ERIC Number: EJ970355
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jun-3
Reference Count: N/A
Why Are Associate Professors so Unhappy?
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jun 2012
Life as an associate professor with tenure can be even more isolating and overwhelming than being an assistant professor on the tenure track. The path to achieving what amounts to higher education's golden ring is well marked and includes guidance from more-experienced peers. But once a professor earns tenure, that guidance disappears, the amount of committee work piles on, and associate professors are often left to figure out how to manage the varying demands of the job--and fit in time for their research--on their own. National data collected this year from 13,510 professors at 56 colleges and universities by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, at Harvard University show that associate professors are some of the unhappiest people in academe. They reported being significantly less satisfied than either assistant or full professors on nine of 11 questions related to research, including the portion of their time they get to spend on research and the amount of course release they receive to focus on it. They also were substantially less satisfied than those at either lower or higher ranks on five of the seven measures related to service, including the amount of time they must spend on service and what their institutions do to help professors who take on leadership roles to sustain other aspects of their work. They also are less satisfied with the accolades they receive for their work and are less likely than either assistant or full professors to say that if they had it to do over again, they would choose to work at the same institution. For most associate professors who find themselves unhappy, there are few alternatives. Because the academic labor market is so tight, the prospect of moving to another university is slim, particularly for those with tenure, who are more expensive than junior scholars. And, as associate professors spend more of their time on service work, and less on their own research and writing, their ability to be competitive on the job market and move to another institution is diminished. That leads some associate professors to feel trapped at the realization that they may be on the same campus with the same colleagues for the rest of their careers. A few universities are beginning to recognize the pitfalls of the associate-professor years and do something about it. Ohio State University is creating alternative paths for associate professors to be promoted to full professor, giving scholars credit for directing research centers that get grants, for example, rather than strictly for landing individual research grants and producing publications. Michigan State University has instituted a faculty orientation to midcareer and started workshops to help associate professors develop leadership and managerial skills since so much of the job is about directing and serving on committees.
Descriptors: Higher Education, Tenure, Grants, College Faculty, Work Environment, Job Satisfaction, Teacher Responsibility, Academic Rank (Professional), Research, Research and Development Centers, Workshops, Professional Development, Leadership Qualities, Skill Development
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Ohio