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Academic Job Offer and Salary Negotiations

by Briana Keller


Some graduate students may fear the negotiation process because they have little or no experience negotiating a job offer. Here are tips for negotiating a starting package that can maximize your personal and professional satisfaction as a future faculty member.

Collect information

  • Ask faculty in your department what they think would be a fair package.
  • Research average faculty salaries online by state and institution.
  • Check the websites of professional associations in your field for academic salary information.

Always negotiate

  • When you’re offered a position, the balance of power shifts in your favor. As a result, you will likely never be in a better position to get what you want.
  • Departments expect you to negotiate.
  • Do not assume anything. Ask questions.

Maintain a positive attitude

  • The way you negotiate sets the stage for future interactions with your colleagues. Strive for a win-win situation. The hiring committee and your supervisor want you to be happy with your starting package.
  • Be professional, courteous, appreciative, ethical — and firm.
  • Be willing to compromise and accept “no” as an answer.

Frame your requests appropriately

  • Frame your requests in terms of what you need to be optimally successful and productive at the institution.
  • Focus on the value you will bring to the department.

Think broadly

  • Always ask for a higher salary! Your starting salary has a big impact on your overall lifetime earnings because raises are calculated from your base (starting) salary.
  • Evaluate other aspects of an offer so you know what you’re getting yourself into: relocation expenses, confer- ence money, office space, lab equipment, job responsi- bilities, student and staff support, healthcare, retirement, family benefits, etc.
  • Try not to get so excited about having a job offer that you forget to think about the future.

Prioritize

  • Pick your battles—prioritize what’s important to you and then only negotiate the things about which you feel strongly.
  • Ask yourself “What do I need to be happy, be produc- tive—and get tenure?”
  • Distinguish between what is absolutely necessary for you and what would be nice to have, but extra.

Get it in writing

  • When you receive the official offer letter, make sure it agrees with what was discussed during the negotiation process.
  • If the letter contains inaccurate information or is missing vital items, ask for an updated letter.
  • If you agree to the terms, sign the letter, make a copy of it, and promptly return the original.
  • Do not consider yourself hired until you and your employer have both signed a written document.

Resources

Golde, C. (2001). Be honorable and strategic. Science Careers. http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/

Heiberger, M. M., & Vick, J. M. (2001). The academic job search handbook. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Reis, R. (1999). The right start-up package for beginning science professors. The Chronicle of Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/jobs/99/08/99082702c.htm