Tips for negotiating your salary when you’re offered a faculty job

You’ve received THE phone call. The dean (or director) has called to offer you the faculty job that you interviewed for.

What are issues you should consider in negotiating the faculty job position?

I’ve been asked that question by doctoral students who are in the job market, and I thought I’d share my advice in my blog. (I’d also be interested in advice others would offer.)

In this post, I’ll discuss the starting salary and general benefits. In the next post, I’ll talk about other issues to consider, such as support for travel to professional conferences.

Importance of your starting salary

Your starting salary is important, in part, because that salary will be the basis of most of your raises. Many universities base raises – such as when a faculty member is promoted from assistant to associate professor or receives a merit pay raise – on a percentage of the faculty member’s salary. Those raises can range from 1.5 percent for merit pay increase to 5 to 10 percent for a promotion.

The starting salary is important for university professors because faculty typically don’t receive big raises or bonuses in their careers. Most of one’s salary raises are based on modest cost-of-living increases, such as a 3 percent raise one year. And many years, there may be no cost of living raise.

Comparing faculty salaries

In trying to evaluate the salary offer, you may be able to check online the salaries of others at the same rank (i.e., instructor, assistant professor) in the school or college you are receiving the offer from. Looking at salaries for assistant professor in other schools or colleges even at the same university isn’t that useful. Faculty salaries are based in large part on what the competitive salary would be outside the academy. So faculty in colleges of engineering, law, business and medicine are making much more than faculty in colleges/schools of communications or education.

So look at salaries of assistant professors in the college or school. You may not be able to tell from the list if those are salaries for nine months or 12 months. Some salaries may look higher than what you’ve been offered because your offer is for a nine-month position and the salaries listed online include summer employment. Also realize that some faculty may have been “special” hires. Sometimes someone is hired because they bring special status and receives a higher salary as compared to other faculty of the same rank.

If you are comparing salaries with others in the same field but at a different university, be sure to consider the difference in cost of living.

How to negotiate a higher salary than the initial offer

This can be challenging, as talking about salary can be difficult and this is one of your first conversations with the dean or director. But when you are being offered the position is the time to talk about salary, rather than signing the contract and then hoping to negotiate a raise once you are in the job.

Typically, the job was established with a salary range. So asking for an increase in the starting salary often is possible – but only to a certain point. That’s why you often have to consider other options for making the offer as strong as possible.

For example, you can say that you’ve looked online and see that the last assistant professors who were hired are earning more than your offer. You would expect that your salary should be at a comparable level.

Benefits are another area to consider

The benefits established by the university for faculty members do make a difference in your overall financial situation. Health benefits and retirement contributions (the university’s and your own) are important financial considerations. Issues like assistance in job placement for a spouse/partner, family leave, sabbatical policies, or health benefits for a domestic partner are key factors for some faculty members.

Universities typically have a website detailing employee benefits. Some of those benefits – such as job assistance for a spouse – can be brought up by you during the campus visit. But you’ve got to decide if you want to raise the issue at that stage of the process or wait until you have been offered the job.

I’m interested in what tips others would offer about negotiating the starting salary.

In the next post, I’ll discuss some of the other issues you may consider in negotiating your final offer.

2 comments

  1. […] in saying “yes” to the position but want to try to get as good an offer as possible. In a previous post, I talked about considerations related to salary and benefits. But those aren’t the only issues […]

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  2. […] want to know how to prepare for a career showcase. Graduate students wanted advice on  how to negotiate a faculty job offer. Colleagues and teaching assistants asked curriculum questions, such as how to incorporate active […]

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