Careers: Know your salary

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Whether you are a new faculty hire or coming up for promotion, you should be aware of what other people are earning in your field and whether or not you are being competitively paid. This can yield quite significant results by simply asking the provost for a slightly more competitive salary when first offered a position. Because annual salary raises are often calculated by percentages, even a $1000 difference in starting salary can have serious impact over the long term.

Faculty at research universities are generally paid more than at liberal arts colleges. The exception is that Harvard, Yale, and other big names tend to think that it's an honor to work there, thus they don't pay as much as other places. State university faculty make much more than their state college peers, sometimes significantly more ($10,000+). Folks at colleges on the east or west coasts generally make more than their mid-west cohort. Professors in the sciences tend to make more than those in the humanities. In any case, it's important to know what a reasonable salary for your college is before you respond to or approach the provost.

How do you know if you're being paid enough? There are two sources: internal and external.

Internal: Your college might have a division of institutional research or a special part of the provost's office where salaries are calculated. Simply calling them up and asking them for this year's salary data is often successful. Alternately, your college's AAUP officer should also have this information. This data is easy to access if you are already working at the college, perhaps more difficult to access as an outsider.

External: The American Association of University Professors is the quasi-union for college instructors. The AAUP collects data on faculty salaries each year and publish it in conjunction with the Chronicle of Higher Education. That data is available here: AAUP Faculty Salary Survey. The data is delayed one year, you can buy the latest data directly from AAUP. I use last year's data and adjust accordingly. As you can see, the salary difference between Tier 1+ doctoral institutes and Tier 4 baccalaureate schools is almost double.

Type 1+ 1 2 3 4
$75,185 $66,817 $61,437 $57,680 $52,994
Masters $60,692
$54,842 $50,960 $47,856 $45,310
Baccalaureate $58,942
$50,698 $46,636 $43,730 $39,996
Source: AAUP 2004-05 Rating Scale

Using this table to make comparison between the types of institutions can be a little misleading. Faculty salaries at doctoral institutions tend to be higher on average because of the faculty in the business school or engineering schools tend to earn industry competitive salaries. Faculty in the humanities in the social sciences may not necessarily earn much more at a doctoral institution than at a baccalaureate college, but usually the research funds and resources at a doctoral insitute are several orders of magnitude greater.

Timing the Negotiations

While I think it is highly inappropriate to begin any type of salary negotiations (or even inquiries) during your on-campus interview, at the point that they are offering you the job, they have decided that they want you. Do not say yes to the Provost when s/he phones you to tell you that you are being offered the job. Tell the Provost that you are delighted with the offer and that you would like to respond to the particulars by e-mail. This will give you some thinking time and the chance to check your facts before hand.

Respond with a counter-offer after you receive the formal offer. They may say that they cannot meet your target figure for a salary, but they are not going to fire you before they have even hired you. At the worst, the college will simply reiterate their original offer -- or more likely, split the difference. Because of the cumulative nature of pay raises, be careful of one-time offers such as a larger lab startup account in lieu of a pay raise. It would be better to take a $1000 pay raise rather than a $3000 increase in your startup account. You'll make it back in less than 3 years.

Women and minorities tend to make less in the faculty pool because we do not aggressively promote ourselves. Because female faculty often have husbands and children, we do not seek other jobs or opportunities to increase our salaries through bidding wars or competitive offers (though why it doesn't seem to bother men who have wives and children always troubles me). Minority faculty who are facing discrimination on campus often feel that that it is in their best interests to not ask for a competitive salary because they do not want to seem greedy. Both of these factors work against ourselves.

College faculty are generally underpaid. After seven years of graduate school, the average professor is earning less than the national average for undergraduate white male B.A.s entering the business world (women and minorities are earning much less, as noted above). One enters academics as a vocation, not because of the great pay. That being said, there is no reason to be modest and not ask for a raise when one is due.

Other Parts of Your Compensation Package

There are some other parts of your compensation package that you should know about beforehand:

  • Startup Fund: You can think of this as your "signing bonus" when you agree to the contract. This is funds to buy equipment, books, and other research related materials. It is usually a non-taxable benefit and is negotiable. Some places require you to use up your startup fund in the first year, others will allow you to "bank it" so you can use it over time. The actual amount of the startup fund varies greatly and will depend in some part on your negotiating skills. Liberal arts colleges might give between $4-5000 while research university startup funds can easily exceed $25,000. Teaching colleges may only provide a minimal amount for a computer. Equipment bought out of the startup fund usually is the property of the college, something to think about if you are thinking of changing jobs down the line.
  • Computer: Some colleges provide for a computer/laptop separately, others will require you to buy your computer out of your startup funds. You may want to clarify which of these is the case. If you are a Macintosh fan, you should make sure that the college will allow you to buy a Mac computer and that they will properly support it on the network.
  • Travel and research fund: Each college usually has a standard annual travel and/or research fund that all faculty are eligible for. This can range between $500-2000 a year for attending conferences or purchasing books/equipment. Usually, it's a fixed amount that's the same for all people in your rank (senior faculty might receive more or less than junior faculty) and isn't negotiable. The travel/research fund is usually a pre-tax or non-taxable benefit since it is usually considered reimbursement for college business.
  • Other funds: Ask about other funds that you might be eligible for. For example, some colleges have funds for innovation in the classroom, summer research, etc.
  • Moving Expenses: This is one area that you should negotiate if you can. Some colleges offer a fixed amount (say $5000) towards moving and relocation expenses. Others will agree to pay the moving company's estimate -- but often these estimates are low since they don't take into account the weight of books that some scholars have. If you can, have the college to pay the full amount of your relocation expenses.
  • Retirement fund: This is usually non-negotiable but you should know about how the college's retirement system works and whether you are immediately eligible or whether you have to wait a year before it kicks in.
  • Health care: Most colleges are part of a HMO or other managed care plan. This is usually non-negotiable but you should find out what the premiums will be for entering your partner/spouse and children into it. Also, some conservative colleges will not allow same-sex domestic partners to receive health benefits -- check this before signing your contract if this is important to you.
  • Office space: You usually will not have a say in this as office space is decided in most cases by seniority in the department. If you need lab space and lab equipment, you should however make sure this is spelled out in your contract.
  • Contract period: Your first contract as a junior faculty is usually a three or four year period. There is often an evaluation at the end of that period (the pre-tenure review). This is not negotiable, but is something you should know about. Ask the provost or chair what the expectations for pre-tenure review are. Most will tell you it's a formality -- but don't be fooled, quite a few people have been tripped up and kicked out at their third year review.
  • Resetting the tenure clock: If you've been teaching for several years, you should ask whether your tenure clock will be reset to zero. This is usually a good idea since it increases the amount of time you have to prepare before tenure review.
  • Sabbaticals and Leave: Ask about your sabbatical and leave schedule. Some colleges provide for a semester or year of paid leave after your third year review, others provide none until your seventh year sabbatical. Ask if you can "buy yourself out" if you get a large external grant to do research and what the expectations are on your return.
  • Spousal employment: Unless you are a hotshot scholar in high-demand or if you are moving to an area of the country where it is hard to attract good scholars, then broach this topic with caution (and never before receiving an offer). This is much more easily negotiated in your second job rather than your first. Note that if you are a husband:wife team, you should make sure the wife is employed first rather than the husband. The way patriarchy works, most departments will not tolerate the idea of an unemployed husband but they will easily ignore the unemployed wife. Always prioritize the wife's job first. I'm saying this as a pragmatist not just as a feminist.
  • Visa sponsorship: If you are a foreign scholar, be sure to verify that the college will sponsor your H1B temporary work visa and whether they will pay for the legal expenses (the better ones will, the cheapskates won't). Since H1B visas are perennially backlogged, you need to ask them to start processing it immediately after you sign. Even starting in January, your visa might not be ready for use by September and you may have to leave the country while in process (other times, it is better to not leave the country as you may not be able to easily return). Be sure to speak to a good immigration lawyer -- preferably on the college's dime.
  • Permanent residence: There's a permanent residency fast-track for H1B visa recipients with PhDs. It's much simpler and cheaper if the college applies for your green card at the same time as your H1B since the paperwork is almost identical. You can negotiate with the provost during contract signing that the college will also sponsor and pay for permanent resident status. Even if the college doesn't pay, you may want to pay for this yourself (it will be about $10,000 in legal fees). You will receive your green card in about 3 years. If you wait a few years after your H1B is issued, the backlog for your permanent residency maybe up to 4-5 years.

[Read other articles on Careers in Anthropology on]

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on May 21, 2005 1:41 AM.

Meta: Back from northern Japan was the previous entry in this blog.

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