I have defended my PhD a couple of months ago and have an adequate number of publications (5) for a person just out of the grad school. As this is my first year on the job market, I decided to apply for all positions that suited my educational background. In total, I have submitted over 50 applications. Out of this, I got 5 phone interviews, 2 campus interviews, and one offer. Now I need to make up my mind and decide whether I should accept it or not. This place is a smaller university with 4-4 teaching load +service work and academic advising and a salary of $46,000. I doubt that I would have much time to do any research work that I enjoy so much. This is a non-unionized university with no salary increases being promised. It seems to me that the salary is way too low for the amount of work that needs to be done. All my attempts to negotiate course releases and salary increase failed. I feel stressed out about this situation as it is a major life decision. Should I accept a position that does not seem to be ideal? Or should I stay at my home R1 University where I teach as an adjunct and keep doing research with collaborators and apply for better suited positions in the upcoming hiring cycle?
Date: 14 May 2014 13:25
Number of posts: 5
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Personally I wouldn't accept it if it isn't what you want… I know this is risky. But, maybe a more adequate question is, how will your CV look for this new job search year?
First, it's a tough market, so congrats on a job offer! That's great (and more than others received).
I think that often, salary is inversely related to teaching load. R1s tend to pay more and require less teaching; more teaching-focused schools pay less but you teach more. This is not always the case, but it tends to be pretty accurate.
What makes me more concerned than even the salary is their unwillingness to negotiate anything at all. To me, that's a huge red flag. If they're putting their best foot forward now, trying to recruit to come join their college, when they should be putting their best foot forward, how will it be when you're employed there and need something in the future (e.g., a little extra travel money; some RA support; a TA)? Their rigid inflexibility is the biggest scare, in my opinion.
If you feel unsettled, don't take it. Sometimes, having a PhD in hand is enough to garner additional looks. Try and see if you can convert that extra year into a post-doc of some kind, perhaps by joining a grant-funded research project, or getting involved in some capacity that might help your title. Just some thoughts.
I say whether you accept or decline depends on your level of risk-taking.
If you can go a year without work and chance a better position, then go for it. But, be sure to have some back-up plans such as non-academic career directions. Just because you sit a year out and ramp-up your publications and credentials does not mean you'll get something better next year. This is a horrible fallacy that I've seen some people adhere to and end-up pursuing endless post-docs, for example. One risk with this is that you start to establish such a strong research record that teaching oriented institutions don't see you as a viable candidate and you somehow end up not being competitive enough for the mainline research institutions. Note that if you're seeking a research focused position, you're competing with the latest round of Ph.D. graduates, post-docs, and faculty from other institutions seeking to move-up.
On the other hand, taking the current non-ideal position and sticking it out for a year or two could let you build your teaching and service credentials. Then, you may have an easier time landing an offer at another teaching oriented college/university with better pay and a lighter teaching load. I know of several prominent psychologists in my subfield who've gone this route and most recently work at ivy institutions. I'd say that's more the exception, though. You're right - a 4/4 teaching load really impacts research, especially if those are larger (30+ students) classes.
This is a tough choice. I'd discuss it with your advisor and current institution's faculty - especially if there are any younger faculty who've experienced the job search during the last 4 or 5 years.
Congratulations on the offer! Even if it is at a smaller place, that's still an excellent accomplishment.
I've been in your same situation - I bounced around on visiting positions for a few years, got a tenure-track offer from a smaller school, and I took it. It's a 4-4 load, with little to no expectation (or support) for research. Allow me to share a bunch of thoughts:
1. My salary (which is similar to what you're being offered) is comparatively awful, and honestly, I get a little angry every time I think about it. I have a union, and I'll see some increases - if you're really concerned about that now, that number might just be an even bigger sticking point over time in your situation.
2. There's also very little money for travel, for other research expenses, or for anything really. Plus, a lot of the older faculty aren't invested in research much (or at all) anymore; it can be really frustrating to feel like you're the only one trying to get some work done. (I did not always want to go to lab meetings when I was a grad student. Now, all I want is to have other people around that and doing the things I'm trying to do.)
3. Be careful about taking this job for a year or two and moving on. Between teaching and getting used to a new place and everything else, you're not going to have a whole lot of time to do new work. (This is *especially* true if you'll need to prep a bunch of classes.) It's like that you'll start the semester, think about all of the writing you need to do, and then OH NO it's finals week already. (Yes, there are breaks and summers, but those go by faster than we'd like to recognize.) You might not leave that job because you're comfortable and don't want to start over again, but also because you haven't published anything in years, and now you CAN'T move on anywhere else.
4. DocJ is absolutely right about the research vs. teaching applications. I've been able to sit in on some search committees for other visiting positions at teaching-focused institutions, and there's definitely a sense of "wow, this person is so well-published, they must be applying here just as a backup."
5. One GOOD thing is that I've been able to work closely with honors students to get some good research done. At a teaching school, no one will really care about your own independent research - including students will be much more important. If you can make that happen for the work you want to get done, this might be something beneficial.
6. Plus, having zero research expectations might be a benefit - it's nice to be able to collect data because it's something I want to do, instead of worrying about pulling in grant money to save my job.
I also have a VERY supportive department, which might not be the case for everyone. They really kept advisees away from me for my first year, my department chair gets me money whenever she can, and I was even able to talk my way into a course release for the fall to run a lab. Even if the people I work with aren't trying to publish anything, they're helpful and great to work with - if that wasn't the case, this could get a LOT worse.
Overall, the 4-4 small-school experience is OK, but I'm obviously still checking out the job boards …