The EIS trade union said its members are taking the action as a last resort following the failure of management to offer a fair deal.
The strike programme is scheduled to continue until the summer and will escalate to two and then three days per week if no resolution is reached.
A total of 32 days’ of industrial action is planned.
College staff have been offered a wage rise of 1% but the union wants action to tackle the wide variation in pay across the sector.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Management side negotiators have dragged their feet for well over a year, before finally making a completely unacceptable pay offer that fails to make any attempt to address pay inequities across the sector.
“Some colleges have refused to take part in negotiations at all, highlighting the non-delivery of a national bargaining process that was promised to lecturers by colleges and the Scottish Government.
“The recent threat by colleges to impose their unfair offer on lecturers was the final straw, and has forced EIS-Fela (Further Education Lecturers’ Association) members into this strike action today.”
The EIS said 88% of college members who voted in a ballot backed industrial action.
Two days of action are planned next week and the week beginning April 18.
Thereafter, staff will strike three days – Tuesday to Thursday – each week until June 23.
A strike support fund is being established to support members whose salaries will be disproportionally affected, such as part-time lecturers who would normally work on the planned strike days.
EIS-Fela president John Kelly said: “The Scottish Government and college management promised a return to national bargaining in the college sector, and the creation of fair national pay scales for lecturers.
“After a year-and-a-half of negotiations, neither of these commitments has been met and colleges now intend to impose a pay settlement that would widen, rather than narrow, pay inequity across the sector.
“We hope that our support-staff colleagues, students and the wider community will understand our reasons for taking this action as we seek a fair pay settlement and delivery of the promises that were made to lecturers.”
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