Be prepared to negotiate the job offer as part of the faculty job process

An important part of what your faculty position will be happens between when you are offered the position and when you accept the offer (if you do, in fact, accept the offer). If you are going to make any improvements in the offer (i.e., starting salary, course load, etc.), now is the time to negotiate those. Once you’ve accepted the position, getting anything added to the offer can be difficult. So you are in your best negotiating position before you accept the position.

Before considering what you hope to negotiate, keep in mind your BIG goals:

  1. Securing a faculty position.
  2. Starting the position on a positive note for both yourself and the college/department administration.

Those two factors affect how much you should try to negotiate and how firmly you stick to your desired terms. Especially in today’s economy with cuts in higher education, the college may not be able to improve your offer significantly. However, almost always, a few adjustments could be made that could improve the offer.

As you wait for the phone call from the director/dean making you the offer, you should develop a list of what issues you are interested in discussing as considerations when you are offered the position. Have that list at hand for when you receive the phone call of offer.

The initial call with the offer typically comes from the dean or director. That’s when you are told the salary offer and any other major issues, such as your teaching load. You should have your list at hand and be ready to ask about other factors that will influence your decision as to whether you accept the position.

Here are some of the factors that you might consider in negotiating the offer.

Salary – Faculty positions often have a salary range of at least a few thousand dollars to account for the candidate’s experience, publication level, etc. So you usually can ask for a salary at least $2,000 above what you were offered. You may be told no or may be given the offer of $1,000. This is somewhat like selling a house. You want to get the best salary offer but not ask for such an increase that you shut down the negotiations. With public colleges and universities, you can find salaries posted online and find out what faculty are earning and what the most recent hires are being paid. One reason that salary is so important is that almost all increases you receive during your faculty career are based on a percentage increase of your salary. So the higher your starting salary, the more each of those salary increases will be.

Summer funding – Most faculty are on a nine-month appointment. Sometimes those other three months are crucial for faculty with research and publication demands. However, most faculty need some type of funding support during those three months to keep paying their bills. Some faculty are offered summer teaching. Some colleges and universities have summer research funding. You may have asked about these options during your campus visit. In your offer conversation, you can ask about your summer appointment and funding.

Funding for professional conferences – Attending professional conferences is an important aspect of faculty success, espeically for those on a tenure-track appointment. When a faculty member goes through tenure review, typically one has to demonstrate achievement in the field, which can be demonstrated in part by making presentations a professional conferences. These conferences also are the time to make crucial connections with colleagues in the field. So you will want your college to fund a certain number of conferences. Many colleges provide a set amount per faculty member per year.  The faculty member then has to decide how best to use that funding for professional travel.

Teaching load and course preparations – When you made your campus visit, you should have begun the discussion about what courses you would teach and how many courses you would teach each semester. Often the college has a set requirement, but that can differ if you are expected to do research or if you have a teaching appointment. Sometimes you can negotiate a course reduction your first year, as you are getting settled into a new job or if you are developing a new course. You also may want to try and negotiate how many different courses you will be teaching. Carrying a three-three load (teaching three courses each semester) is different if you are teaching the same three courses both semesters or if you are teaching three courses one semester and three different courses the next semester.

Employment support for spouse – Some universities have an office that assists faculty spouses (or domestic partners) locate employment. Most higher ed institutions provide at least some level of support for spouse/partner employment, as that can be a crucial part of the job’s appeal for some candidates. That may have been something you asked about during your campus visit or you may not, as you didn’t want to add another variable to selecting you as the candidate to hire. Check on the college or university’s website to see what is posted there.

Computer and software – More and more faculty jobs require the use of computers — creating class presentations with Keynote or PowerPoint, setting up and operating a course management system with a course blog or campus management system (such as Blackboard), and analyzing research data. During your campus visit, you probably talked with the administration and with faculty members about the technology situation. If you are going to be teaching courses that require computer use, such as teaching in a computer lab, you also will want to ask about software upgrades for your office computer and the lab computers.

Benefits such as health care and retirement are spelled out in the university or college guidelines, which are posted online. Don’t try to negotiate any changes in this area.

When you receive the phone call of offer, start off by focusing on what the director/dean is saying and then being positive about the position. Even if you hope to improve the offer, you don’t want to jump right into your negotiating list. You want to establish a positive connection with the director/dean.

At the end of the conversation, you want to ask for some time to make your decision.

That also can give the dean/director time, if needed, to determine the response to your negotiating requests. Sometimes the director/dean will be able to respond to your request (such as a salary increase) right then. With other requests, the director/dean may need to check with the department chair or others before giving you an answer.

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