Become an Online Community College Instructor: Career Roadmap

Jan 24, 2022

Online community college instructors teach students a wide variety of subjects using an online format. These instructors typically become qualified through formal education and by completing traditional classroom teaching experiences.

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Online Community College Teachers

Online community college instructors teach students in a virtual learning environment using specialized software. This type of education, also known as distance learning, is growing in popularity, especially among working students who find its flexibility and convenience appealing. Community college instructors may teach online courses during evenings and weekends, and they may teach online courses in non-credit, adult education subjects in addition to traditional degree programs.

An online community college teacher will most likely work over 40 hours a week and more than the regular 8-hour day. Aside from the teaching portion of this job, the online teacher must evaluate students' progress and keep student records. Online instructors must also maintain office hours for their students.

To be an online community college professor, students must first earn a bachelor's degree and then earn a master's degree in either education or the subject they want to teach. A teaching license will probably be necessary, and the requirements to earn the license vary by state. In addition to the knowledge of teaching, these individuals should also have a working knowledge of the virtual classroom and its technology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for postsecondary teachers is expected to increase 12% from 2020-2030; however, the salary for postsecondary teachers can vary by subject taught. For example, the BLS reported that in 2020, postsecondary education teachers earned a median salary of $65,440, while postsecondary business teachers were paid a median salary of $88,010.

Degree Levels Undergraduate or master's degree is necessary, depending on the subject
Degree Field Education or the subject to be taught
Experience On-campus teaching experience, familiarity with distance learning software
Licensure and Certification In most cases, state licensure as a teacher is required
Job Outlook (2020-2030) 8% growth (for all postsecondary education teachers)
Median Annual Salary (2020) $65,440 (for all postsecondary education teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Degree

The first step towards becoming an online community college instructor is to earn a degree. While most community college instructors hold a master's degree in the subject they teach, degree level requirements may vary according to the course subject. For example, instructors may be required to have only a bachelor's degree or associate's degree to teach some technical or vocational subjects. In these cases, candidates typically may also be required to possess considerable work experience and applicable professional credentials or licensure.

Step 2: Get Teaching Experience

The second step toward becoming an online community college instructor is to get teaching experience. Prospective online community college instructors may gain experience by teaching in traditional classroom settings at community colleges. They may also teach in hybrid formats, or a combination of on-campus and online formats. Candidates may also gain teaching experience as teaching assistants while concurrently pursuing a graduate degree.

Step 3: Distance Learning Software

The third step toward becoming an online community college instructor is to gain proficiency with distance learning software. Software used for online instruction, generally known as learning management systems (LMS), enables online community college instructors to perform their key duties, including designing online curricula, delivering course content to students, communicating with students, tracking student progress, providing tutoring services, keeping records, and providing students with access to course materials. LMS training is commonly provided by community colleges to all faculty. Learning LMS systems in advance may provide candidates with an advantage when applying for online teaching positions.

Step 4: Search for Position

The fourth step toward becoming an online community college instructor is to prepare a resume and search for a position. In addition to including teaching experience, résumés should highlight skills that apply directly to online teaching, such as familiarity with LMS systems and computer troubleshooting skills. The teaching portfolio should demonstrate the candidate's proficiency in key elements of community college teaching by providing samples of lesson plans, syllabi, student and peer evaluations, samples of former students' coursework, letters of recommendation, and teaching-related awards. Resources are available to assist candidates in their search for online community college teaching opportunities. Among these are the California Community Colleges Registry and Community College Week.

Step 5: Career Advancement

The fifth step toward becoming an online community college instructor is to improve your opportunities for career advancement. Working on your degree and teaching to gain experience at the same time is beneficial to your career. It gives the individual an opportunity to build a network of professional references, thereby increasing their opportunities for advancement. In addition, becoming certified in more than one subject can also increase your chances to advance in the teaching field.

The steps towards becoming an online community college instructor include earning a degree, obtaining teaching experience, gaining proficiency with distance learning software, preparing a resume and searching for a position, and improving opportunities for career advancement.

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