According to The Just-In-Time Professor, a report by U.S. House of Representative staffers, "more than one million people are now working as contingent faculty and instructors at U.S. institutions of higher education".
Despite covering college and university freelance faculty in the past (they're called adjunct faculty), we were a surprised by how large this number is. They make up roughly 50% of all university faculty members, up from just 20% in 1970.
The report is none too positive about this shift. Key quote:
The tenure-track college professor with a stable salary, firmly grounded in the middle or upper-middle class, is becoming rare. Taking her place is the contingent faculty: non-tenure track teachers such as part-time adjuncts or graduate instructors, with no job security from one semester to the next, working at a piece rate with few or no benefits across multiple workplaces, and far too often struggling to make ends meet.
The report goes on to say how poorly paid and treated adjunct faculty is. If this interests you, read the report or take a look at our last article on this topic. It summarizes the woes of adjunct faculty.
More interesting to me is the fact that 50% of all university/college professors are contingent.
A big question we grapple with is over the long term what percent of total employment is going to become contingent.
Our current view is over the next decade total contingent employment will approach 50% (meaning somewhere around 48%) of total private employment. We believe it's currently in the 33% to 35% range.
Seeing that this profession is already at 50% - and likely to climb much higher according to the report - gives us more confidence in our forecast.