How to get promoted from an adjunct to a permanent position

Transitioning from an adjunct to a permanent position requires a multifaceted approach that combines teaching excellence, professional development, networking and a clear demonstration of commitment to the institution's mission, writes Shruthi J. Mayur

Shruthi J. Mayur's avatar
13 Feb 2024
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How to land the promotion

Transitioning from an adjunct to a permanent position offers numerous benefits. A permanent role provides job security and a clearer career advancement path. It allows for a more stable work environment and increased involvement in institutional decision-making. Making this move enhances professional growth, job satisfaction and the ability to build long-term connections within the institution.

The difference between an adjunct and a permanent position

Adjunct faculty members are part-time tutors, typically industry professionals and/or doctoral candidates, hired to teach specific courses. They bring practical knowledge from their industry roles to the classroom, especially in areas such as business, technology, healthcare and the arts. Usually employed on a semester-by-semester basis, they may not have the same long-term job security or institutional responsibilities as permanent faculty. Adjunct tutors studying for advanced degrees often teach part-time to gain teaching experience and contribute to academic settings while still learning. This is typical in fields such as sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Permanent faculty members are full-time professors or instructors with extended employment agreements and who are frequently on a path towards tenure. They hold secure positions, actively participate in scholarly research and contribute to institutional decision-making. Permanent faculty members often have opportunities to contribute significantly to the academic community.

Moving from an adjunct to a permanent position in higher education demands meticulous planning and proactiveness. Consider the following tips when seeking to do so.

1. Engage in ongoing professional development: stay abreast of developments in your field by attending conferences, workshops and training sessions. Pursue opportunities for professional growth that not only enrich your knowledge but demonstrate your commitment to ongoing learning.

2. Demonstrate commitment beyond teaching: institutions value faculty members who demonstrate a commitment to the institution’s overall growth. To do this, volunteer for departmental committees and/or special projects. Consider the following:

Carrying out a community needs assessment: conduct surveys, interviews or focus groups with community members by involving local organisations and leaders to identify gaps in services or support and consider how your skills and resources can address these needs. For example, if there is a lack of after-school programmes for at-risk youth in the institution’s local community, you can propose mentoring or counselling programmes.

Carrying out school climate and culture analysis: assess the institution’s culture by reviewing data on student attendance, behaviour and academic performance, and gather feedback from students, parents and staff to identify areas for improvement or enhancement. For instance, you could implement initiatives such as cultural awareness workshops and peer mentoring programmes.

3. Explore partnership possibilities: explore potential partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organisations or local government bodies, and come up with projects that could be beneficial to both the institution and the community. For example, you could collaborate with local bodies to conduct activities related to campaigns such as Road Safety Week or the SDGs.

4. Seek professional development and networking opportunities: use platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with other educators, community leaders and experts in relevant fields. Learn from their experiences and exchange ideas.

5. Pursue advanced qualifications: consider pursuing advanced degrees or certifications relevant to your field. This not only enhances your CV but also positions you as a committed professional seeking to contribute to the academic community.

6. Cultivate mentorship connections: build mentoring relationships with permanent faculty members to strengthen your knowledge and ties between industry and academia. Use platforms such as LinkedIn to seek out individuals and gain advice and guidance to help you through the transition process.

7. Communicate your career aspirations: communicate your interest in transitioning to a permanent position to department heads or relevant administrators. Make inquiries about the criteria for the role you’re pursuing and express your commitment to contributing to the institution’s long-term goals.

8. Engage in research and scholarly activities: presenting at conferences, publishing articles or collaborating on research projects showcases your dedication to academic excellence, particularly in institutions that place emphasis on research.

9. Stay informed about vacancies: regularly check for open positions within your institution. Stay informed about the academic job market and understand the requirements for permanent positions.

10. Create a robust teaching portfolio: construct a portfolio showcasing your teaching achievements. Incorporate course materials, syllabi, student evaluations and any innovations you’ve implemented to improve the learning experience. Points to bear in mind when constructing a strong case include:

11. Emphasise your research contributions: highlight your scholarly achievements and research endeavours, including publications, grants, presentations and collaborative projects. Explain the significance and impact of your research, and clearly articulate your research agenda.

12. Showcase your teaching expertise and philosophy: discuss courses you’ve taught, teaching evaluations, curriculum development, student mentoring and innovative pedagogical methods you’ve implemented. Articulate your teaching philosophy, emphasising student engagement, learning outcomes and inclusivity. Provide concrete examples of successful teaching practices and initiatives.

13. Demonstrate leadership in your current role: exhibit your contributions to service and leadership within the academic sphere, including participation in departmental committees, professional associations and peer review processes.

14. Request compelling letters of recommendation: secure letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your qualifications, accomplishments and potential for excelling in a permanent academic role. Choose referees who are well acquainted with your work and can contribute specific examples and insights to bolster your application.

15. Customise your application documents: ensure that the CV, cover letter and any supplementary documents (such as teaching, research or diversity statements) align precisely with the requirements of the specific institution and department you’re applying to. Emphasise relevant experience, skills and achievements that demonstrate your suitability for the position.

Transitioning from an adjunct to a permanent position requires a multifaceted approach that combines teaching excellence, professional development, networking and a clear demonstration of commitment to the institution’s mission. By actively engaging with the academic community and showcasing your dedication to continuous improvement, you can position yourself as a strong candidate for a permanent faculty position.

Shruthi J. Mayur is an associate professor at T. A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI) at Manipal Academy of Higher Education.

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