Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

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Report Brief

The New Professoriate: Characteristics, Contributions and Compensation


This report looks at the growth in part-time faculty and full-time non-tenure track faculty (referred to as nontraditional faculty) on American campuses. The characteristics of nontraditional faculty are discussed and comparisons are made with traditional faculty. Data are from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) -- specifically the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) (1992 and 1998).


The Debate about Nontraditional Faculty

  • Pros of using nontraditional faculty:
    • necessary for the continued growth and success of higher education
    • courses offered by part-time faculty members cost a fraction of what they would cost if taught by full-time faculty members
    • use of part-time faculty can keep lower-level undergraduate courses at a reasonable size
    • local professionals can be employed (e.g. urban planning, law, business) and students can benefit from the perspectives of practitioners
    • flexibility -- more easily increase or decrease course offerings as enrollments fluctuate
    • can offer courses in the latest technology or skills
  • Cons of using nontraditional faculty
    • means of institutional control and exploitation of faculty
    • hidden costs accrue over time when large numbers of part-time faculty are employed
    • lack of full-time faculty available to participate in non-teaching activities, such as curriculum development and program coordination
    • lack of faculty to participate in governance activities
    • an institution would need 10 part-timers to cover the administrative committee responsibilities of six full-timers

Growth among Nontraditional Faculty

  • In 1998, 49% of faculty were part-time (2.4% of which were tenured), 38% were full-time tenured, 7% were full-time non-tenure track, and 6% were full-time at institutions without tenure
  • Number of faculty: 700,000 in 1981, more than 1 million in 1999
    • most significant increase was among part-time faculty, which grew by 79%
    • rapid growth in part-time faculty coupled with limited growth in full-time faculty caused a significant increase in the percent of all faculty with part-time status from 1981 to 1999
  • 40% of part-timers in 1998 attributed their employment status to personal preference
  • 1 in 4 part-timers said they accepted part-time because full-time was not available

Characteristics of Nontraditional Faculty

  • Unlike traditional faculty, most part-time faculty did not have the doctorate (82%)
  • Only 37% of full-time faculty and 45% of part-time faculty were women in 1998; more women were represented in the humanities, social sciences, education, and vocational fields than in other fields
  • 85% of full-time faculty and 88% of part-time faculty were white
  • Average salaries in 1998: full-time tenure track earned $59,000; full-time non-tenure track earned $41,500; part-timers earned $11,500
  • Data revealed little variation in the average workload of all types of full-time faculty
  • Part-time faculty, like full-time faculty, offer significant amounts of service to their institutions outside of the classroom


Questions for higher education leaders:

  • To what extent should institutions rely on nontraditional faculty?
  • How can colleges and universities employ these individuals in a way that is fair to all faculty and that strengthens institutional capacity to serve students and advance knowledge?

Questions for institutional self-study:

  • How does the growth in nontraditional faculty at your institution vary by discipline? Is this variation among disciplines related to increased demand or fiscal constraints?
  • In the past five years, what has been the ratio of new hires for traditional positions to new hires for nontraditional positions at your institution?
  • What are the background characteristics of your nontraditional faculty? In what ways are they similar to or different from the traditional faculty on your campus?
  • For what reasons do your part-time faculty teach part-time? How do the numbers of those who have full-time jobs compare with those who have multiple part-time positions?
  • How successful are your part-time faculty when competing for full-time positions at your institution?


Anderson, E. L. (2002). The new professoriate: Characteristics, contributions, and compensation. Washington, DC: American Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis.

Submitted by Leah Ewing Ross, March 2004. This is a report summary and excerpts are quoted directly from the text.

The campanile

Iowa State was the first chartered land-grant institution.