Part I: What are some basics from the union contract?

Part II: What is the union-determined pay scale for 5+ credits/semester?
Part III: How should you apply and write the cover letter?

Part IV: How should you handle the interview?


Part I: What are some basics from the union contract?


Is there tenure?

  • Yes—for “unlimited full time” (UFT) hires (also known as “full time unlimited” or FTU)

  • How do you get a UFT job?  Almost always through a standard search committee selection

  • Is there a probationary period?  Yes.  3 yrs., during which administration can release you

  • After three years, what happens?  Tenure.  There are no “ranks” through which to rise, just automatic, scheduled pay levels.

  • Can part-timers/adjuncts get tenure?  No.  They must apply for it like all others.

What is the workload?

  • 30 credits per year.  Most courses are 3 cr., but a few may be 1-2 cr. or 4-5 cr.

  • What is a typical load in English? 3-5 courses/sem., depending on the school and courses

  • How many writing courses will you teach?  Usually all but one or two per year

  • What is the required workload?  30 cr./year.  Weekly, about 5 office hrs. and 15 class hrs. 

  • What sizes are classes? Typically, 25-32 in comp and 30-45 in lit, depending on the school

  • Is additional work required?  Yes, about 3-10% of added time is expected for misc. work for your college, and there are 5 required professional training days per year.

  • Semesters or quarters?  Two semesters, each w/17 classroom wks. and a wk. for final grading.

  • More $$ for choosing more work? Maybe during the year, some in summer, same $$ per cr.

If you have a full-time position, what is the pay?

  • What is a typical salary?  About $40,000-50,000 in the first year, with yearly increases.

  • What is everyone’s top pay?  In 2011-12 (on 2009 contract), it is $68,500 (more w/overtime).  (This will change slightly in 2014.)

  • How is pay decided?  Your years of teaching and level of education determine it as follows.

o    When hired, you will be placed on a “step” and in a “column.” 

o    There are 20 “steps.”  Each represents one year of teaching experience (not counting TA).

o    There are 5 “columns.”  A column represents your educational level:
    - Column I-II: bachelor’s degree or lower.
    - Column III: master’s degree with min. 15 grad. sem. cr. in listed “English” courses
    - Column IV: master’s/doctorate w/min. 30 grad. sem. cr. in Eng.
    - Column  V:  master’s/doctorate w/min. 45 grad. sem. cr. in Eng.

o    When you are first hired, the college helps you determine your column and step. 

o    All MnSCU adjunct work counts toward step placement; other experience might count.

  • How about benefits?  Very good.  And sabbaticals are every 7th year.

  • Are there more specific salary details?  See pay step/column amounts in chart below.

If you work as an adjunct, what is the pay?

  • Adjunct pay is great if you teach 5 credits or more per semester: it is the same per credit as full-time work: e.g., teach 50% time and receive 50% of a full-time person’s pay.

  • How do you determine pay level for 5 or more credits per semester?  See “full time” above. 

  • What happens if you teach fewer than 5 cr. in a semester?  You are paid $525-1200 per credit (the equivalent of about $16,000-36,000/yr.), with $100/cr. increases each year, up to a max. of $1200/cr. (as of 2009 contract).

  • Are there any special secrets to getting the best deal in pay?  Yes, there are two.  First, take the time to get your placement in the step and column chart well and carefully done: it is harder to correct it later.  Second, to get the higher pay per credit through teaching 5 cr. or more in a semester, you may seek your credits at more than one community or technical college.  E.g., if you teach 1 cr. at Normandale CC, 1 at Anoka-Ramsey, and 3 at Minnea-polis CTC, you have your min. of 5 cr. and are on the full-time equivalent salary scale.

  • For pay levels, see below.  For your likely column and step placement, see above.

  • Do adjuncts get benefits?  It depends.  50% work earns 50% health benefits; 76% work earns 100% health benefits.  You get retirement benefits on a percentage-of-full-time basis.


Part II: What is the union-determined pay scale for 5+ credits/semester?
          The following is a condensation of the current (2009) pay scale in all public two-year colleges (community and technical) in MnSCU.  (This will change slightly in 2014.)  The original shows pay amounts for each of the twenty years on the scale, and more detail about the “column” education levels, as well.  Note that all people hired to full-time English positions start in Column III or higher, and usually at a few steps higher than “1 year” (depending on the person’s experience). 


          Each amount shown below represents a full-time position for nine months of teaching, or 30 cr.  (Summer or overload work increases each of the amounts shown below.)  Note that English positions always require an absolute min. of an MA (“Column III”).



              (Below Bach.)       (Bachelor’s) (MA w/15 cr. in Eng) (MA/PhD w/30)  (MA/PhD w/45)


  1 yr.        33,500             37,000             40,500             44,000             47,500

  2 yrs.       35,250             38,750             42,250             45,750             49,250

12 yrs.       52,750             56,250             59,750             63,250             68,500 (top pay)

14 yrs.       56,250             59,750             63,250             68,500             68,500   

16 yrs.       59,750             63,250             68,500             68,500             68,500

18 yrs.       63,250             68,500             68,500             68,500             68,500

20 yrs.       68,500             68,500             68,500             68,500             68,500


How useful is the info in Parts I-II?

  • These guidelines are controlled by union contract.

  • They are mostly right (as of 2-12) but not guaranteed to be perfectly so.

  • They are from the most recent contract (2009): later versions will have some differences.

  • These guidelines are extremely simplified: the entire contract typically is over 150 pp.

  • There are many small exceptions, additions, and interpretations for these guidelines.


Part III: How should you apply and write the cover letter?


How does the hiring process start in the two-year community/technical colleges?  When full time positions become available, the dean of English builds a search committee from volunteers.  Often this search committee is composed of at least one administrator (almost always the dean), one staff person (preferably a staffer working in a field or job related to English), sometimes at least one teacher from another discipline, and usually at least two English people.  I have served on a search committee composed of a total of only four people; for my present job, there were perhaps six or eight people in English on the search committee in addition to one or two from another discipline and an administrator.


The job is advertised at a state and often a national level.  As applications pour in—for metro area jobs, typically 100-200 people apply—the school’s human resources division will, usually, look at all applications and remove all that either (a) are incomplete or (b) don’t meet the minimum requirements.  The remaining applications (perhaps 50-80% of the initial total) will then be viewed by the search committee.  There are various ways of breaking up the initial review of applications, but it is done in such a way that any possibly strong application likely will be seen by at least two English people.  Often reviewers use a rubric to rank applications.  Then, in larger searches, they usually meet to choose who to interview in person.


How should you start applying? Simply watch the MnSCU website for job openings or respond to those in a newspaper.  Follow the online directions carefully and explicitly.  Once a job opening occurs, it won’t help you to make a separate communication to the dean just to improve your chances (except to send a thank you note); he or she should not be in individual contact with you in any way that would be perceived as coaching once a search has started.  If you absolutely must contact the dean or the Human Resources officer about something, do so very briefly, courteously, and efficiently. 


When you apply, follow all the online requests and requirements explicitly and thoroughly.  Don’t assume that something needn’t be repeated: the search committee may only receive parts of online documents, not everything you submitted, so if you’re not sure, then repeat.  Also, be sure that your credentials actually show you have experience and/or training in both the “required” and the “preferred” qualifications, especially for jobs in the metro area.  On the one hand, while search committees (perhaps more often for outstate positions) may go with the best candidate regardless of what the preferred qualifications may say, on the other hand, usually—and especially for metro-area jobs—the preferred qualifications must also be met.   


If, for example, the preferred qualifications say that a developmental writing teacher is preferred, you better (a) know what that means, (b) emphasize this part of your C.V., and (c) be ready to mention it in an interview.  Those with both training and experience in a preferred area usually have a moderate to necessary advantage. 


Is a PhD required or helpful? It is worth noting that one important exception to the stated preferences as discussed above is a PhD.  The importance of having a PhD, even when stated as a preference, can vary dramatically depending on the committee members, the year, and the school.  While many search committee members prefer a candidate with a PhD and some may even require it, often someone with a very strong teaching or related record may have an equal chance.  If you are a wonderful teacher with a lot of experience in teaching, and/or if you have significantly more training and/or education than needed for just a simple MA in English, then you still may be a highly competitive candidate. 


Is a master’s in something other than “English” a problem? You should be aware that if you do not have an MA in English, but rather something like an MFA or, perhaps, an MS in English Education, some schools may be less likely to select you for an interview.  Whether this is fair is another issue.  The fact is that some English search committees prefer people who have studied literature or composition rather than methods of teaching or of creative writing.  As with the PhD, much depends on the committee, school, and year.

How should you prepare your CV? Tailor your CV to fit the stated job requirements and preferences.  It is fine to have a lengthy CV.  My own is ten pages long.  What I do is create a quick summary of ½-1 page in length at the beginning, especially so I can highlight applicable experience.  However, do show the entire CV: remember that English people are very good at skimming info quickly.  For that reason, too, your CV should be, graphically, easy to read—in organization, headers, et al.  And do NOT simply offer a web address for your CV.  While it’s good to offer one, copy the CV into the web form you are asked to use: some reviewers will not want to go to a separate website or, if they have printed out the materials, cannot go to it.


What goes into the cover letter?  One of the saddest things to see in a candidate’s materials is a very short cover letter.  Writing a strong cover letter is a necessary art.  The letter should be at least one full page; if you can keep it really very interesting, one-and-a-half to two pages is allowable. 


A good cover letter shows you are interested especially in that school and that department for specific reasons.  It also shows familiarity with Minnesota two-year college pedagogical terminology such as “critical thinking,” “developmental writing,” “developmental reading,” “process writing,” “D2L” or other courseware used by the school, “online teaching,” “hybrid teaching,”  et al. 


A great cover letter conveys how much you love working with the kind of students that particular school has, how you can use your previous teaching and other experience to work with the diverse student body at that particular school, and how you use technology and other pedagogical tools in such a way that the school’s types of students will benefit from your teaching. 


A superior cover letter often starts and ends with a story and has several short anecdotes or stories throughout, it is perfectly edited (this is the field of English, after all), it is stylistically enjoyable to read, and it doesn’t waste words.  In addition, if you have any special needs or conditions that will be obvious to students, then it may be helpful to briefly mention them and explain how you use them as a strength in the classroom. 


Also go to the school’s web site and read everything you can about the department’s courses, know what courses you can teach and what you can’t, and get a general feel on the website for the school itself.  And, once you’ve done this, make at least two or three casual references to specific information on the website when you write your cover letter.  This will indicate to reviewers that you have done your homework and actually know about the school and the department’s teaching.


And after you’ve read about the school—and before you write your cover letter—reach out, if possible, to someone at that school, talk with him or her about what the department is like, what needs it has, and ask questions based on what you have read about the school.


Part IV: How should you interview?


When will you find out about being interviewed? Once you’ve sent in your application by the deadline, prepare to simply wait.  You may wait several weeks if you are to be interviewed before receiving a phone call—and perhaps a month or two if you will not be interviewed before receiving a rejection letter. 


If you even get to the interview stage, consider it a special honor.  You likely are one of only five or ten people selected from 100-200 candidates in the metro area searches and perhaps 50-100 in the outstate Minnesota.  In fact, if you get to the interview stage—especially more than once but sometimes even if it’s happened only once—it is worth mentioning in a cover letter or the interview itself.  It makes you a more desirable candidate. 

What happens in the interview?  You'll likely be interviewed by several people-a mix of the dean who will be your boss, 2-5 Eng. Dept. members, and one or two faculty members from other disciplines and/or staff people interested in English.  You will have a certain amount of time, perhaps ½-1 hr., to answer the questions, 10-20 minutes for questions you may have, and 10-15 min. for a teaching demonstration.


Can you prepare for the interview?  You bet!  If you are chosen for an interview, here is how you should get ready:


·   Review the school’s and department’s websites and the English course offerings again, especially just a day or two before the interview.

·   If you have a contact at that school, talk with him or her about what the department is like, what needs it has, etc.

·   Prepare in your mind and on paper (because you are allowed to take notes into most interviews) how you might answer several standard questions such as “What is your best/worst experience in teaching, how, why, and/or what did you learn from it,” “How did you develop as an English teacher,” “Why do you want to teach (or how much are you committed to teaching)  composition/developmental writing,” “What special skills do you have that will help you serve the college in general,” et al.  Dream up questions.  All the questions will be asked in exactly the same way of each candidate.  You may (or may not) be given the set questions ½-1 hr. before the actual interview.

·   Prepare and practice, out loud a few times, several possible teaching demonstrations.  A teaching demonstration most commonly involves teaching the search committee for ten minutes on how to create a thesis sentence, how to revise a paper, or how to include research or quotations in a paper.  Every candidate is assigned the same teaching demonstration (or a choice among two or three options).  Some search committees assign it when you choose an interview time; others do not give it to you until ½-1 hr. before your interview. 
          When you prepare it, be ready to showcase several methods of teaching, even if you only have 10 minutes: e.g., a 2-minute lecture, a 1-min. exercise, a 2-min. guided Q-&-A, 2 min. of group work, and brief final reports from groups.  Remember that just as in a classroom, any schedule you have made may be derailed, so be ready, too, for what you will do if it happens.  Usually, the 10-20 min. limit for your demonstration is absolute because of the schedule that the search committee must maintain for seeing several candidates, and some committees actually judge candidates by how well they keep to a required deadline. 

·   Occasionally, a search committee may also give you 20-30 minutes before or after an interview to grade a paper.  It usually will be a paper with serious flaws and, sometimes, serious strengths.  It probably will be a short developmental or early-college level paper.

·   Some search committees will allow you to have handouts prepared for the teaching demonstration.  You may bring these and ask if you can use them (if they apply).  They should be prepared as if you are giving them to students for—or following—a lesson.   Similarly, if you have something prepared or available online, you may ask ahead of time if there will be online access.  During the search for my current position, I was able to give a handout thesis structure during my teaching demonstration (even though I didn’t know what the subject would be until just before the interview), and I also was able to attach a grading rubric to a paper I was asked to grade—and actually refer to it in my written comments on the paper.

·   Be prepared in the teaching demonstration—in both what you will say and what you might hand out—to engage the search committee members at several levels.  A very good teaching point presentation or handout often has several levels of thinking presented in each part, so that while you are “teaching” students that may be at a very low, introductory, pre-college writing level, you also are presenting bits of information interesting to the search committee at their own level.  If, for example, you exemplify a good thesis sentence, you might give three levels of example—one simple one obviously meant for developmental students, a second one for mid-Composition I students, and a third that represents a rather sophisticated and advanced statement of argument. 

·   Also be prepared for surprises and, sometimes, mild tricks.  In one search, I was asked—after I arrived at the interview—to pretend to work one-on-one with a student who just couldn’t understand a key writing step.  One of the committee members played the role of the developmental-level student; others watched.  At that school, I also had to teach a real class for ten minutes on how to develop a thesis sentence.  In another search as a committee member, I watched another committee member—the dean—purposely create the same distraction during each candidate’s teaching demonstration: the dean would take out his cell phone, dial, and start talking on it.  Candidates’ responses showed experience, confidence, and classroom demeanor. 


Is there any special method or trick that can help?  There are several.  One is to be well rested and confident: if necessary, stay home from your job or school for the hours before your interview.  Another key is to be—and appear—well prepared.  A third is be friendly and professional.  Concerning being professional, do dress up: wear a suit.  You might want to wear removable layers: then, if you feel extremely overdressed when you get in the interview—or perhaps especially for your teaching demonstration—you can remove a coat or scarf.


In terms of actual content, one excellent method of handling the CV, cover letter, and interview that has helped me on several occasions is that when I know what I am going to say or do, I then ask myself, “After I answer the obvious, how can I take this up a notch so my answer is special or unique?"  At the interview that got me my current position, for example, I shook hands with each committee member when I entered the room—and then I noted that I do this as my very first and last interaction with every single one of my students each semester.  (Note that I might not have been able to use this to my advantage if I didn’t like doing it and if I didn’t use it as a pedagogical tool with every student.) 


            Another method or trick is to avoid being or appearing negative.  Show that you are positive, never mean, and do not be negative about, or apologize for, anything about yourself.  The only exception is when you are asked the typical question, “What is your biggest problem/fault in teaching, and how do you cope with it,” or “What is the biggest mistake in teaching you ever made?”  Then, for an answer, you should (1) choose something that shows you are a good problem solver, (2) say you have chosen “one of the biggest problems,” and (3) state not only the problem but also how you solved and learned from it. 


            A final trick is in asking questions: (1) It is usually wise to have at least two or three questions, to show your interest.  (2) Never ask questions that can be answered obviously in the job qualifications, the school’s general website, and the English department’s website and list of courses.  (3) Try to ask questions as further clarification of something you have already looked up: e.g., “I see that you have a number of traditional composition classes and also many online sections of composition—which kind would you be interested in my teaching if I am hired?”  A question like this not only helps satisfy your own curiosity but also shows you have studied the school beforehand.




            These suggestions are especially helpful for applying in the Minnesota two-year public college system, both community and technical.  The same union represents both the community and technical colleges, hence a similarity of rules, guidelines, and searches.  Though the Minnesota state universities are part of the same system (MnSCU), their searches are controlled in part by a different union, so their searches may be somewhat different.  (Note that searches for adjunct faculty often are very different—sometimes just casual hiring by a dean, at other times a semi-formal gathering of a dean and a couple of department members.) 


So, in summary, these recommendations are especially accurate for the two-year college part of the MnSCU system.  In addition, searches for full-time faculty in all good, HLC (Higher Learning Commission) accredited colleges and universities throughout the U.S. have similar searches, needs, and parameters, so these guidelines are to some extent useful everywhere.  What is especially helpful, though, at these other schools is to know—or find—someone in the same college or system who can tell you what a search is like at that college, just as you are doing by reading this.  


The most helpful recommendation is to keep applying: very few people find a full-time position in just one search.  A typical search may involve dozens or even hundreds of candidates.  Just being interviewed indicates how close you are.  Take every interview you get: the experience is great practice.  How do you turn an interview into a job?  It requires the right time and place, the right candidate and committee, and, often, a little bit of intuitive magic.  You can help set the stage for all of these by preparing well ahead of time.  


Most recent update: March 31, 2013

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