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Nature of the Work
* A Ph.D. is generally required for full-time positions in 4-year colleges and universities; in 2-year institutions, master's degree holders may qualify.
* Applicants for full-time college faculty positions face keen competition because many colleges and universities, in an effort to cut costs, will hire more part-time faculty.
* Job prospects will continue to be better in certain fieldscomputer science, engineering, and business, for examplethat offer attractive nonacademic job opportunities and attract fewer applicants for academic positions.
College and university faculty teach and advise nearly 15 million full- and part-time college students and perform a significant part of our Nation's research. They also study and meet with colleagues to keep up with developments in their field and consult with government, business, nonprofit, and community organizations.
Faculty generally are organized into departments or divisions, based on subject or field. They usually teach several different courses in their departmentalgebra, calculus, and statistics, for example. They may instruct undergraduate or graduate students, or both. College and university faculty may give lectures to several hundred students in large halls, lead small seminars, or supervise students in laboratories. They prepare lectures, exercises, and laboratory experiments, grade exams and papers, and advise and work with students individually. In universities, they also counsel, advise, teach, and supervise graduate student teaching and research. College faculty work with an increasingly varied student population made up of growing shares of part-time, older, and culturally and racially diverse students.
Faculty keep abreast of developments in their field by reading current literature, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences. They also do their own research to expand knowledge in their field. They experiment, collect and analyze data, and examine original documents, literature, and other source material. From this, they develop hypotheses, arrive at conclusions, and publish their findings in scholarly journals, books, and electronic media.
College and university faculty increasingly use technology in all areas of their work. In the classroom, they may use computersincluding the Internet; electronic mail; software programs, such as statistical packages; and CD-ROMsas teaching aids. Some professors teach "satellite" courses that are broadcast to students at off-campus sites through closed-circuit or cable television. Faculty also use computers to do their own research, participate in discussion groups in their field, or publicize their professional research papers.
Most faculty members serve on academic or administrative committees which deal with the policies of their institution, departmental matters, academic issues, curricula, budgets, equipment purchases, and hiring. Some work with student as well as community organizations. Department chairpersons are faculty members who usually teach some courses but generally have heavier administrative responsibilities.
The proportion of time spent on research, teaching, administrative, and other duties varies by individual circumstance and type of institution. Faculty members at universities generally spend a significant part of their time doing research; those in 4-year colleges, somewhat less; and those in 2-year colleges, relatively little. However, the teaching load usually is heavier in 2-year colleges and somewhat lower at 4-year institutions. Full professors at all types of institutions usually spend a larger portion of their time conducting research than assistant professors, instructors, and lecturers.
College faculty generally have flexible schedules. They must be present for classes, usually 12 to 16 hours a week, and for faculty and committee meetings. Most establish regular office hours for student consultations, usually 3 to 6 hours per week. Otherwise, faculty are free to decide when and where they will work, and how much time to devote to course preparation, grading papers and exams, study, research, graduate student supervision, and other activities. Initial adjustment to these responsibilities can be challenging as new faculty adapt to switching roles from student to teacher. This adjustment may be even more difficult as class size grows in response to faculty and budget cutbacks, increasing an instructor's workload. Also, many institutions are increasing their reliance on part-time faculty, who generally have limited administrative and student advising duties, which leaves the declining number of full-time faculty with a heavier workload.
Some faculty members work staggered hours and teach classes at night and on weekends. This is particularly true for faculty who teach at 2-year community colleges or institutions with large enrollments of older students with full-time jobs or family responsibilities on weekdays. Most faculty are employed on a 9-month contract, which allows them the time to teach, do research, travel, or pursue nonacademic interests during the summer and school holidays. Most colleges and universities have funds to support faculty research or other professional development needs, including travel to conferences and research sites.
Faculty may experience a conflict between their responsibilities to teach students and the pressure to do research and publish their findings. This may be a particular problem for young faculty seeking advancement in 4-year research universities. Increasing emphasis on undergraduate teaching performance in tenure decisions may alleviate some of this pressure, however.
Part-time faculty generally spend little time on campus, because they usually don't have an office. In addition, they may teach at more than one college, requiring travel between their various places of employment, earning the name "gypsy faculty." Part-time faculty are usually not eligible for tenure. Dealing with this lack of job security can be stressful.
College and university faculty held about 864,000 jobs in 1996, mostly in public institutions.
About 4 out of 10 college and university faculty worked part time in 1996. Some part-timers, known as "adjunct faculty," have primary jobs outside of academiain government, private industry, or in nonprofit researchand teach "on the side." Others seek full-time jobs but are unable to obtain them due to intense competition for available openings. Some work part time in more than one institution.
Most college and university faculty are in four academic ranks: Professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor. These positions are usually considered to be tenure-track positions. A small number of faculty, called lecturers, usually are not on the tenure track.
Most faculty members are hired as instructors or assistant professors. Four-year colleges and universities generally only consider doctoral degree holders for full-time, tenure-track positions, but may hire master's degree holders or doctoral candidates for certain disciplines, such as the arts, or for part-time and temporary jobs. In 2-year colleges, master's degree holders often qualify for full-time positions. However, with increasing competition for available jobs, institutions can be more selective in their hiring practices. Master's degree holders may find it increasingly difficult to obtain employment as they are passed over in favor of candidates holding a Ph.D.
Doctoral programs, including time spent completing a master's degree and a dissertation, take an average of 6 to 8 years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's degree. Some programs, such as the humanities, take longer to complete; others, such as engineering, generally are shorter. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield of a disciplinefor example, organic chemistry, counseling psychology, or European historybut also take courses covering the entire discipline. Programs include 20 or more increasingly specialized courses and seminars plus comprehensive examinations on all major areas of the field. Candidates also must complete a dissertationa written report on original research in the candidate's major field of study. The dissertation sets forth an original hypothesis or proposes a model and tests it. Students in the natural sciences and engineering usually do laboratory work; in the humanities, they study original documents and other published material. The dissertation, done under the guidance of one or more faculty advisors, usually takes 1 or 2 years of full-time work.
In some fields, particularly the natural sciences, some students spend an additional 2 years on postdoctoral research and study before taking a faculty position. Some Ph.D.'s extend or take new postdoctoral appointments if they are unable to find a faculty job. Most of these appointments offer a nominal salary.
A major step in the traditional academic career is attaining tenure. New tenure-track faculty are usually hired as instructors or assistant professors, and must serve a certain period (usually 7 years) under term contracts. At the end of the contract period, their record of teaching, research, and overall contribution to the institution is reviewed; tenure is granted if the review is favorable. According to the American Association of University Professors, in 1995-96 about 65 percent of all full-time faculty held tenure while 88 percent were in tenure-track positions. Those denied tenure usually must leave the institution. Tenured professors cannot be fired without just cause and due process. Tenure protects the faculty's academic freedomthe ability to teach and conduct research without fear of being fired for advocating unpopular ideas. It also gives both faculty and institutions the stability needed for effective research and teaching, and provides financial security for faculty. Some institutions have adopted post-tenure review policies to encourage ongoing evaluation of tenured faculty.
The number of tenure-track positions is expected to decline as institutions rely more heavily on less costly part-time faculty who do not hold tenure-track positions. Consequently, increased reliance on part-time faculty is expected to shrink the total pool of faculty who hold tenure. Some institutions have placed "caps" on the percentage of faculty who can be tenured. Other institutions offer prospective faculty limited term contractstypically 2-, 3-, or 5-year, full-time contractsin an effort to adapt to changes in the budget and the size of the student body. These contracts may be terminated or extended at the end of the period. Institutions are not obligated to grant tenure to these contract holders.
Some facultybased on teaching experience, research, publication, and service on campus committees and task forcesmove into administrative and managerial positions, such as departmental chairperson, dean, and president. At 4-year institutions, such advancement requires a doctoral degree. At 2-year colleges, a doctorate is helpful but not generally required, except for advancement to some top administrative positions. (Deans and departmental chairpersons are covered in the Handbook statement on education administrators, while college presidents are included in the Handbook statement on general managers and top executives.)
College faculty should have inquiring and analytical minds, and a strong desire to pursue and disseminate knowledge. They must be able to communicate clearly and logically, both orally and in writing. They should be able to establish rapport with students and, as models for them, be dedicated to the principles of academic integrity and intellectual honesty. Additionally, they must be self-motivated and able to work in an environment where they receive little direct supervision.
Employment of college and university faculty is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2006 as enrollments in higher education increase. Many additional openings will arise as faculty members retire. Faculty retirements should increase significantly from the late 1990s through 2006 as a large number of faculty who entered the profession during the 1950s and 1960s reach retirement age. Most faculty members likely to retire are full-time tenured professors. However, in an effort to cut costs, some institutions are expected to either leave these positions vacant or hire part-time, non-tenured faculty as replacements. Prospective job applicants should be prepared to face keen competition for available jobs as growing numbers of Ph.D. graduates, including foreign-born Ph.D.'s, vie for fewer full-time openings. As more and more Ph.D.'s compete for openings, master's degree holders may find competition for jobs even more intense.
Enrollments in institutions of higher education increased in the mid-1980s through the early 1990s despite a decline in the traditional college-age (18-24) population. This resulted from a higher proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds attending college, along with a growing number of part-time, female, and older students. Between 1996 and 2006, the traditional college-age population will begin to grow again, spurred by the leading edge of the baby-boom "echo" generation (children of the baby-boomers) reaching college age. College enrollment is projected to rise from 14 million in 1996 to 16 million in 2006, an increase of 14 percent (see accompanying chart).
In the past two decades, keen competition for faculty jobs forced some applicants to accept part-time or short-term academic appointments that offered little hope of tenure, and others to seek nonacademic positions. This trend of hiring adjunct or part-time faculty is likely to continue due to financial difficulties faced by colleges and universities. Many colleges, faced with reduced State funding for higher education, have increased the hiring of part-time faculty to save money on pay and benefits. Public 2-year colleges employ a significantly higher number of part-time faculty as a percentage of their total staff than public 4-year colleges and universities, but all institutions have increased their part-time hiring. With uncertainty over future funding, many colleges and universities are continuing to cut costs by eliminating some academic programs, increasing class size, and closely monitoring all expenses.
Once enrollments and retirements start increasing at a faster pace in the late 1990s, opportunities for college faculty may begin to improve somewhat. Growing numbers of students will necessitate hiring more faculty to teach. At the same time, many faculty will be retiring, opening up even more positions. Job prospects will continue to be better in certain fieldsbusiness, engineering, health science, and computer science, for examplethat offer attractive nonacademic job opportunities and attract fewer applicants for academic positions.
Employment of college faculty is affected by the nonacademic job market. Excellent job prospects in a fieldfor example, computer science from the late 1970s to the mid-1980scause more students to enroll, increasing faculty needs in that field. On the other hand, poor job prospects in a field, such as history in recent years, discourages students and reduces demand for faculty.
Earnings vary according to faculty rank and type of institution, geographic area, and field. According to a 1995-96 survey by the American Association of University Professors, salaries for full-time faculty averaged $51,000. By rank, the average for professors was $65,400; associate professors, $48,300; assistant professors, $40,100; instructors, $30,800; and lecturers, $33,700. Faculty in 4-year institutions earn higher salaries, on the average, than those in 2-year schools. Average salaries for faculty in public institutions$50,400were lower in 1995-96 than those for private independent institutions$57,500but higher than those for religion-affiliated private institutions$45,200. In fields with high-paying nonacademic alternativesnotably medicine and law but also engineering and business, among othersearnings exceed these averages. In otherssuch as the humanities and educationthey are lower.
Most faculty members have significant earnings in addition to their base salary, from consulting, teaching additional courses, research, writing for publication, or other employment, both during the academic year and the summer.
Most college and university faculty enjoy some unique benefits, including access to campus facilities, tuition waivers for dependents, housing and travel allowances, and paid sabbatical leaves. Part-time faculty have fewer benefits than full-time faculty, and usually do not receive health insurance, retirement benefits, or sabbatical leave.
College and university faculty function both as teachers and researchers. They communicate information and ideas. Related occupations include elementary and secondary school teachers, librarians, writers, consultants, lobbyists, trainers and employee development specialists, and policy analysts. Faculty research activities often are similar to those of scientists, as well as managers and administrators in industry, government, and nonprofit research organizations.
Professional societies generally provide information on academic and nonacademic employment opportunities in their fields. Names and addresses of these societies appear in statements elsewhere in the Handbook.
Special publications on higher education, available in libraries, such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, list specific employment opportunities for faculty.
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