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11/23/2015

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postdoc

I have heard from various people that tenure-track faculty work 60 hours a week on average. Is this true? Are you really expected to work that many hours for a median income? Just curious...

Marcus Arvan

Hi postdoc: Great questions! I am in no position to speak for others, but here are my thoughts based on my experience.

First, although I've heard of some tenure-track jobs in philosophy that pay somewhere around the current US median income ($50K), if you do some searching around online you will find that tenure-track philosophy faculty often make significantly more than this (there are places online where one can dig up average faculty salaries at different schools in different states).

If I recall correctly, depending on the school, state, and cost of living, tenure-track faculty in philosophy can make anywhere from $45K-80+K--and my own sense is that the typical tenure-track philosophy job is somewhere around $60K, which is 20% higher than the US median income. We also get 3-4 months "off" a year, for winter and summer breaks--although of course one typically works then as well [but at least on one's own terms].

Second, in my own case, although I guess I would say I'm working harder than I ever thought I would, I don't work anywhere close to 60 hours a week. Although this semester has been uncommonly hectic for me (thanks to my own choices!)--and there have been a few 60 hour work weeks--my typical week is about 45-50 hours: 8 hours on Monday and Wednesday, 11-12 hours on Tuesday and Thursday, and another 5-8 hours on Friday (with rare exceptions, I never work nights or weekends).

Blaarg

Thanks Marcus. I've applied to a lot of jobs and most don't tell you a salary. US median income is closer to 52-4K than 50k just FYI.

Jonathan

I am assistant prof. at an unranked department, R1, 2/2 teaching load school in an area with very moderate costs of living. I make around 64.000$, and I indeed work around 60 hours per week (between 6-10 hours every day, including weekends).

recent grad

One thing to keep in mind is the difference b/t how much one works and how much one *needs* to work. Maybe they're the same in some cases, but not in all.

preferanonymityrealemailaddress

I'm in a European university (currently on the continent, soon in the UK). I make the equivalent of 59k, and the city I live in (and will live in) is super-expensive.

Some years ago, I received a job offer from an American university (4-year-college, no doctoral programme). The wage offered was 48k. When we inquired about a spousal appointment - a lectureship, mind, not even a tenure-track, or a higher salary, the answer was no - it was a take-it-or-leave-it style of negotiation (the department chair said we should be able to get by fine because he did so on 30k with his family when arriving at that university a long time ago). I was especially concerned that my spouse would be on an H4 visa, which would effectively prohibit him from working (except if we found another place nearby willing to sponsor a working visa). So I had to decline the offer.

The summer holidays here are shorter than in the US (holidays are paid).
I'm not sure how typical my experience on the American market is, but as a result, I'm not eager to apply for any American job soon.

I spend about 40-45 hours a week on my academic work. I teach 3/2 (will move to a place with 2/2) and I invest time and energy in it, trying new techniques such as the flipped classroom and team debates. With about 4-6 hours of teaching per week, and about the same time prepping and grading, I spend about 10-12 hours per week at teaching. The rest are various administrative tasks, research, blogging and other services to the profession. I accept no more than one referee request per month.

Since I am in Europe, grants are very important, so I spend quite a bit of time writing grant applications (over the past years, I have written one large and several small grant apps). This is extremely time-consuming, taking up all the time I allocate to research for months at a time, and the acceptance rates are forbidding (usually around 5-9%). But if you want to advance your career, there is no alternative to it.

Over the past years, I've received lots of invites for plenary talks at conferences, invited book contributions, etc. I find it very hard to say no. This does not bump up the overall load of research, it just means I have less time for other research. As a rule (which I should really abide by), I should say yes only if the project excites me.

postdoc

It's difficult to find median salaries for assistent philosophy professors in the US, because the jobs don't list salaries.

In the UK most assistent professor salaries are around 32-38k, which is about median income in the US if you convert it into dollars.

60k dollars a year is just slightly above median income in the US during the early 2000s.

I guess I do worry about the workload. 60 hours a week isn't something I really want to do. You can make above median income in many professions just working 40, anything over gets paid overtime.

preferanonymityrealemailaddress

Postdoc, I find it hard to make comparisons between the US and the UK, since median salaries are lower in the UK. For example, my wage is a bit above average in the US, but substantially above the UK average (which is about 27k GBP for full-time workers). Then there are deductibles such as healthcare which don't figure in the UK, but they do in the US (for instance, had I accepted the US job, I would be paying around 350 USD/month toward health insurance, and I was told this was a pretty good deal). In all, it is unstraightforward to make standard of living comparisons. I've heard of people in the US getting really sweet deals: spousal appointments, help with paying their house/apartment, summer research money on top of their salaries... But those positions are only in rich research-focused (R1) universities, or perhaps also the most wealthy small liberal arts colleges. In all, the UK is more egalitarian.

I don't think 60 hours/week is sustainable over the long term for many people, and I wonder about these figures. Sometimes even grad students tell me they work this much! I really wonder how they will cope with administrative work, 2-3 courses (or more) per semester, committees and meetings.

postdoc

[preferanonymityrealemailaddress], I agree with you with regard to comparing the US and UK. I just didn't really know what else to do, as US figures don't seem readily available.

Academic work, especially in the humanities, is difficult to quantify into hours. When I was working on my PhD I sat in front of the computer trying to read and write at least 36 hours a week. However, there were many more hours in which my mind was racing, in which I was thinking about my work. Should we count these hours? Probably some of them.

If we don't count the hours, I worked 36 hours a week during my PhD. If we count all the hours thinking about my work (some of which was unproductive anxiety) I'd say I worked 60 hours a week. The truth is probably in the middle. I'd say 50 hours a week is a realistic figure.

tenuretracktoadjunct

Each department is unique, but in some departments you will be expected to say "yes" to everything and it will be long remembered by those who make the requests when you don't. As junior faculty, you are at the mercy of those who have a vote to renew your contract and then to recommend tenure. If you are lucky to have decent colleagues, they won't make requests that will leave you vulnerable or swallow up your research time (but they may still remember when you turn them down). If you are making 60k or so for 9 months of work in a field with as difficult a job market as philosophy, even complaining about being overworked is going to invite resentment.
tl/dr: Be grateful you have a T-T job. Others would gladly take your job and work overtime.

Marcus Arvan

tenuretracktoadjunct: Giving advice and complaining are two very different things. I would never complain about my job. I was in a temporary position for over 7 years before finding my current position, and am grateful for it every day. Still, I was warned by someone more senior than me not to make a specific mistake ["don't say yes to everything"], I made that mistake, learned it was a mistake, and figured it might be helpful to share it.

Also, for what it is worth, yes, every department is unique, but typically--if not always--one's colleagues want to see one succeed. In my case, even my department chair has expressed concerns about how much I took on, and advised me to back off a bit, saying, "Don't wear yourself out."

So, again, I would say: relating an important lesson learned isn't complaining. It's trying to help other people avoid similar mistake.

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