How to Get Your First Online Teaching Job with a Masters Degree and Little to No Experience

woman at laptop computer in library

By Dani Babb, PhD

Hi there, aspiring academic rockstar! I know, I've been doing this for years. It seems impossible to get that very first job with little to no experience, and a "only a masters degree". First, stop.. it isn't "only a masters"..YOU HAVE A MASTERS! That is a huge undertaking and it does have merit and weight in academia. You will be able to teach some masters courses, and most undergraduate courses. You also have some work experience (maybe a lot of work experience), so don't forget that too.

The move into online higher education is a journey filled with new challenges and boundless opportunities. The opportunities are different today than when I wrote the book Make Money Teaching Online, but many of the principles have remained the same. I update my knowledge and insight routinely to bring you pertinent information to what's going on today. In this blog, I'll equip you with the essential tools and strategies to seamlessly transition into the realm of academia, leveraging your industry expertise and your impressive master's degree. Let's dive in!

Preparation is Key: To kickstart your academic journey, it's crucial to equip yourself with the right tools. Picture this as your backstage preparation before stepping onto the grand academic stage. You'll need a professionally written CV, a compelling statement of teaching philosophy, if you are interested in research courses you will need a research statement, a compiled PDF of all of your unofficial transcripts to date, a copy of your ID for job applications in PDF format, and a dazzling LinkedIn profile where you write about or share articles about higher education or your area of discipline . While I highly recommend seeking the expertise of services like ours for in-depth mentoring and career counseling, here are a few general tips to get you started on the right foot.

Demonstrate Your Expertise: Many recent graduates or "new to education" professionals feel that they need to show their experience in education, yet they have none. Likely, you do. Follow me here. When I write CVs, I notice all the time that someone held a brown bag seminar at work or they held an education-based community event, or write books to teach others something about what they love or know. When faced with the question of how to break into academia without prior experience, I encourage you to explore online tutoring as a first job, or even create your own classes on a site like Coursera or Udemy to bridge the gap between your industry background and the classroom. You won't get rich doing it, but you will get to show this experience. You may also want to contact local professors and ask them if you can be a guest speaker in their virtual or on-ground course. Professors love it, students love it, and you can build your CV! By showcasing how your real-world experience can enrich the learning environment, you demonstrate your unique value and passion for education. It's a powerful way to kick down the door and make your presence known.

Start Local and Expand: To gain a foothold in academia, consider starting at the local level. Apply to community colleges and continuing education programs, where your expertise can make a profound impact. You can often walk into human resources or even a dean's office, confidently introduce yourself, and hand over your professionally written CV. (You've noticed CV already - do not apply with a resume!) Think of it as a stepping stone towards broader horizons. Building a solid foundation in your local academic community can open doors to greater opportunities down the road. Many of the academics I have worked with for years prefer community colleges as the pay is often better than online for-profit colleges and the environment, too.

Harness the Power of LinkedIn: Ah, the realm of LinkedIn, where connections flourish and professional narratives are woven. Don't underestimate the power of this platform. Many of us use this to get most of our jobs. In fact, if you are in my teaching group many of the jobs I post are from Deans who send them to me to share. Sometimes I have an opportunity to send your CV right on, and I do that. Ensure your profile is not only searchable but also brimming with rich content that showcases your achievements, expertise, and educational aspirations. Stand out from the crowd by actively engaging with relevant groups, reaching out to professionals in your field, and attending local networking events. Each connection has the potential to lead you closer to your dream academic position. We have a service to do that from the best LinkedIn networker I know.

Expand Your Network: Networking is the lifeblood of academia. Connect with professionals in your field, join relevant professional associations, and actively participate in conferences and workshops (not just virtual ones - shake hands if you can, meet people, have lunch, swap self-made business cards). By sharing your knowledge and insights as a guest speaker or presenter, you establish yourself as a valuable asset in the academic community. Remember, every connection you make could lead to a referral or recommendation that propels your career forward. Don't forget to add this to your CV and LinkedIn!

Craft an Impressive CV and Cover Letter:

In academia, a comprehensive CV holds more weight than a traditional resume. Ensure your CV is professionally written to highlight your relevant experience, qualifications, and skills. I have a brand new format from 2023 insight and have used it already with success. Tailor your application materials, including your cover letter, to the specific job requirements, emphasizing any teaching experience or coursework that aligns with the position you're pursuing. If you need help applying, we can help there too. It is quite arduous.

Embrace Flexibility: As you venture into the world of adjunct teaching, be open to teaching different courses or working at various institutions. You likely won't get your first choice college in the first year, or even five. But you can build a lucrative career with one full time job, or multiple part time jobs that lead to a rewarding and flexible career that is a bit more stable in terms of long term employment (losing one full time job can be devastating, losing 1 of 5 part time jobs is tough but likely, you can still pay the mortgage). This flexibility expands your opportunities and enhances your chances of landing your first academic position. Embrace the possibility of working evenings or teaching weekend classes, as it showcases your dedication and adaptability.

Patience is a Virtue: Breaking into academia may not happen overnight. It requires perseverance and patience. The wheels of academia turn at their own pace, so don't be discouraged by any delays or rejections along the way. Remember, every journey is unique, and your perfect opportunity may be just around the corner. Keep applying, keep networking, and stay persistent in your pursuit of an academic role. Trust your abilities and your determination with a positive mindset. The right opportunity will present itself. I've seen it happen thousands upon thousands of times.

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