This post is geared towards healthcare professionals who are either looking to switch careers or just want to add a little extra income from something other than practicing medicine.
I recently landed a job as a college professor and wanted to share with my readers what all was involved to get this job as someone who doesn’t have traditional teaching experience or credentials.
The Big Picture
If you are trying to break into a new field then the hardest barrier to overcome is to get your foot in the door. In order to do that you need to get your resume in front of the eyes of the right people.
Once you have one teaching job and you have good references then the world is your oyster. It’s not hard to move horizontally within a college and teach other departments.
Nor is it difficult to go from teaching at a community college to teaching at the top colleges in your hood.
My strategy which worked for me:
- fill out online job application
- contact department chairs
- apply for the least desirable teaching positions
- be persistent
- apply to a program at the college
Applying for Jobs
When you’re a physician applying for non-medical jobs you’ll always get the single raised eyebrow. It makes it that much harder to apply only on paper since your resume will look somewhat odd to the HR person recruiting for that position.
Colleges are such large organizations that it’s very common for your application to end up nowhere. I have applied to several colleges in my neighborhood and never heard back which is why I had to resort to special tactics.
If you believe in the traditional process then you can go to the HR section or Career section of the college website, look for professor jobs, and apply to whichever topic you think you are most suited to teach.
It’s important to modify your resume to highlight your teaching experience and to downplay your medical degree.
When you go on the college websites you will find jobs for:
- full-time faculty
- part-time faculty
- pool faculty
- adjunct professor
- assistant professor
- associate professor
You likely won’t be interested in a full-time tenured position so I recommend applying for a few part-time or adjunct professor/faculty jobs. This is a great way to test the waters and see if you are a good fit.
Which College to Apply to
It will be much easier to get a job at private colleges or trade colleges but these will also be a lot more intense.
The private colleges have strong recruiters and the HR department is very responsive. They will have a larger application pool so the competition can be stiffer.
The advantage of teaching at the community college level is that my experience has been that the professors there are a lot more passionate about what they do and there is more wiggle room in using creative teaching techniques.
The private colleges and particularly the vocational colleges seemed stricter probably because they follow more rigid financial guidelines to optimize the burn and churn.
Just like medicine, education is also moving online which can help a college offer more classes without having to worry about having enough rooms to teach them in.
Online teaching jobs are available but these are sought after jobs so as a new-hire professor you’ll likely be asked to teach in-person first before you are offered online classes.
I had to sit through several interviews. I wasn’t able to take a direct approach to getting a college professor job so I had to meet with multiple department heads until I came across the right person.
As a physician there are unique matters which you’ll have to address and they came up in every single interview that I had. Because you’re a physician you’ll be treated differently and the interviewers assume that your expectations are quite high.
I wasn’t looking for any special treatment and because of my doctorate degree and many years of teaching experience with residents and medical students and leadership experience I believed that I deserved a college professor job as much as any other traditional applicant.
To get this across it’s important to downplay your medical career and even though it might seem like a very interesting topic to the interviewer, it’s good to steer the direction back to teaching.
“I enjoy teaching and believe that I can have a much bigger impact on younger minds than teaching in a very specialized field such as medicine where my audience will be following a very traditional route.”
“I hope to inspire more students in the sciences and because of my broad experience in the medical field I believe that I can bring a unique perspective to it.”
“I definitely understand that the pay is lower than what I make in medicine but I don’t plan on setting my medical career aside. I am fortunate that I can practice just a few flexible hours a month to cover my household expenses which places me in a very fortunate position to pursue what I’m passionate about which is teaching.”
Highlighting Your Teaching Experience
I don’t have a problem hyping myself up and when it comes to teaching, I’ve done plenty of it to get a job. As physicians we follow the apprenticeship paradigm and so as an intern I’d teach the medical student, as a senior resident I’d teach the intern, as a chief resident I’d teach the senior residents, and as a medical director I would train the incoming new-hires.
Most colleges will pay you per hour of lecture and some by the semester. The pay is based on your years as a professor at that particular college.
Some colleges will pay you more if you have experience but that’s usually for very sought after departments and for full-time positions.
My college professor job starts at $59/hour which is a level-1 pay and it can go up to $100/hour. For every year that I teach and the more classes I teach my level increases.
I haven’t confirmed these numbers yet but that’s what was listed on the information which I found online. College professors make $60/hour?? Shit!
Resources for Teaching
I’ll write more about the experience of teaching at the college level after I do some teaching but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are a lot of teaching resources available to professors.
Obviously the course that I’m going to be teaching has been taught before so not only do the various professors share each other’s slides online but there are also sample quizzes, course outlines, and further reading resources for students.
I also get access to the digital media database which the textbook publishers make available to a college professor.
I also have the department head whom I can run things by so it’s not like I feel alone in this. With only 1 course to teach I feel that I have enough support and resources to get me started.
What Can You Teach?
Here is a short list of all the different subject you can teach at a college as a physician. Remember that you aren’t excluded from teaching arts or philosophy just because your doctorate is in medicine.
- ophthalmic medical technology
- electronic medical records
- emergency medical services
- medical terminology
- medical ethics
- medical law
- health information management
- alcohol and drug counseling
- medical lab technology
- medical transcribing
- medical interviewing
- hands-on labs for MA’s
- hands-on labs for RN’s
I got the Faculty Job
I started out applying to various colleges near me and for a year I didn’t hear back from anyone. I even sent a few emails to department heads to get my application noticed – nothing.
I then decided to focus all of my energy in one department at a local community college. I chose the Medical Assisting program at my local community college and contacted everyone on that list – no replies.
I decided that I would apply to the Medical Assisting program which got me in front of the program coordinator. I shared with her that my main interest was to teach for the Medical Assisting program and so she put me in touch with the head of that department.
I met with her and we had a nice chat and she expressed interest in somehow getting me involved. She offered me a few unpaid positions which I gladly accepted because they required very little time commitment. I had my foot in the door with that commitment.
She put me in touch with the chair of the Medical Professions department who met with me and after some talking he realized that I wanted to teach more than I wanted to sit through the Medical Assisting program. We both agreed that I would pull my application for the MA program and he’d help me find a teaching gig in his department.
The chair put me in touch with the head of the medical terminology and pharmacology courses – she was the person in charge of hiring the professors.
We exchanged some emails and I had to answer numerous questions to convince her that I was okay with the lower pay, that I had enough time to dedicate to teaching, that I understood the role would be very different from being a physician.
Finally a date was set for me to interview before a panel. I got asked some standard interview questions and had to give a 15-minute sample lecture which I believe I rocked.
I got a job offer on the spot and passed the background check that day and I am now officially a college professor.
my 5 Interview Questions
- Provide an example when you needed to change your teaching techniques to better serve the students you were teaching. How did that go for you?
- How do you make sure that equality, diversity, and inclusion is maintained in your classroom?
- Because of the diverse education background at a community college, how do you make sure that each student is engaged?
- What are the characteristics of a teaching course that has a good level of engagement and achieves its desired purpose?
- A student gets a B on the final but would need an A on that final to pass the course. They tell you how important it is for them to pass the course or else they won’t get into a specific program. What do you do?
What I liked was that for each answer I gave the panel of interviewers each gave their take on it which was very insightful – I felt that each person genuinely wanted me to do well if I got hired.
First Assignment as a College Professor
I was offered to teach medical terminology for a semester which is a total of 4 hours a week. Because it’s my first faculty job at this college I am only offered 1 course to teach which is ideal.
She prefers that I start out doing teaching in person before she starts offering me online teaching jobs. A lot of courses are moving online and so there are a lot of such opportunities available but I’m not jonesing for any right now.
For the sake of my own career aspirations, I prefer to do more in-person teaching as a college professor so that I am more marketable should I decide to teach somewhere else in the future.