by Deborah Prussel, WV Contributing Editor

What The Book Says

College and university faculty teach, write “publish or perish,” research and consult. A Ph.D. is usually mandatory if you want tenure. Competition for positions is stiff, especially in fields like history and English. Job prospects are better in computer science, engineering and business simply because more money can be made in the private sector than in academia.

News is encouraging that employment of college and university faculty is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2008. The traditional college age population, 18-24, will be growing through this period. More students, older faculty retiring equals more jobs.

College faculty have flexible schedules, often a four-day workweek. They average 12 to 16 hours a week teaching, regular office hours and departmental and committee meetings. Time is spent in grading papers, course preparation, research and graduate student supervision. A 40-hour week is expected.

Most full time faculty are either professors, associate professors, assistant professors or instructors, all of which are considered tenure-track positions. Attaining tenure is a major step in traditional academic careers. If achieved, it is usually after seven years of teaching plus an evaluation based on teaching record, research and all over contribution to the institution. Tenure means they can’t fire you with out just cause and due process. It is job security.


Part-time faculty are referred to as adjunct instructors and paid on an hourly basis. Many work at several campuses and are not eligible for tenure or most benefits. Another employment source for part-timers are the University extensions. Depending on the discipline, work experience may count as much as degrees. The hourly pay is generally good and the treatment highly professional, unlike the situation at two-year colleges where many times part-time faculty are not held in high regard.

Some faculty move into administrative and managerial positions, such as department chairs, deans, and presidents. Generally, a Ph.D. is required for advancement at four-year institutions.

A 1998-99 survey by the American Association of University Professors shows salaries for full time faculty averaged $56,300. By rank, professors averaged $72,700, associate professors $53,200, assistant professors, $43,800, instructors $33,400 and lecturers, $37,200. Private institutions as well as the more prestigious ones, pay more.

Summer school and overload can boost the pay. The benefits at all levels are generally quite good with comprehensive health care and retirement.

Two-year college faculty tends to earn somewhat less and sometimes tenure can be obtained without a Ph.D.

Women’s Reality

Dr. Nancy Snow, Assistant Director at the Center for Communications and Community at UCLA, taught at New England College in New Hampshire for several years before moving to Los Angeles. “I wasn’t expected to publish at NEC,” she says. “We were expected to be outstanding teachers.” This unfortunately is the norm only at smaller colleges or two-year colleges.

Dr. Diane Carlson* received her Ph.D. from a highly prestigious university in the late ’50s. Moving to California, she was hired by one of the campuses of the State University System. In 1961 she was the only woman of 14 in her department and became a full professor with tenure, the youngest full professor on campus at the time. “I had great teaching evaluations, published a lot and tons of students wanted to work with me.”

“It was a very patriarchal department at the time,” she says. “We were all paid the same because it was based on years of experience. Few women had tenure. I was super woman.” Carlson served on the executive committee of the Academic Senate, dealing with appeals on promotion and tenure issues. “I was addressed by my first name while the men were called Professor and often assumed I was the secretary.” Things have changed in her department and on the campus for the better, but they are still not equal.

Her campus was fortunate to have an outstanding African-American woman as a vice president in charge of personnel who had a great deal to say about hiring and promotion. Carlson served on the committee that set the guidelines for affirmative action. From her vantage point in retirement, Carlson sees many female department chairs, but few deans. Typically, the higher the esteem of the University, the fewer women and those must be exceptional.

Francine DeFrance started at Cerritos College in California as a part-time English instructor. The year she applied for a full time position there were 700 applicants for two jobs, one of which she was given. She is a full professor and Interim Instructional Dean of Liberal Arts. The current interim president is also female. DeFrance says, “There is often a glass ceiling at the president or superintendent level. We currently have two female vice-presidents.

DeFrance loves teaching and has received numerous awards. It was a difficult decision to make, but she wanted a challenge. From a basic 40 hour week, no classes on Fridays, with a lot of vacation time, her hours now equal that of anyone in corporate. Years ago she had contemplated administration but disliked the personnel and political issues. The one-year interim position is now two. “I took the position because it was temporary, all honeymoon. I intend to be back in the class room,” she says and is teaching a class in the spring. There is another dean’s position for which she can apply. “It’s tempting because I can have a greater impact all over and facilitate change in a bigger way if I stay in administration.”

“A women’s college is a might different world from a traditional mixed gender college. At least, Scripps is,” says Mary Bartlett, Director of Public Relations and Communication at this small, prestigious college. Led by a female president, three of five vice-presidents are women, half the faculty are women, and women hold six of the nine endowed chairs.

Since 1986, according to the Christian Science Monitor, the proportion of women college and university presidents has doubled from 9.5 percent to 19.3 percent in 1988 in a report by the American Council on Education cited in the article. This represents a shift in the mindset of the boards of trustees, and executive search committees, both usually white males. Judith McLaughlin who heads Harvard’s seminar for new presidents is concerned because the number of new women president’s attending her seminar dipped from one-third to one-fifth 1999.

It is better now than it was for DeFrance and Carlson when they started. Pay is fairly standardized. The issue is still hiring and retention-tenure- that calls for improvement. Fortunately, the women presidents and chancellors are doing such an outstanding job, that the door is open. The plastic ceiling just hasn’t gone away yet.

*Carlson has requested anonymity for personal reasons based on her private practice. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.