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Education Science

Forbes 2013 Career List Flamed By University Professors 370

An anonymous reader writes "The Forbes list of 'least stressful jobs' for 2013 is headlined by... university professors. This comes at a time in which the academic community has been featured on controversies about 100-hour week work journeys, doctors live on food stamps, tenured staff is laid off large science institutions, and the National Science Foundation suffers severe budget cuts, besides the well known (and sometimes publicized) politics of publish or perish. The Forbes reporter has received abundant feedback and published a shy, foot-note 'addendum'; however, the cited source, CareerCast (which does not map to any recognizable career journalist, but rather to a Sports writer), does not seem to have had the same luck. The comments of the Forbes reporter on the existence of a Summer break for graduates ('I am curious whether professors work that hard over the summer') are particularly noteworthy." Here is the CareerCast report the article is based on, and a list of the "stress factors" they considered. The author of the Forbes article passed on a very detailed explanation of how tough a university professor's job can be.
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Forbes 2013 Career List Flamed By University Professors

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  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2013 @04:13PM (#42489599)


    Suppose you choose not to make your academic career stressful. Here's what happens: if you're a grad student, you won't graduate and will have wasted your twenties. If you graduate, you can relax and take a cush job at a cash-strapped community college where you will earn peanuts and always be on contract. But say you keep working: if you've busted your ass as a grad student (say published a few papers a year in top venues), you can compete to be in top 5% that manage to get tenure track jobs. If you relax after getting the tenure track job, you can rest assured you'll be looking for work once your tenure is denied after a little more than half a decade (this means you're fired). Suppose you kept on working and now have the tenure track job-- that's great, except universities are cutting tenure positions so you better hope your department isn't on the chopping block. Oh, and you still have to write grants or you won't get funding. So after fifteen to twenty years of running yourself into the ground and relying mostly on luck, the job becomes as stressful as a NORMAL job. Oh yeah, I forgot to include working as a post-doc while waiting for a tenure track position; it's becoming much more common to pursue several post-docs.

    In conclusion, you are an unrepentant moron who is ultimately detached from reality.

  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by savi ( 142689 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @04:22PM (#42489639)

    Ridiculous. Around 70% of all college courses are now taught by contingent faculty. These faculty have no offices, no long term contracts, and no support. The average pay for these courses is $2k to $2.5k. Speaking from a humanities viewpoint, a majority of the phds we produce will never land a job as a professor. In my particular discipline, it is common for there to be 6-10 jobs per year in any given subfield with 100-300 applicants per job. "Chances are you will succeed" is not the phrase that should describe the situation. Chances are very grim indeed. I advise all of my undergraduates not to go into academia and I give dire warnings to those that do.

    Once an academic has a job, they can then expect to work 60-80 hours per week for the first five to six years. This will decrease over their career if they get tenure and take their foot of the gas, but with budget cuts and cut-throat competition for funding, that's not a wise idea. Quite simply, you have no idea what an academic job entails.

  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Saturday January 05, 2013 @04:27PM (#42489665)

    If you are looking for a low stress profession you may as well choose the academic career and opt to avoid any stress within it. Chances are you will succeed

    No, chances are that you'll fail, because you will never get tenure if you take a low-stress, laid-back approach to the job, unless you're at a community college perhaps. The academic career is completely organized around deadlines and management: the NSF grant application deadlines, conference paper deadlines, hiring grad students and postdocs, etc. In CS at least, if you don't bring in substantial funding, crank out many publications, and support a large-ish lab of students and postdocs (who you have to pay for!), you won't get tenure, and therefore won't have a job very long.

  • Re:Choice (Score:2, Informative)

    by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @04:46PM (#42489815)
    And as I said, if you are competitive and decides to be a career academic you will indeed have a stressful life, but then again it is your choice. You can still live relatively well with no stress if you do not, though.
  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by savi ( 142689 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:00PM (#42489945)

    That sounds right. I work at least 5 hours every Saturday and Sunday. I get to my job between 8-9 each day and leave around 5. I then do about 3-4 hours of work at home each evening, except Fridays.

  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by niiler ( 716140 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:38PM (#42490191) Journal
    Bud... you're out of touch.

    Many of us got into academia because in addition to enjoying teaching we thought:

    1. There would be more vacation
    2. There would be more schedule flexibility
    3. There would be more job security

    All of these have since gone down the tubes. Even in non-tenure track jobs, one has to do advising and committee work (at least at our school). The next big thing is to teach evenings and weekends because that's more convenient for students. I'm already doing that, and it means that one can't actually go anywhere or do anything. My wife, who is an adjunct, is a facing a 35% pay cut plus a 30% increase in course load in a Pennsylvania State school. Generally, I always have overload and can't say no, or they'll get someone else. And that 12 hour a day thing, that's peanuts. Around here, I get home from work and fire up the laptop to grade papers and respond to emails until about 11pm. I've been working over X-mas "break" almost constantly, writing reference letters, doing two new preps for next term, and dealing with last minute grade changes from last term. The only day I actually got to take off was X-mas day when we went to see the Hobbit. Most of my colleagues are basically in the same boat.

    One of my buddies with a Ph.D. got hired out of his adjunct job by a chemical engineering company. He says he's now making about twice as much, can't take his work home (yea!), sees his family in the evenings and on weekends, and gets more true vacation.

    Almost nobody I talk to outside of academia has any idea of what life is really like. The Forbes journalist comes off as being completely out of touch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:42PM (#42490233)
    Wages are record lows [businessinsider.com] as percentage of GDP and dropping. At the same time wealth inequality is continuing to expand with the top 1% of the country currently owning as much wealth as the bottom 50%. Pretty damn obvious where those productivity gains have gone.
  • Re:Choice (Score:4, Informative)

    by atomicdragon ( 619181 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @07:13PM (#42490863)

    Now, teaching 3 or 4 classes a semester may not be "relaxing," but it is less than 15 contact hours per week. Once you've taught the classes a couple of times, got the powerpoints made and the lectures down, that doesn't have to be very stressful. Be a good performer, put on a good show/lecture, and you'll get tenure.

    What universities and fields offer tenure positions for just instructing 3 to 4 classes a semester? At the places I've worked, you would get maybe $2-3k per course you instructed, with no guarantee you would be rehired the next semester. As more tenure track professors retired, the number of people being paid as instructors like this has grown to the point of being the majority of how course instructors are paid at some places. To get tenure, you had to climb the ladder several years of successfully pulling in grant money and getting recognized for research, while hoping that there would still be a possible tenure position when you get that instead of some budget freeze preventing it, or the department deciding they want use the few tenure options on a different subfield, so as to not even give you a chance.

  • Bull. Shit. (Score:4, Informative)

    by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday January 05, 2013 @11:34PM (#42492533) Homepage Journal

    After I graduated, I worked for a while as a student teacher at the university. When I'd been doing it for a while, a professor came up to me and said, "Isn't this great? It's such a nice job and you get 4 months of the year for vacation!"

    Professors don't get 4 months of vacation a year. Not even remotely close. Most professors are on continual cycles of grant writing just to keep their jobs. The top federal agency for research grants runs three cycles per year, and most professors who do work in the relevant areas are submitting at least once or twice per year (twice generally being the most one can do as the review process takes longer than the time that passes between cycles).

    In other words, you are making shit up. Professors don't get 4 months of vacation per year. Not even remotely close.

  • by MagusSlurpy ( 592575 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:06AM (#42493207) Homepage

    Average full professor salary at Harvard is different than "average faculty salary."

    The source for your article [insidehighered.com] says that real average salaries for full professors (the top of the pay-scale, to which you can be promoted after being tenured from an assistant professor to an associate professor, so typically 10-15 years at your school) is $118K, if you are at a PhD-granting institution. Average salary for "college professor," with all ranks and grades of institutes in the US is $63K per year, because there are a lot more community college/baccalaureate-only schools than there are masters and doctorate schools.

  • by udippel ( 562132 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:11AM (#42494733)

    I don't give you my last mod point, because then I can not post, sorry.
    Totally understood. Academia has gone totally bonkers since the pea counters took over. I have been in academia (with many interruptions) since 1980. And what used to be a science-oriented employment basically decided on by the requirements of science, has become a business organisation with decision-making essentially done on economic principles.
    At my age I can surely say that we have experienced a total rear entry into capitalism. And from my experience I can surely deduce the lack of serious progress in the light of a betterment for mankind. Science - or what is called so - has become a fast-lane; a boiler-like heating up of tiny, partially scientific non-results, for immediate harvesting opportunities in almost exclusively business-oriented areas.

    My boss, a full-tenured professor, works any minute he does not sleep. Per hour, his salary is probably in the range of that of a janitor. Which would not matter to me, if I were in his position, if only the work was academic work. But it isn't. I bet that 90 percent of his work is menial work, administrative work, sitting in committees, haggling over money.
    This applies similarly to most universities world-wide. The stress is on to be ranked among the top universities, and at the same time to generate a continuous flow of income to the university. And to cater for ever larger numbers of ever less prepared students.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall