally, the most attractive candidates for adjunct positions contribute their services for several semesters. The accounting department chair doesn’t want to be continuously recruiting and training new adjuncts every semester.
Commitment. As described earlier, engage in service activities at the school to demonstrate your commitment to the organization. The school may teach noncredit courses or continuing professional education (CPE) courses in accounting. For example, accounting chairs may appreciate professionals who volunteer to work with the school’s VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs offered to economically disadvantaged individuals. This demonstrates an interest in collaborating with the school, and the department chair can evaluate your abilities in situations similar to the classroom.
The major advantages of hiring adjuncts include the practical experience that they bring into the classroom and the advice they give students regarding their professional careers. The qualifications for adjunct faculty members vary significantly depending on where you apply. Regardless of the size or accreditation of the school, certain qualifications and abilities are typically required for accounting adjuncts, such as:
- A graduate degree in the candidate’s discipline or a related field.
- Significant professional accounting experience related to the subject area in which the candidate plans to teach.
- A professional certification, such as a CMA, CPA, or CIA (Certified Internal Auditor).
Expect to see increasing competition for the available adjunct positions in the future. While the need for qualified candidates has been expanding in recent years at many schools, the available pool of qualified candidates for accounting adjuncts has also increased because of the 150-hour requirement to become a CPA. Recent retirees and a projected increasing number of future retirees will help fill many of the adjunct teaching positions.
It’s important that potential candidates understand the accreditation requirements of schools where they apply because of their impact on hiring practices. Accreditation standards significantly impact the composition of faculties in business schools by specifying hiring qualifications that restrict the use of professionally qualified adjuncts in the accounting program. Accreditation by a regional organization (such as the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools) is required for a school to operate in most states. Schools must meet the standards of these accrediting organizations to obtain state and federal funding for grants, student loans, and more.
Many colleges and universities also maintain additional specialized accreditations for their business schools that specify criteria for the qualifications of their faculty, including adjuncts. For instance, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) is a highly recognized accrediting body for business schools around the world. Its standards increase the qualification requirements for adjuncts and limit the number of adjuncts that a school can utilize. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that full-time and adjunct teaching resources are sufficient to maintain satisfactory academic quality.
If you’re an aspiring adjunct faculty member, it’s important to become familiar with the appropriate standards at the schools you’re applying to since accreditation requirements vary at each individual school. AllBusinessSchools.com lists many of the accrediting agencies and provides several links to them, which are useful in determining a school’s level of accreditation.
SELECTING AN ACADEMIC INSTITUTION
Prior to accepting a teaching position, evaluate the reputation of the school just as you would with any prospective employer. If the school is highly regarded, being affiliated with it enhances your reputation as a teacher and as a member of the business community. Future teaching opportunities at other schools will be affected positively or negatively by the quality of the school where you had your earliest teaching experience. Your professional career will be positively impacted by teaching in an accounting program that’s viewed favorably by your employer as well as potential clients and customers.
The reputation of a school is affected by a number of factors, including:
- The quality of graduates of the business school and accounting program,
- The type of accreditation of the school, and
- The community’s perception of faculty and leadership of the school and accounting program.
PURSUE YOUR PASSION
We hope that our suggestions will significantly enhance your ability to land an adjunct position. We recommend using multiple strategies to attract the attention of the administrators responsible for hiring adjuncts at their institution. Showcase your talents, demonstrate your abilities, and exhibit a passion for helping others when collaborating with accounting chairs and faculty from the school.
Teaching as an adjunct faculty member is rewarding to both the professional and the students. As a matter of fact, we have foregone our initial chosen professions to become full-time faculty members. It’s a decision that none of us regrets.
We strongly encourage pursuing your passion for teaching to the benefit of students, the school, and your professional career.