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Pursuing A Higher Education Teaching Career

By David Helfand

Q: I am a mid-level associate at a major Chicago law firm and I am considering whether to pursue a different career path. For instance, I have thought about teaching at the college or law school level. My primary problem is that I do not know how to start pursuing such opportunities. Do you have any thoughts?

A: One way to break into the higher education teaching area is to start off teaching part-time. Many community colleges, colleges and universities look to their part-timers when a full-time opening becomes available. The reason is that these are known vs. unknown quantities - so to speak. The city of Chicago and the surrounding area has many community colleges where part-time opportunities may exist and they often pay better than their four year counterparts.

You might want to review catalogs of related colleges and law schools to see which courses you have an expertise in, thus making you a viable candidate. I would then suggest approaching department heads directly (whether its political science, criminal justice, sociology, related areas of law schools or others) and inquiring about the possibility of part-time instructor positions. Since schools handle this differently you may also want to send a resume to their Personnel Office which often sends them on to related departments. Dont be surprised to learn that even these part-time positions can be highly competitive.

The advantage of starting out as a part-timer is you get a chance to test out your interest without leaving your current position, rather than making a big plunge into somewhat unchartered territory. Sources for available jobs include the Chronicle of Higher Education,, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC),,,, and once you identify subject areas of interest there are specific journals and additional web sites youll be able to identify tailored to those areas.

Personally I find college level instruction very rewarding and satisfying - best of luck in possibly experiencing similar results.

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