School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Andrea M. Bruce


burnout, adjunct professor, higher education institutions, excessive workloads, lack of resources, exhaustion, time pressure, effects of burnout


Educational Leadership | Higher Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand the lived experiences of burnout among adjunct professors at higher education institutions. The central research question guiding this study was what are the lived experiences of burnout among adjunct professors at higher education institutions? This study found that adjunct professors burned-out due to their higher education institutions’ unreasonable work expectations, tight deadlines, and lack of resources. Using the guiding theory of job demands and resources (JD-R) developed by Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, and Schaufeli, the phenomenon’s essence was discovered as it highlighted how excessive work demands and a lack of resources lead to burnout experiences. The snowballing method was used to recruit 11 adjunct professors who provided rich and thick accounts of their lived experiences using three types of data collection: an open-ended survey, a reflective journal, and a semi-structured interview. The data were analyzed using Moustakas’ modified version of van Kaam’s phenomenological analysis approach, which discovered four main themes, six sub-themes, and contextual data, then coded using Delve’s coding guidelines for qualitative researchers. Data were triangulated to synthesize the descriptions to detail the essence of the adjunct professors’ lived experiences of burnout. Burnout among adjunct professors affects students and institutions. The implications of this study revealed the potential need to optimize job demands, job resources, and personal resources for adjunct professors. Because adjunct professors make up a significant portion of the higher education sector, it is vital to understand their specific concerns. Adjunct professors are essential to higher education institutions and should be honored for their contributions.