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At SLAC's we teach anything and everything. Probably true in any small department as well. Sometimes, you have to develop a class because the curriculum needs it.

My AOS was in ancient--now teach ethics (theory and applied several areas), logic, other areas of history, and some general ed-interdisciplinary stuff for non-majors (probably have around 11 classes I offer on a regular rotation (some every year, some every two, some every four).

So in small departments expect to develop a wide range of courses.

Marcus Arvan

Jason: yes, at CCs and SLACs it's very common. My AOS are ethics and social-political, but I teach courses in all kinds of other areas.

Lewis Powell

You should definitely be prepared to teach survey courses in any of your AOCs, as well as more advanced courses in your AOSs, at the drop of a hat. In reality, you should also be prepared to be asked to teach introductory courses in just about any area.


Not just CC's and SLAC's. I'm part of a smallish department at a regional state university. Everyone in my department teaches a course or two outside of his or her AOS.


Adjuncting is great prep for that. My AOS is philosophy of action. By this point I've taught medieval, nineteenth century, american philosophy, feminist theory... you name it! The disadvantage is that I find it extremely hard to get into something enough to teach it, but not enough to start researching it and forget all the things I was supposed to be working on.

Jason Chen

Thank you all for those responses. I'm a bit confused as to what an adjunct instructor is. Does that just mean that you're temporary?

Marcus Arvan

Yes, an adjunct is not a full time member of the faculty. Unfortunately, wages for adjuncts are usually very, very low -- somewhere on the order of $3000 per course per semester. This is really important to know if you are looking for teaching work.

David Morrow

You are an adjunct if you are hired on a per-course basis. It is different from, e.g., a visiting assistant professor (VAP) position, which is a temporary but full-time, salaried position.

In some places (especially big cities), you can work as an adjunct while in graduate school. It can be a good way to develop teaching skills and experience, but the pay is not very good. An increasing number of people work full-time as adjuncts while trying to land a full-time job. This often requires working at multiple schools and teaching five or more courses a semester to make ends meet.

In response to your original question: Your AOS (area of specialization) is the area in which you expect to publish. Your AOCs (areas of competence) are areas in which you could teach non-introductory-level undergraduate courses. Most philosophers have AOCs outside their AOS and are expected to teach courses in those areas.

Jason Chen

Thanks again for the info. This sounds like it would be unwise to relocate for an adjunct position. Correct?


Generally, yes, relocating for an adjunct position does not make much sense: you'd likely have to teach at least one class just to pay for relocation expenses. I can think of two cases where it might make sense. (1) If you're at a location where it is extremely difficult to find adjuncting work, but you need to teach, it make be useful to move to a city with some colleges. (2) You've been offered a high-paying adjuncting position at a prestigious school that will look good on your CV, submissions, etc, and lead to good contacts. (Of course those school usually have their own grad students for teaching purposes.)

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