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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Five Keys to Faculty Job Satisfaction

Cathy A. Trower Tenure(Harvard University, Graduate School of Education), Success on the Tenure Track: Five Keys to Faculty Job Satisfaction (2012):

Landing a tenure-track position is no easy task. Achieving tenure is even more difficult. Under what policies and practices do faculty find greater clarity about tenure and experience higher levels of job satisfaction? And what makes an institution a great place to work?

In 2005–2006, the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education surveyed more than 15,000 tenure-track faculty at 200 participating institutions to assess their job satisfaction. The survey was designed around five key themes for faculty satisfaction:

  1. Tenure Clarity
  2. Work-Life Balance
  3. Support for Research
  4. Collegiality
  5. Leadership.

Success on the Tenure Track positions the survey data in the context of actual colleges and universities and real faculty and administrators who talk about what works and why. Best practices at the highest-rated institutions in the survey—Auburn, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina at Pembroke—give administrators practical, proven advice on how to increase their employee satisfaction. Additional chapters discuss faculty demographics, trends in employment practices, what leaders can do to create and sustain a great workplace for faculty, and what the future might hold for tenure.

(Hat Tip: Derek Muller.)

Update: Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee) adds a sixth key to faculty job satisfaction:

I’ll add one more: Outside income. When I first got tenure, I talked to the older guys who seemed happy in their positions to try to figure out what worked, and all of them mentioned that. It doesn’t have to be a lot — a few thousand bucks a year is enough, really — the key is to feel sufficiently independent that you don’t become one of those people who obsess over whether this year’s raise is two percent or two-and-a-half. And yes, such people exist. They’re not among the happy faculty, though. . . .

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Ok, I understand Ms.Trower was talking about tenure. My point is satisfaction with the tenure process is only a small part of faculty job satisfaction (subsumed in my listing by faculty being treated like human beings).

Posted by: Bill Brown | Aug 25, 2012 7:50:24 AM

What about support for teaching? What about faculty governance?

Posted by: Jim Maule | Aug 25, 2012 11:39:25 AM

My first post seems to have been lost in the ether. In it, I decried the lack of high quality students on the list of 5 keys to faculty job satisfaction. My list:

1. High quality students
2. Collegial colleagues
3. Administrators who treat faculty like (the faculty were) human beings
4. A high correlation between job requirements and resources to meet those requirements
5. Recognition that if faculty wanted to work 60 hours per week each, they would be in the private sector earning real money.

As noted in my follow up, being tenured only adds a small amount to job satisfaction for most faculty members.

Posted by: Bill Brown | Aug 25, 2012 2:08:24 PM

What am I doing wrong? I started teaching after a long career in industry and find that I'm working many more hours outside normal working hours now. Dr. Maule's point #5 indicates that I did it backwards. He is right, however, on the relative pay between academia and industry.

Posted by: David Murphy | Aug 26, 2012 6:21:14 PM

> 5. Recognition that if faculty wanted to work 60 hours per week each, they would be in the private sector earning real money.

That "private sector earning real money" depends on the professor and the field.

If there's no "private sector" .... (Stanford's CS professors have very different outside opportunities than its English professors. And, most professors aren't at a top 10 school.)

Posted by: Andy Freeman | Aug 26, 2012 6:40:21 PM

Being a teacher is a rough job to begin with, I think that finding satisfaction has to come within knowing your helping build the future generation. All the other stuff is just a small add on.

Posted by: Barbara Cruz | Aug 27, 2012 6:45:38 AM