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Teaching at university not about the money, readers say

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There were a lot of comments on our latest Salaries Series slideshow about teaching at a university, and many of them drilled further down into compensation specifics.

Here's a selection of what readers had to say about money and other topics. Comments have been edited for length in most cases.

Motivation and workload

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"University teaching was the best job possible – I loved it, was pretty good at it (if my student evaluations meant anything), and it was always rewarding," Dr NJ Baker says. "However, it was never less than a 60-hour week during the academic week, and when classes were out I was running constantly – meetings, revising articles for publication, researching, preparing new classes, revising existing classes, and maintaining a household on the side. So I shifted into administration with its almost doubling of salary, regular hours, honest-to-God vacations, and a research / publication schedule set up for mere mortals."

"As a sessional lecturer at a Canadian university," Yeti writes, "I thought I would chime in."

  • “Sessional lecturers are making up an ever-increasing portion of the teaching load in Canada.”
  • “In my field, you are looking at a PhD and then 4-10 years of post-doctoral fellowships before you will get hired. Typical hiring ages for professors are 35-45 years old now. Until then, you are frequently working as a post-doc or sessional lecturer for relatively low salaries.”
  • “Every university in the country is looking at ways of shrinking its tenured professor pool and becoming more ‘efficient,’ i.e. cramming more bums into seats with fewer professors.”
  • “Don't seek a professorship to teach. You are doomed to failure or frustration, at the very least. Professors are hired for their research prowess, not their teaching prowess. During grad school, your ENTIRE focus should be on developing an exceptional research record.”

Louis counters with this: "Your comments apply to areas such as Social Sciences, where job opportunities are poor in general. In disciplines where professors would have a professional degree such as business, engineering, law or medicine, the situation is much better as potential professors have many opportunities outside the university system."

Jobs and tenure

Sanchopaco points out a series of changes to the hiring landscape. "The abolition of mandatory retirement at many institutions has made it even harder to enter academia. Previously, administrative units could plan around positions that were opening up when the holder turned 65, which left open opportunities to secure 'bridging' funding (funds to carry the new prof until the position became open). Now there is no certainty. This, coupled with shrinking budgets makes now an especially difficult time to enter the biz. It is really a shame to see so many very talented young researchers with exceptional potential to make great discoveries and teach the next generation effectively who cannot find an academic job."

"Your odds of getting a tenured job are minuscule, and getting smaller," carne adds. "Thousands of PhDs are working minimum wage jobs or collecting welfare. Hours are insane. Do a survey of overtime: professors around the world do more unpaid overtime than any other profession. The idea of the 'ivory tower' is a myth. These days you have to have many contacts in industry to get a job, and then to get grants in order to do your research. The paperwork associated with the ever-increasing bureaucracy will take your sanity. The only reason to become a professor is if you are obsessed with a particular subject."

D Mores sees it from the students' perspective. "With tenure and excellent pensions in the top universities, it's a pretty sweet deal to be sitting in the ivory tower. Meanwhile, their students graduate to a job market that is increasingly finding that their skills are irrelevant."

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The bottom line

Life in Brandon calls the article "misleading. The salaries provided for lecturer and full professor represent the high end of the range for both. And most university teachers (sic) are at the rank of Associate professor, not full Professor. $138,000 is the top end of the range for full professor at my university ($108,671 to $147,661), so what a university 'teacher' is making by their mid to late 50s, so after 20-25 years on the job, and lecturers make $55,389 to $69,159 ... not $85K. And Brandon sits somewhere in the top 1/3 by salaries of Canadian universities. Most university teachers – at all ranks – in BC, for example, are making less than $85K a year."

Finally, he adds, "No one enters academe for the money."

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