Negotiating Start-Up After Being Hired in an Academic Position (by Kirk Heilbrun, Ph.D. – Drexel University)
With many of us focused on finishing dissertations or applying to internship, it can be hard to even consider *gasp* a real life job. Yet, before we know it that time will come where we must consider not only the position that we want, but also what to do when we find it. For our first official blog, please read some expert advice on negotiating in an academic position from Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, PhD. This entry is excerpted from our AP-LS 2015 panel "How to Get Hired in Psychology and Law". Be on the lookout for advice from some of the other panelists in our future posts! - The Student Committee
Negotiating with a college or university after receiving an offer to join the faculty is sometimes overlooked for a variety of reasons, but it should be taken seriously. Faculty members will probably never again have the negotiating leverage that is part of this stage. There will be differences in the job demands depending on whether the academic setting includes doctoral training or masters training, whether it is primarily focused on undergraduate teaching, on size, on whether it is public vs. private, and whether the contract will be 9-months or 12-months. Other presenters in this symposium described such differences, but they clearly will affect how well the information presented here will apply. Learning more about the particular academic setting making the offer is valuable; this can be done by talking with other junior faculty who have been recently hired and by reviewing the website and strategic plan of the college.
The candidate will probably be negotiating ultimately with the Dean, but may be talking directly with the department chair or a program director. But the hiring authority is typically vested at the Dean’s level, so consider that the department head may be negotiating but probably does not make the ultimate decision. The recommendation of this person, however, is very important. In preparing for these discussions, it is valuable to talk with one’s mentor and senior colleagues about what is minimal, reasonable, and aspirational under the circumstances.
There are five main points to negotiate: annual salary, teaching, space, research support, and summer salary.
1. APA collects annual salary figures, so the candidate can learn not only about national averages but can specify the type of university, public vs. private, and the geographic region in making more tailored estimates of a reasonable range. Usually the initial offer is perhaps $5,000 lower than the college might be prepared to pay. Some, however, initially offer at the top of their available range. You won’t know which it is until you ask. (A flat response of “we can’t go any higher” is informative, particularly if the offer was reasonable and the probing is for aspirational possibilities.)
2. Teaching load refers to the number and type of courses the individual will be expected to teach. Usually this is fairly standard across the department, college, and university. For instance, a large public university with a recognized doctoral program might have a faculty member teach two courses per term, or three courses per academic year. Teaching loads at smaller colleges, particularly those primarily for undergraduates, might be much higher—up to three courses per term. This gives you valuable information about the research productivity expected of faculty; it is very difficult to publish 3-4 articles and chapters per year and pursue extramural funding if you also have a 3-course per term teaching load. Nonetheless, this can be a good fit for those who are passionate about teaching and less so about research. You also will want to know about the policy for “buying out” of teaching with grant/contract funding. Buyout policies range widely from “cost of hiring an adjunct for this course” (inexpensive) to “20% (or higher) of 9-month salary for this course” (expensive). This is important because a small grant or contract could still fund your buyout from several courses under the former policy, while it would take a major grant to fund much buy-out with a more expensive policy. During the first three years of assistant professorship, it is reasonable to expect a reduced teaching load. For example, a college with a two course per term teaching load might offer 0-1, 1-1, and 2-1 for the first three years before the 2-2-2 load is fully implemented. Space covers the amount and nature of room(s) you will need to conduct research.
3. Do not try to negotiate office space. They will give you an office, and for many reasons it’s best for you to just take what they give. (Imagine the reaction of more senior colleagues, for example, if the new assistant professor received a larger office than they have.) But space affects where your graduate students can work when they are around, and what you need to run research participants. Some space should be provided to you as part of your hiring (e.g., one dedicated room), while additional space might be available if you receive a grant requiring such space.
4. Research support refers to the amount of money the college makes available to you in order to establish your research program. It’s expected that this will facilitate pilot work, which will in turn lead to more successful grant applications. If a college offers this as part of the start-up package, then there is the potential to increase it. On the other hand, if you have “construction” needs for space, modifying existing space into something you need in your lab, that tends to be very expensive and might limit the availability of this kind of research funding. When this is available, it might be in the amount of somewhere between $5,000 and $50,000. This would include things like participant payments, software purchases, travel, and other research expenses.
5. Summer salary is the amount that can be earned by 9-month faculty during the three months in which they are technically not under contract. (Productive faculty members work all summer; wise faculty members distribute their 9-month salaries over 12 months. But this does present a chance for significant extra income, either from grants or from teaching.) You should investigate whether summer salary through teaching is routinely available. In any event, however, it may be feasible to receive 1-2 months of summer salary during the summer after your first academic year as part of your start-up package. Negotiate through preparation and willingness to use the leverage you have achieved by receiving this offer. You will be working with these folks, so don’t be unreasonable. It’s certainly fair, if you have more than one offer, to let people know this. (Don’t ever say something that isn’t true, such as there is another offer when there isn’t. People have long memories for this kind of thing.) But the more frequent error is to “underask” at this stage.
A final bit of perspective: deans are accustomed to hiring faculty in other areas for whom the start-up packages can approach $1,000,000. Granted we often don’t have expensive lab equipment or major construction needs—but this does make a start-up package worth $150,000 for psychology seem minor by comparison.
About the Editor:
The American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of the American Psychology Association) Student Committee is composed of elected student leaders representing the interests of our student members.