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Online Adjunct–how much can it pay

April 29, 2008

A very intrepid reader browsed through a long-lost post and posed the following question:

I have taught as an adjunct in both an online in class instructor. Obviously, I’m not rolling in the cash from it. So imagine my surprise when I talked to a guy who is the head of a major corporation in the city where I live. He talked about a 6-figure supplement he was making from teaching online. I was really suspicious, calculating that he would have to teach about 60 classes a year (in addition to a full-time job and family) to make that kind of money. I mentioned my confusion and he said that over time he has found the highest paying online universities that have “not overwhelming” time commitments and he’s done it that way. Do you think it’s possible?

The short answer is: he is full of Bush. That is, no way he is earning six figures adjuncting online. I went into the salary breakdown in some detail less than a year ago, and I think the numbers there still stand.

I stated that for one institution (3 classes per six week term), one could earn $30K/year. For six figures, one would need to teach at 4 schools (3.5 or something), averaging 12 classes at one time (average of 12-15 students per class) for a total of 144-168 students every six weeks.

Is this possible? Yes. But with some major caveats: composition could NOT be the subject. In fact, I would argue that no subject requiring qualitative/subjective feedback would allow for this. Perhaps a hard science, math or the like COULD allow for this (standardized, automated test; defined course pack; limited to no teacher-student feedback/interaction), but then the prof is really not teaching is she.

So, by definition, good teaching really cannot stand up to that sort of load.

If you are able, somehow, to pull this off, let us know. Scrub the names, but give us the numbers. Is online adjuncting into six figures possible?

Give us some hope.

One Comment
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 9, 2008 7:12 pm

    Yes, it’s certainly possible. Norwich University pays $8,000/seminar in their various grad programs. Do, say 6 a year and you’re halfway there. There’s lots of feedback required, but if you’re not otherwise employed, doable (I did it while teaching f/t on a 4/4). Now add other classes elsewhere, and low 6 figures is possible.


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