Skip to Content

Contingent or Adjunct Faculty

Who Are the Contingent Faculty?

Graduate teaching assistants, part-time faculty, adjuncts or lecturers, and full-time faculty employed on a temporary basis are all members of the rapidly growing contingent academic labor workforce. Frequently what they all have in common are working conditions that undermine student learning. NEA believes all faculty should enjoy the same rights and benefits, including academic freedom, that underlay the strength of American higher education.


Faculty working off the tenure track now account for more than 75 percent of U.S. faculty, and more than 50 percent of faculty hold part-time positions, which often means they must cobble together a living wage through multiple low-paying jobs and work without health or retirement benefits.

For adjunct faculty, the average pay per three-credit course was $2,700 in 2010. But we know that unionized contingent faculty earn more. At institutions where part-time faculty don't have a union, average pay is $2,475, compared to $3,100 with a union. Unionized contingents also are more likely to have health and retirement benefits.

Nearly two-thirds of contingent faculty are women.

Ninety-four percent hold a graduate degree.


NEA Policy Statement on Part-time and Temporary Faculty NEA believes it's past time to end the abuses suffered by part-time faculty, and that part-time faculty should be treated no differently than full-timers. We also believe many part-time positions should be converted to full-time — not just for the benefit of faculty, but for the strength of institutions and the educational well-being of students.

Retirement Security for Contingent Faculty (PDF link). NEA has collected and compared the retirement benefits available to its contingent or adjunct faculty members, and recommends specific strategies to achieve appropriate pro-rated benefits.

Equity Poster (PDF link) Let the world know you support equity on campuses!

Organizing for Equity (PDF link) Across the U.S., contingent faculty are organizing for equity. That includes fair pay, access to faculty training funds, compensation for office hours, and more. Check out our map of organizing victories.

Tips for Being an Ally (PDF link) We all need to be allies — non-tenured and tenured faculty alike, as well as students — in the fight for campus equity. Read these tips from New Faculty Majority leaders Judy Olson and Anne Wiegard.

Bargaining for Part-Time Contingents (PDF link) This 2014 NEA Almanac for Higher Education article by Kristine Dougherty, Gary Rhoades, and Mark Smith examines policy developments and contract provisions relating to contingent faculty.

Faculty Matter: So Why Doesn't Everybody Think So? (PDF link) This 2014 NEA Thought & Action article by Adrianna Kezar and Dan Maxey shows clearly how faculty impact student learning. Once you understand that, it's inexplicable how so many institutions force faculty to work in conditions that undermine learning.

Who is Professor 'Staff' and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes? This 2012 report from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, of which NEA is a member, focuses on the working conditions of contingent faculty and their mipact on students.

The Politics of Contingent Academic Labor In this 2012 NEA Thought & Action article, author Claire Goldstene explores a less-considered (but likely intentional) consequence of contingency: the chilling effect it has on academic freedom.




College Affordability

Urge Congress to make college more affordable.

HigherEd Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the NEA HigherEd newsletter — a monthly email newsletter featuring news and updates.