Friday, November 11, 2005

Applying for a community college job: Remember where you're applying

[This is post 6 of 9 in a series exploring how to apply for a full-time community college teaching position. See this page for links to all the posts in the series.]

While many university research faculty teach around 1.5 to 3 contact hours (~units) a semester, community college faculty teach about 15 contact hours a semester. This high teaching load means that community college faculty focus almost their entire professional lives on teaching, and they have very little time to run a research program. Community college campuses almost never have research labs available for faculty to use, and never have graduate students to help with research; many don't even give faculty individual offices.

So, when you're applying for a job at a community college, do not discuss your plans for a research program unless you clearly explain how you plan to carry it out at a community college, in your spare time, with no institutional support (unless the job ad specifically requires research plans). While it may be important to talk about past research experience (especially if it is relevant to the minimum or desirable qualifications in the job ad), remember that you're not being hired to do research, so there's no need to go into extraordinary detail.

On the other hand, since you're applying to a community college and will be teaching constantly, you need to spend a lot of time detailing your teaching experience and style. It's also likely that you'll be designing, developing, and revising courses during your tenure, so it's important to show that you've not only passively taught courses, but have been actively involved in designing and revising courses and their content.

The combination of these points means that if you're applying for both university research and community college teaching positions, you'll need to write two very different cover letters and CVs. If you send a research-based letter and CV to a community college, the hiring committee will immediately come to the conclusion that you do not know what teaching at a community college is like, and they'll rate your application poorly.

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