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Can I Get a Tenure Track Position at a Community College With a Master's Degree?

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While many people may think that you need a Ph.D. to be professor, they'd be wrong on several counts. While many college professors doctorate degrees, they don't all have one. A master's degree is generally the minimum requirement and can even be the norm at some schools, including community colleges.

Understanding Tenure

A tenured professor is a faculty member who has a continuous contract from a college, and a tenure-track professor is eligible for tenure but hasn't been granted it yet. Tenure-track positions are coveted. To achieve tenure, faculty members must meet set criteria and excel in the annual performance evaluations. The professor may be evaluated on his contribution to the college's mission or on individual goals and objectives. Unlike research universities, community colleges value teaching and expect professors to excel in classroom instruction. Tenure is used to retain the best teachers.

Minimum Requirements

In general, a minimum of a master's degree is required to teach at the community college level and to hold a tenured position. However, there are exceptions often made in certain fields. Some majors may require a bachelor's degree and two years of professional experience, or they may require a bachelor's degree and a set number of graduate credits in the discipline. The requirements can also vary by state or by community college.

Advancement and Progression

Tenure doesn't come easy. Faculty members are expected to serve a set number of probationary years before they achieve tenure. In some cases, new faculty with prior experience elsewhere may receive credit for that service. Professors may hold different titles en route to tenure or in conjunction. Instructors generally have a minimum of a master's degree in their field and spend the majority of their time teaching. An assistant professor has mastered the position of instructor. An associate professor is a midlevel professor who has likely earned tenure. A full professor generally has tenure and is a leader in his field.

Finding Tenure-Track Positions

Community colleges advertise tenure-track positions and the requirements on their websites and job boards. You can also find jobs posted on national job boards such as or the "Chronicle of Higher Education." Gaining teaching experience while still in graduate school can increase your odds of being hired because as classroom teaching experience and an understanding for the community college student population is important. Part-time or adjunct faculty positions can help you get experience and get your foot in the door, possibly leading to a tenure-track position down the road.


Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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