Chad Evans

Graduate Student  -  Sociology and Statistics  -  University of Pennsylvania

email echad@sas.upenn.edu  -  office 280 McNeil Building -  phone 215.584.6986

Who are the Part-time Tenured Faculty?

A small, but recognizable number of part-time faculty have academic tenure.  These individuals have job security, significant pay and generous benefits.  Might the newest wave of part-faculty also ascend into the part-time tenured ranks after building up an academic record in the classroom and in the press?  This is highly unlikely.  The vast majority of part-time faculty members with tenure are simply transitioning into retirement.  In fewer cases, the faculty member may take on greater domestic responsibitlies or other work outside of academia.  In all cases, it seems that these faculty first acquire a traditional tenured position and, by their own volition, drop their hours to facilitate other goals.  My research finds that 85% of part-time, tenured faculty work part-time by choice.  These faculty say they work part-time in order to hold onto benefits (health insurance) and maintain a lifestyle they have come to enjoy.  They do not see part-time work as a stepping stone to a future position and many could work full-time if they wished to.

What kinds of people become part-time faculty?

Regrettably, survey centers have only recently begun to collect data on part-time and adjunct faculty.  In addition, probability samples that allow for rigorous population-level inferences are likely still years away.  Nonetheless, convenience samples of contingent faculty are informative.

Over the last decade, postsecondary insitutions have hired larger numbers of women and their presence on campuses is now similar to that of men.  However, women are slightly more likely to be hired for part-time and adjunct work, rather that the generally more favorable tenure-track positions.

Part-time work is also disproportionately conducted by faculty with children at home or other dependents. This suggests that part-time work may enable some faculty members to take on greater household actitivies.

Part-time faculty are also more often White; even moreso than among tenure and tenure-track faculty.  This suggests that tenure track employment is more equitable than market of contingent employment.

Finally, those working part-time or adjunct in academia often have lower educational credentials than their tenure track peers.  In fact, nearly 70% of part-time faculty have not earned Ph.D..  The doctorate credential is typically required for faculty seeking tenure-track positions.


Using the technique of random forests from machine learning classifiers, it is possible to map the probability of adjuncting across age groups.  The probabilty of adjuncting initially falls dramatically, reaching its nadir in the late thirties.  The probability of adjuncting then climbs, particularly around retirement age.