The Two-Year College Job Search Process

This page is based on a handout prepared by Eric Baer, from Highline Community College, for the 2005 workshop on Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences. Eric writes, "These are broad generalizations based on my experiences. There is some variation school-to-school, but if you know the typical pattern, a minor change is not startling."


The search process is much more formal than at four-year colleges or universities and will not involve much personalization. Community colleges are, at their heart, open-access institutions and this includes their job searches. You will be treated EXACTLY the same as everyone else—down to the same wording of questions in the interview.

Step One: Find a Position

Full time, tenure track positions are almost always advertised in the Chronicle for Higher Education. ( This site may be offline. ) Each year there are as many as a hundred full-time geology jobs advertised in the Chronicle. Part-time or adjunct positions are sometimes advertised in local papers. Often, people who hire adjunct faculty just keep a file of applications, so if you are interested in an adjunct position at a particular school, send in an application today and re-send it once a year. Tenure track positions typically come out around January or February, and the selection process often lasts well into the spring.

Step Two: Apply

Fill out the application, including all requested materials. Often this includes a cover letter, teaching statement, and 3 letters of recommendation. The letters can be generic, but should be appropriate for a position at a two-year college. That is, they should emphasize your interest in teaching, not your desire to have a cutting edge research program. You can add any other additional materials (student evaluations, etc.), but some schools will not look at these in the interest of fairness.

Step Three: Get the Interview

The first job you need to do is convince a $7/hr Human Resources student-worker that you meet the minimum qualifications for the position. Be VERY clear in your application and your cover letter that you have met the minimum qualifications or your application will be round-filed before anyone sees it. This can be problematic if your degree is in, for instance, oceanography and the position requires a geology degree, even though you studied marine geology, or if you have a M.S. in physics and are finishing a Ph.D. in geophysics, but don't have a geology degree in hand.

Then a screening committee will meet to look at applications. Typically 2-5 people will be interviewed for the position. All who are interviewed are typically considered viable hires. Occasionally, the position will be reopened indicating 1) a lack of diversity in the applicant pool or 2) no applications were considered hirable.

The Interview

You will be invited onto campus. Most schools do not cover travel costs, but you can ask. You will then do a teaching demo. You will be given a topic and told to teach the interview committee as if they were your class. You need to be dynamic, interactive, and show good knowledge of the subject. Remember, all the other interviewees will be presenting on the same topic, so you have to stand out.

In the interactive part of the interview you will be read questions (7-10?) that typically cover everything from diversity issues, to teaching, to a test of your geologic knowledge. You will then get to ask the committee questions. I have always been shocked at the number of applicants who do not use this opportunity. At the very least you should ask what the committee is looking for (and then of course tell them how you are just the person to fit their needs!).

Most schools have a second interview with an administrator. This is more free-form, and is often a call-back for the top 2 or at most 3 candidates. The administrator will decide the final choice. You will then be called and given an offer of employment.

Step Five: The Acceptance

There is less room to negotiate at community colleges than at four-year colleges or universities. Pay scales are union negotiated, and for some schools you can discuss your placement on the pay scale, at others you can't. I have never heard of start up moneys at community colleges, but if you need particular equipment or teaching supplies to do the best job you can, you can discuss it.

A Final Note

Many applicants are uncomfortable asking many important questions like how many interviews are scheduled? How much is the pay? Where is the selection process? and so on. Feel free to call the Human Resources Department and ask these questions. They typically know the answers and the fact that you asked will almost never be passed on to the selection committee (they usually won't even ask your name—it is supposed to be an open process, so they give out this information freely). HR does not typically communicate with the selection committee except to give them the candidate's files.

Related Resources