Have a PhD? Looking for employment? What about teaching high schoolers?

Arguably (?), the reliance upon adjuncts by colleges, universities, graduate schools, seminaries, etc., is immoral. I’m not saying it’s immoral to be an adjunct teacher. Nor do I think every institution that uses adjuncts is wrong to do so. But I do see a lot of institutions using adjuncts as a means of ‘cheap labor’. They know they if they can get three adjuncts to teach two classes each for a few thousand dollars per class they can avoid paying one or two people a full wage with benefits, retirement, etc. It’s a business decision because whether or not we like it, education is (has become?) a business.

So, I’ve met immensely talented people who teach on short contracts with no promise of long-term work. They need to take adjunct gigs to have a chance at making it to the ‘big leagues’. Sadly, the acceptance of these gigs reinforces the system, empowers the institutions who are misusing adjuncts, and makes the job market the worst kind of buyers’ market imaginable.

In the fields of Biblical Studies and Religious Studies the statistics are depressing. Browse the SBL career center. Read the AAR’s ‘Employment Trends’. It’s not encouraging.

Interestingly, many people who teach undergraduates have realized that they’re receiving students who don’t know how to do a close reading of a text, or sustained reading, or much reading, period! They can’t contract an argument let alone a full-blown term paper. This means they’re not being prepared at the high school level. That leads me to my point:

What if more people with doctorates chose to work at the high school level?

There’s a trade-off, for sure. You won’t publish as much, if at all. You may not teach in the field that you did your research, especially if your focus was religion and/or theology. But you can be an educator.

This might mean you teach in private school. It might mean you teach in public. It doesn’t have the glory of teaching college or graduate students. You might be asked to lead a club, coach a team, advise students, or a million other tasks that don’t seem to align with your motivations for earning a doctorate, but you’d be educating.

It’s hard work but it’s rewarding and it compensates better than adjuncting.

If you’ve ever thought about teaching at the high school level, and you have questions, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll tell you what I know. I think many people who are willing to go through the hell that is doctoral work do so because they love the life of the mind. You don’t have to lose that if you’re willing to teach students a tad younger than what you imagined originally.


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