Negotiating a faculty job offer — factors beyond salary

What you’re hoping for — the call from the dean offering you a faculty job position.

You are interested 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 to consider.

Sometimes you are negotiating for other money issues that are separate from your salary. Those funds give you more income but aren’t your salary. Universities or schools often are limited on the salary range due to a number of issues; however, there often are other funds available.

Summer funding – Most faculty are on nine-month contracts, whereas administrators are on 12-month contracts. Here are several ways to obtain summer funding:

  • Teach during the summer term – That summer salary often is based on a percentage of your regular salary.
  • Summer research money – In our college, for example, you can apply for summer research money. You submit a proposal for your research, and you receive a summer stipend. That’s preferable to teaching summer school if you have research expectations. Summer often is the best time to commit a block of time to a research project. If you are teaching summer school, you won’t have time for research.
  • Grant funding that includes support for summer research – Faculty often are interested in obtaining a grant to fund their summer research. But as a new faculty member, you typically won’t be able to develop a grant proposal quickly enough to get funded for the first summer.
  • Taking on special duties in the summer – For example, you might be in charge of a study abroad program or a high school outreach program.

Receiving research support – Definitely ask about research support. This will be important (and perhaps very important) to you for tenure and promotion.

Attending professional conferences – Attending a several-day conference (held in the US) typically can cost more than $1,500 with airfare, hotel and meals. So you could negotiate how many conferences you could attend annually. Attending conferences would help your productivity and help you develop important contacts in your academic field. Be sure to get that in writing and indicating that this would be for a certain number of years, as you wouldn’t want this to be one-time only.

Having a research assistant – You can request having a research assistant. That money won’t show up in your salary but can be very helpful for you in terms of being more productive.

Buying out your teaching – What this means is that money (often grant money) is used to pay an adjunct to teach one of your classes so that you have more time for research.  (Nationally, adjuncts are paid between $1,800 and $4,000 to teach one course.) You would use the time that you would have been teaching that course to work on research. That doesn’t show up in your salary but makes you more productive with your research.

Teaching load – The number of courses you teach and the number of different courses you teach will greatly affect how much time you need to invest in your teaching and how much time you will have for other faculty obligations (i.e., research, service, advising).

Course reduction – You could ask for a one-course reduction for each semester for your first year to help you get started.

Course preparations – Let’s say you are assigned a 3/3 course load. That would mean you are teaching three courses for fall semester and three for spring semester. What you want to find out is how many different course preparations will that be. That could be six different courses. The more different courses you teach, the more time involved in curriculum development and planning.

Other issues to consider in negotiating:

Your teaching schedule – Can you have a day when you don’t have to teach class and won’t need to go to campus? That could be helpful to provide a day when you could focus on research or grading. For some, being able to get a teaching schedule that accommodates children’s school schedules is important.

Student advising – At some schools, you could be assigned 30-40 undergraduate advisees and could be expected to meet with each one before registration each semester. That advising can help you get to know the students and learn more about the overall curriculum, but advising can take quite a bit of time. You may want to negotiate a first year of reduced or no advising.

Moving expenses – This could be especially important depending on where you are now and where you would be moving.

Computer – You can find out what the policy is for computers. Faculty should expect to have a computer – either a desktop or laptop. Is there something additional that you could negotiate, such as specific software of getting a tablet in addition to your computer. All the technology goes back to the school should you leave the job.

Reduced committee duties – This is a policy in many colleges – reducing the demands for one year for new faculty.

Professional development – This could be included with or separate from professional travel. Professional development could range from attending a seminar for improving your teaching to a coding workshop.

Get it in writing

You should expect to receive a contract that will include the basics of the job position, including your starting salary. Many of these other issues will not be part of that contract, so you need to ask that any agreement on those other issues (summer teaching, course reduction, professional conferences, etc.) be put in writing.

The person who makes the agreement with you may not always be in the job. You don’t want to count on a negotiated benefit only to find that it is eliminated when the person who hired you no longer is in that position.

Remember that some benefits are subject to issues beyond the dean’s or director’s control. Universities can change priorities; state legislators can reduce university budgets; the economy can dramatically change for the worse. All of those factors can impact your strategically negotiated salary package.

Best wishes with this important part of the job process.

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