The type of degree to pursue if you want to teach math at a community college depends on where you want to teach and the kind of position you want. The preferred degree for teaching math at the community college level varies among states and individual colleges. Teaching positions at community colleges could be full- or part-time, with each potentially having different degree requirements.
In the United States, state or local governments typically operate community colleges, so degree specifications vary by state, county or municipality. Hence, as no national standards exist for community college teachers, the type of degree you need to teach math depends in part on where you’re looking for a job. On one end of the spectrum, all of the community colleges in a particular state may require teachers to hold a Master’s of Science in mathematics in conjunction with an additional number of graduate hours. On the other hand, your town’s community college may allow you to teach with only a Bachelor of Science in math education. Broadly speaking, however, most community colleges seek candidates with at least a master’s in mathematics.
Teaching positions at community colleges fall into one of two categories: tenure track and adjunct. The former consist of full-time, long-term positions, while the latter consist of part-time, often temporary, positions. Adjunct positions are the more common of the two types, and adjunct professors may work for multiple colleges simultaneously. At some community colleges, degree requirements for adjunct faculty positions are less stringent than those for tenure track positions. For instance, a single community college may advertise an adjunct position to teach a pre-calculus class which requires only a Bachelor’s, as well as a full-time, multi-course position requiring a Master’s.
If you want to teach community college math, the most direct route is to first obtain a Bachelor’s degree in math or a closely related subject, such as statistics or math education. It is possible, however, to major in science, engineering or another technical field and then obtain a Master’s in mathematics -- or vice versa. A Master’s in mathematics itself may be necessary for employment at community colleges in certain locales. A few tenured math instructors might even possess doctorate degrees, but this is very rarely a necessity at the community college level. Some colleges will accept just a Bachelor’s degree, often in conjunction with a teaching certificate or demonstrated experience teaching high school math. You might be able to land a job teaching remedial classes with only a B.S. in math or closely related field, and may get the option to teach other classes once you obtain an M.S.
Unlike four-year universities where research and publication are professors’ central focuses, at community colleges teaching is the primary role and main factor in gaining a promotion. Tenure track teachers should expect a heavy course load, typically around 15 credits per semester. There has been a gradual shift in U.S. community colleges toward offering a greater number of adjunct positions and fewer tenure track positions, resulting in increased competition for tenured positions -- so, even if you’re qualified for a full-time position, you may have to start out as an adjunct. Note, however, that full-time math teaching positions may be easier to find at rural community colleges than urban ones.
- Modern Language Association: A Community College Teaching Career
- The Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne: Applying for Teaching Positions at Community Colleges
- The Concord Monitor: For Adjunct Professors, a Hard Job About to Get Harder
- The Chronicle of Higher Education: Adjuncts Build Strength in Numbers
- Jobing.com: Community College of Allegheny County -- Adjunct Faculty, Biology, Chemistry, Math, Physics
- North Carolina State University: Certificate in Community College Teaching FAQ
- U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers – Job Outlook
- American Association for the Advancement of Science: Community College Faculty -- Must Love to Teach
Based in western New York, Amy Harris began writing for Demand Media and Great Lakes Brewing News in 2010. Harris holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Penn State University; she taught high school math for several years and has also worked in the field of instructional design.