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Joining Your Department and Discipline - Negotiating Tips

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

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I also believe the opportunity for negotiation can also help to set the tone in your new position, showing that you are a professional who knows what you need to be successful. The other point to remember is that you will very seldom have something given to you that you did not ask for. So, you must ask! 



The posting below gives some good tips on negotiating once you have an academic offer.  It is from Chapter 2, Joining Your Department and Discipline in the book Survive and Thrive: A Guide for Untenured Faculty, by Wendy C. Crone, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Copyright © 2010 by Morgan & Claypool, a Publication in the Morgan & Claypool Publishers series Lecture #11 Series ISSN. Print 1939-5221 Electronic 1939-523X. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

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Tomorrow's Academic Careers

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Joining Your Department and Discipline - Negotiating Tips



The first steps to achieving tenure can occur well before you take up residence at your new institution. Much of this part of the process will put you in fact finding mode - starting when you begin looking at ads for positions, and continuing through the untenured years.

To be successful in your new position, you will need the right tools. If you are very lucky, someone will tell you what these tools are and they will help you to obtain them. Unfortunately, most young faculty I have talked with did not have this experience. Often, it is not for lack of good intentions on the part of senior colleagues and mentors. The rules change over the years and the emphasis within the tenure committee may change as the committee members change. So the onus is on the junior folks. You must ask questions, search for information, and negotiate for what you need. Some of us feel more comfortable with some of these tasks than with others, but you must persist with them all!

Now that you have made the decision to join the academy in your particular discipline and profession, you will want to consider the following questions.



  • Have you sought out advice or guidance that would help you enter into a successful negotiation?
  • What aspects of your position and duties are negotiable?
  • Can you do background research that will support your request?


Several years ago, one of the post docs in my group was offered an academic position. I encouraged her to negotiate the terms of the offer. This was not something she had intended to do. As a rule, I encourage everyone to negotiate, even if just a little, so that they can start to learn the art of negotiation and, hopefully, obtain the most optimal situation possible in the position they have been offered. I also believe the opportunity for negotiation can also help to set the tone in your new position, showing that you are a professional who knows what you need to be successful. The other point to remember is that you will very seldom have something given to you that you did not ask for. So, you must ask!

However, I should caution that you must ask for things that are reasonable, and you must ask in a professional and collegial way. There are a number of items that are negotiable, but two common topics are salary and teaching load. For both, a little research on the topic can go a long way. You can use your network to find out an amazing amount of information. This gives you information about the bounds and a strong foundation for negotiation. The post doc I mentioned earlier found out information about similar positions and had very good grounds for negotiation on several points. Although she was not able to directly negotiate her salary, the process was valuable because she found out that she was able to negotiate the amount of prior teaching experience counted towards her seniority, which ultimately set her pay rate. The process also helped her to decide if this was the right place for her.

Sometimes negotiation can get you more than what was initially offered, helping you to obtain things that will make you happier and more effective in your position. There are some choices you have concerning who to approach about negotiation. I usually suggest that one begin with the chair of the search committee or the chair of the department. Choose someone who can act as an advocate for you with the people who actually control the decisions (and the purse strings). The committee and/or department decided that you were the best person for the job, they want you to come to their institution, and they want you to succeed in the position.


1.  What approach to negotiation will achieve the best outcome? How will your approach depend on the situation? Consider the strategies of approaching negotiation as:

  • one event in a long term relationship that you want to foster.
  • an opportunity for relationship building.
  • a collaborative undertaking.
  • an opportunity to promote and open discussion that maximizes information flow in both directions.
  • a way to assess the needs of both parties.

2. Much negotiation of the terms of your appointment takes place before you accept an offer. The things that are negotiable depend on the type of institution and the department, but the primary concern should be to get what you need to enable you to be successful in the position. Items to consider at that time, or in the first year, include the following:

• Start-up package (including money for your summer salary, graduate assistant's salary, postdoc funding, computers, equipment, conferences, and flexible funds for other costs)

  • Time limits on start-up package spending
  • Salary
  • Seniority granted for prior experience
  • Moving expenses

• Teaching load (temporary reduction in teaching, semester off from teaching, choice of courses, control over when courses are taught)

  • Office space and office furniture
  • Laboratory, research or performance space renovated to your needs
  • Computing facilities
  • Job placement assistance for your spouse/partner

3. Your salary at the early stages of your career can have a dramatic impact on your lifetime earnings. Even a seemingly small dollar amount can grow to a large sum over the time frame of one's career. When approaching salary negotiation in an offer or at raise time:

  • develop a strategy in advance for the best approach to take with salary decision maker(s).
  • know what others in a similar field and at a similar level make.
  • set both a minimum and an upper goal.
  • don't undersell yourself in your opening negotiation.
  • don't concede to much too soon.
  • reiterate your points while remaining flexible.
  • conduct a mock negotiation with a friend to boost your confidence.

4. Have a frank discussion with your department chair about the following issues:

  • The track record of your department in supporting junior faculty
  • The availability of, and your eligibility for, financial support within the institution
  • Conditions you must meet for your appointment to continue
  • Teaching load and number of new preps each year
  • Courses you would prefer to teach
  • Release time for the development of new courses
  • Teaching assistantship support for the classes you teach
  • Teaching assistantships available for your graduate students
  • Expectations to buy out of a portion of your academic year salary
  • Vacation time and the amount of summer salary you are allowed to pay yourself
  • Preparation of your tenure packet
  • Provisions for maternity leave, parental leave, medical leave, and elder care leave1
  • Options for stopping the tenure clock for birth, adoption, elder care, or illness

5. If you already have or plan to have a family, it is important to find out about how your department and institution supports family responsibilities. In addition to reading up on the Family Medical Leave Act, you should also consider:

  • obtaining a copy of your institutions maternity, paternity, and adoption policy.
  • finding out about prior practice in your department and other departments in your college.
  • talking to other faculty with a similar family situation to your own.
  • discussing options for stopping the tenure clock with your chair.
  • looking into how a change in family status will affect your benefits.

6. There is a long list of other items that you should ask about early on in the process. Some key issues in your field may include the following:

  • Cost of a research assistant's salary and fringe benefits
  • Percentage of overhead taken on your grants
  • Funds available as matching money for grant proposals
  • Number of graduate student applications coming into the program each year
  • Quality of the graduate students in the program
  • Office computer
  • Computer networking infrastructure
  • Support for technology enhanced learning
  • Library services
  • Shared facilities available for research
  • Buyout policy
  • Undergraduate advising load

7. There are a number of seemingly small issues revolving around departmental resource allocation that can affect how you are perceived in your department. Consider:

  • What is viewed as a fair share of the office support for typing, photocopying, purchasing, etc.?
  • Is there an established system for requesting library purchases?
  • How will remodeling for your laboratory space be accomplished?

1J.C. Williams, "It's in Their Interest, Too," The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 31, 2006. (Accessed 11/11/09).