How To Negotiate Your Tenure Track Offer

Negotiating season is in full swing!  I’m working with a whole crew of clients on negotiating their offers, and I’ve got plenty of room in my schedule for more. Please consider getting in touch; clients routinely increase their offers by $10,000-$50,000 (and more if you’re in the sciences). This was originally posted in 2011, with a few updates added since then.  If you have an offer and are interested in getting this help, please email me at


Today’s post is a Special Request post for Ally and Katy and several other clients and readers who wrote asking for help on negotiating their contract after receiving an offer. I’m happy to oblige, but keep in mind that this particular matter, more than any other, is U.S.-specific. I’ve been told that in the U.K., negotiating is not done and the attempt alone might cost you the job. Other countries, I can’t say. But in the U.S., negotiating is de rigeur [2016 update: except on the rare but increasing occasions where it leads to an offer being rescinded, about which more below, and also please check the chapters in my book on Negotiating]. And women, in particular, are terrible at it, as this recent Chronicle piece points out.

So what follows are my recommendations for how to proceed when (gasp!) you are the recipient of the coveted offer of a job.

Do not, under any circumstances, accept the offer the same day they make it. When they call or email, answer pleasantly and politely, “Oh thank you. That is good news. I’m so pleased.” And then say, “I’d like to know more about the offer. When can we discuss the details, and when can I expect a written contract?” If the Department Head tries to push you for a commitment, simply repeat, “I am very happy for the offer, but I will need to discuss the terms and see the contract before I can make a final commitment. I very much look forward to discussing this further. I hope we can begin soon.”

Now, there are several things you need to know. Once an offer has been made to you, the institution cannot legally offer the job to anyone else for a certain amount of time. While that amount of time may vary by institution, be assured that you have at least one week to contemplate your response, and possibly as much as two or three. During that time you are in the driver’s seat. While unscrupulous or panicky or pushy Department Heads may try to hustle you, do not allow yourself to be hustled. You are now the one in charge. Bask in that.

[2012 Addendum:  As noted in comments below, more and more frequently candidates are finding offers being rescinded, either for budgetary reasons, or administrative foul-ups, or most appallingly, sheer institutional malfeasance.  Check out the Job Wiki page “Universities to Fear” for more stories of this nature.  I am unable to say with any certainty how common this is, and how much it should influence your actions vis-a-vis the offer. My sense is that it is still uncommon enough that you should treat all offers as open to negotiation.  The most important thing is to be guided by a trusted senior mentor from the moment the offer is made.   In the meantime, I am soliciting a guest post from someone with more direct experience with the rescinded offer. (The guest post is up). ]

[2014 Addendum:  I’ve seen two offers rescinded in three years of helping clients negotiate offers, and heard one other such story from a reader. In all cases the institution abruptly shut out the client when the client simply asked for more information about/initially raised the option of negotiating elements of the offer, with a email that said something like, “thanks for your interest in the position; we will be moving on to another candidate. Good luck with your career.”  These were all very low-ranking, regional institutions. It is shocking and unconscionable.]

[2016 Addendum:  rescinded offers are on the rise.  It’s a buyers market.  Please read a recent Chronicle Vitae column about this, and PLEASE get help, from me or from a trusted advisor, on negotiating your offer. Email me at]

(2014: With the above caveats…) Most offers have room for negotiation. You should first see what the formal offer is in terms of salary, summer salary, teaching load, leave time, research support, expectations for tenure, graduate student funding, service expectations (particularly if it is a joint appointment), support for a spousal hire, and other matters. Until you have these in writing you cannot make an informed response.

Once you receive these, decide what you’re going to come back with in negotiation. Because, you ALWAYS come back asking for more. You are entitled. It is expected. Do not miss this one-time-only opportunity to negotiate greater gain for yourself and your family.  

[2016 addendum: Here are elements for which you can negotiate:

Negotiating Priorities:


Start up funds

Teaching release first year

Guaranteed junior sabbatical

Computer and software

Conference travel

Moving expenses

Paid visit to look at houses

Summer salary (this is additional salary NOT connected to teaching offered on a short term basis for 1-3 years. Note that this refers to summers AFTER your first year teaching, not preceding it.  Useful as a backup if permanent raise request is unsuccessful)

Insurance coverage in the summer prior to starting the new position, if needed

Spousal position

Tenure expectations (if appropriate, ie, if you’re trying to come in with tenure credit)

If a second job:  credit toward tenure/credit toward sabbatical

[Please read comment stream for more elements of an offer that should be up for negotiation].

What you ask for will depend on you and your goals. A single person with no children might decide to prioritize research support —ie, additional leave time and a larger research budget to pay for overseas research. A person supporting a family might forgo additional research funding to prioritize a higher salary. A person seeking a position for their spouse might forgo both research support and salary in order to prioritize a spousal appointment. The point is, in all cases, this is the one AND ONLY time in your early years in the department that you can attempt to turn circumstances in your favor. So do it.

Always proceed courteously and professionally. I advise that you work by email not phone, especially for the first couple of exchanges.  Inexperienced, brand new Ph.D.s have no ability to instantly absorb the elements of an offer and evaluate them, let alone compose effective negotiating responses to them.  You need time to study them, discuss them with mentors, and craft your replies.  While old school (and usually male) faculty strongly favor the phone, my equally strong belief is that for every new Ph.D., but particularly for women and minorities, and first generation scholars, etc., it is critical that you preserve the breathing space of email, while also being hypervigilant to issues of tone (which so often can go awry in email. This is why you need a good negotiating email editor, just sayin’!)

Respond quickly to emails and calls, and never leave them hanging, even if just to say, “I received your latest email; thank you. I will study it and respond by tomorrow.” Ideally you should have a trusted senior colleague assist you in these negotiations. It is critical that you maintain positive relations with your likely future colleagues. But although they might grumble a bit as the negotiations carry on for a week or two, they will respect you. This is how the game is played.

Now, one aspect to consider is if you have another competing offer or possible offer. If you do, first off, lucky you—you have rocked the system. This is the absolute best position to negotiate from. If you are waiting on an offer from a second school, you may contact that second school and inform them of the offer you received from school one. You will write something to this effect, “Dear Steve, Thank you again for having me out to visit your department at XXX U. I enjoyed the visit immensely. I am writing to let you know that I have received an offer from another institution. My timeline for accepting this offer is approximately one week. I wonder if I could receive a response regarding your search within that time frame. I want to reiterate my interest in your position. I hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, XXX”

You can be assured that this email will send a jolt of terror through the spine of Steve, if you are his department’s first choice. The greatest fear of departments once an offer is made is that the offerree will reject it and accept an offer elsewhere. The department may have a solid alternate candidate available, but often they do not. Departments often end up voting all but the top candidate as “unacceptable,” so failure to get the top candidate means a failed search, and the risk of losing authorization to hire that year. So all their eggs are in one basket, and that basket is you.

If you are their top candidate, and they just haven’t told you yet because they haven’t had a chance to complete their voting and offer process (offers may have to be vetted by the Dean before they can be made to the candidate), this small, courteous email will send the department into a panic. And a panicked department is what you want. Because a panicked department, sensing that they might lose you to institution one, will be more likely to agree to your demands for salary, leave time, research support, and spousal positions.

Now all departments have financial and logistical limitations. You cannot negotiate above those. If you try, you will quickly alienate them. They will not withdraw the offer, but they will resent you, and those feelings of resentment are dangerous for a soon-to-be junior faculty member. The key to negotiating is to always maintain good faith and honesty, and always have a highly delicate sense for when you are hitting a true wall of “we can’t do that.” Because when you hit that, that’s when you stop.

In terms of salary upper limits, this is particularly serious. Be aware that many public institutions suffer from salary compression problems. That means that associate and full professors’ salaries have not kept pace with the national market, and consequently new assistant professors are offered salaries nearly as high as those of the tenured faculty who have been on campus for years. Salary compression creates terrible feelings of resentment and low morale in departments suffering from it. The Head will be all too well aware of these feelings. When the Head tells you, “we cannot go higher than $68,000 for your starting salary, or we will offend some faculty,” take that as a hard no, because it most likely reflects the Associate level salary scale in the department. This doesn’t mean no additional money is possible—it just needs to be one-time-only, or short-term money instead of a recurring commitment. So, turn your efforts to summer salary for one to three years, one-time research support, a guaranteed graduate research assistant, and other shorter-term forms of compensation that don’t put pressure on an already overburdened salary structure.

In terms of the dreaded spousal issue…this is the hardest negotiation of all. In general, wait until you have a firm offer before you bring up the spouse. Any mention earlier than that could well work against you in the minds of the faculty, consciously or unconsciously. Once the offer is in hand, mention your spouse to the Department Head. Be aware that this is the one and only chance that you will have to negotiate for a spousal hire, so DO NOT WASTE IT! Push as firmly as you can for the actual tenure-track offer, and don’t be put off with the range of one-year, two-year, three- year, instructor, adjunct, and visiting positions that they will try to pawn off on you.

They may say something like “oh we can revisit your husband’s tenure case later, when this contract is up,” but DON’T BELIEVE IT. It is never, ever revisited after you lose the leverage of the initial offer (that is, until you gain the leverage of an external offer, and that’s a pain and time-consuming to manage).

Accept nothing in negotiations, but absolutely nothing in the case of spousal negotiations, that is not in writing. Any “informal” agreements or understandings that you may have with the current Head or Dean are meaningless if not in writing, because Heads and Deans change, and with no written agreement, all arrangements are void.

Make sure that your spouse is debut-ready. His or her cv should be spit-shined, the dissertation finished, and a polished research and teaching statement prepared. Be clear what departments the spouse would be eligible for an appointment in, and the full range of positions for which he/she is qualified.

Be flexible about any offered position that is tenure-track. There are many painful and difficult negotiations that have to take place to line up a spousal hire, and some departments and department heads will play ball more than others. Some Heads are incompetent while others are savvy. To some extent you are at the Head’s mercy.

Be aware of how spousal hires are paid for. Generally, the original department will pay one third of the spousal hire’s salary, the Dean’s office will pay one third, and then the spouse receiving department will pay one third. This obviously has a great deal of appeal for the receiving department as they are getting one full line for 1/3 cost. However, they may resent being forced to accept a faculty member whom they did not go out and recruit on their own, and they may fear that the spouse hire will derail the actual hiring goals they have in place (ie, that the Dean will say, “well you got a full line hire this year, so we won’t approve your other, original search requests”). Thus the interested parties may have to knock on several doors to find a department willing to take this “free gift,” and may well find it impossible, in the end, to accomplish.

The important thing, once again, is to hold firm and politely repeat, “My biggest priority is a position for my spouse,” without any escalation or emotionalism or drama, day after day, to person after person, until you either get the spousal offer, or get a flat-out NO that you read as unmistakable. As long as they are still talking to you about it, don’t waver.

Once you make your decision, call or email both departments immediately, and courteously and professionally express your gratitude for their offers, and accept one with warmth and enthusiasm, and turn down the other with kindness and respect. Remember that the colleagues in the rejected department will continue to play a role in your professional life for many years to come. You will see them at conferences, they might be external reviewers for your journal article or book mss., and who knows, one of them might end up one of your tenure writers one day. So preserve your good relations with these people at all costs. They will not be angry that you rejected their offer. They will just be disappointed. Be very friendly when you next run into them at a conference.



How To Negotiate Your Tenure Track Offer — 105 Comments

    • I would like to know this too. I just received an offer for a post-doc and I’d like to know what, in addition to salary, can be negotiated.

      • Sorry for the delay in responding to these questions. Generally speaking postdocs are not very negotiable, when they’re in the humanities and social sciences. The salary definitely isn’t. You may find a little give on things like moving expenses, if you have particular circumstances that warrant it. But the terms of postdocs in terms of salary and res. support are firmly set, particularly when the postdoc itself is funded by an external funder such as Mellon. Hard sciences postdocs are likely different, as they are often stand-ins for first jobs in those fields, so please check with an expert/mentor if you’re in those fields.

        • For posterity: STEM postdoc salaries are negotiable. I negotiated mine and received 10% over the initial amount. The final value is comfortably above the recommended NIH payscale, which is nearly impossible to survive on in high cost-of-living areas. I’ve also received topoff funding after receiving a fellowship that paid less than the initial salary. Be prepared to justify. I’m preparing my startup as an assistant professor right now, and I’ve included wiggle room to pay extra for good postdocs.

          • For the five postdocs that I’ve hired, not one has negotiated on salary, but benefits and teaching loads are definitely negotiated. Some postdocs actually want more teaching in order to get the teaching stipend (which is as close as we come to a salary increase), but most obviously choose to focus on research. All have had good outcomes (full-time permanent research job at a university or industry position).

            If any of them had insisted on a higher starting salary, I would have hired someone else. Outstanding applicants are readily available. Even if I had some wiggle room, I would use it on more postdocs, not more expensive postdocs. We’ve turned away many outstanding candidates for lack of funding, and it’s hard to imagine how higher salaries could help to attract better candidates given the quality already in the applicant pool.

        • I’m not in social science, and neither am I in the USA, so my experience may be irrelevant to most readers of this blog. But I negotiated my (STEM) postdoc salary up by over 20%, and that for a position which didn’t even exist before I suggested they offer me a job. Not that the salary I first was offered was anything I could possible live on, so they probably expected me to negotiate. On the other hand, I don’t think I could possibly make such a demand should my current professorship application be successful. It is important to know the culture of the country that you are in.

    • After receiving an offer for a one-year teaching postdoc and a one-year renewable VAP I was given advice by my committee to very politely and carefully ask about any additional funding resources at the post-doc institution. It helped that the VAP offer would have paid 28K more (it was HARD to turn down the extra money, a more desirable location, and a slightly more prestigious SLAC but I went with the postdoc). Though I didn’t give specifics and they were never requested, simply mentioning the other offer triggered what seemed like a very scripted checklist of allowable things from the provost. Over a brief phone conversation, he was able to up my moving expenses considerably, offered me the same annual research funds extended to all TT faculty, and enough conference funding for 1 1/2 meetings. I am so glad I asked. It was an externally funded postdoc specifically for SLACs if that makes a difference.

  1. After having your website recommended to me by several people, I’ve just started reading–and–greatly enjoying–your posts. I do feel the need to comment on the above, however, in respect to one minor detail. I recieved several (3) offers for TT jobs when I was on the market this past year, and in consulting many senior faculty in my field about how to proceed before and after the negotiations, I was repeatedly told the same thing: after you have the offer, you are in the driver’s seat. They can’t rescind the offer until you have rejected it. However, I had a variation on this experience. I received a TT offer from a major research public university. The offer was made on a Monday, verbally, by the Chair, with verbal support of the Dean (I never had a Dean extend an offer to me, only a Dept. Chair) with the understanding that an in print offer would be received in print within 5 business days. On the 4th day, I was notified that the Dean had re-reviewed the applications of the other candidates and had decided that I was, in comparison, not the most qaulified candidate (I was one year out of grad school), and retracted the offer, via the Chair. It wasn’t in writing yet…but the Chair had been authorized to make the offer by the Dean and I was congratulated on it by faculty members throughout the Department. This–and a few other experiences–completely shattered my faith and confidence in the negotiating process (another program lied, in writing, about the teaching load during post-offer negotiations, for example), even though the Dept/ University that gave me my third offer–and now current position–could not have been more honest and gracious (and there, I mentioned the need for a spousal hire before the on-campus interview had even been scheduled and received a full spousal hire, all requested specs met….). So maybe these things aren’t universals?

    And, based on comments on the Academic Jobs Wiki, my experience might not be too, too rare:

    Thanks for the great advice on your site!

    • Thanks for this, Jasprann. I had an unaccustomed pang of doubt, actually, while writing that part of the post, and even took it out temporarily, before putting it back in. the fact is, in the tumult of the current job market, the kinds of things you describe ARE becoming more common. I don’t think they’re anywhere near the norm, which is why I decided ultimately to leave my advice as is, but reading your account, I think I will go back and add some caveats. I’ll also check more deeply into the Wiki and try to gather some stories. Actually, now that I think of it, I’ll also devote a blog post to this. Would you be interested in writing or contributing to it? Since it’s entirely out of my own experience, for myself or people I’ve worked with directly, I’d appreciate some knowledgable input.

      • Karen, I would be happy to provide what ever inisght I may have into this. I think it may be a problem specific to certain Universities/ Colleges, butI think that given the buyer’s market we are faced with, there is no reason practices like this wouldn’t pop up more often. My hidden e-mail is the best one to correspond with.

  2. I also had an experience that ran counter to the advice above, although no bad faith was involved. I received a verbal offer from the dean, and I was given a week to accept the position. Paperwork from HR didn’t arrive within the week and I verbally accepted the position after being reassured by the dean and deptartment chair that the position was secure. About a month later the paperwork finally arrived, and indicated that I would forfeit the position if I didn’t respond by a date that was earlier than the postmark on the envelope the paperwork came in. I quickly called the Dean and Dept. Chair and was assured that I still had the position and that I should just fill out the paperwork and everything would be fine. And everything was fine. The problem was that our HR department is not very reliable about this sort of thing and the Dean has no control over HR. So, in the end, I got the position and got what I was promised. But if I had refused to accept the job without getting the paperwork in hand, I would not have the job today, through no fault of the Dean or Dept. Chair, but rather due to the bureaucracy that is probably not uncommon at regional state schools.

  3. This is good advice. I’d also add this: immediately call your diss advisor or whoever you most trust who already has a t-t job and ask them what to negotiate. Salary and partner hires are the two big issues, but don’t forget other smaller things (and they will slip your mind because you’ll be so relieved you’re not going to debtor’s prison next year). Computer support. Course reduction. Leave time. Summer salary. Pre-tenure leave. Preferred teaching schedules and courses in your first year. You won’t get everything but you’ll get something. I should also add that Karen’s right: women feel awkward about negotiating. And believe me, male administrators know this, and they will take advantage of it. It’s in their best interests in the longterm, even if they really, really like you. I tell all of my women advisees that if they are suddenly overcome with shame as they are negotiating they should say this: “Oh, and my advisor also wanted to know if you will……”. You can only use that once or twice in a negotiation, but it will at least get you to put your cards on the table.

    • Thanks, Stephanie. These are great additions that you mention: computer support, course reduction, leave time, summer salary, pre-tenure leave, and preferred teaching schedules and courses. All of these are legitimate items for discussion, and ALL should be mentioned before agreeing to a final contract either verbally or in writing. Women! this is your time to be firm and selfish! do it!

  4. Can someone explain what “summer salary” is? Does this mean that TT jobs in the US do not pay over the summer or is this extra salary to compensate for research trips/expenses during the months when you are not teaching?

    • lol. Generally in the U.S. academics get paid on a 9-month basis. That is, the full year salary is compressed into 9 months. Some campuses allow you to choose the 12 month option instead, but generally 9 month is the default. (which means that faculty have to proactively budget to set money aside during the year to cover their summer expenses–not always an easy thing to do). So “summer salary” is 1-3 months of your monthly pay tacked on to your regular pay. Basically a “bonus.” For some it will just allow them to keep the budgetary ship afloat during the summer, while for others, who are less financially precarious, it could allow for research trips, etc. But “summer salary” is just that: salary, to be used as you see fit. “Summer research funding,” by contrast, is a sum of money set aside for you to use strictly for research. It will mostly likely NOT be paid out in advance, but will be available to reimburse legitimate research and travel expenses upon submission of receipts.

        • this is a negotiation point that has to be evaluated in the larger holistic context of your requests. The typical summer salary in the humanities is 1/9 your annual salary, and may be fixed. But then sure, it could be 2/9; it’s not typically 3/9. A good basic ask is 1/9 for 3 years. they’ll prob give you 1 or 2 years.

  5. This is excellent advice; thanks for setting it all out. I want to add one thing about salaries. Even in public universities and even in unionized universities it is often the case that the public salary scale can be supplemented by some kind of fund–the pursestrings typically being held by central administration. At my (public/doctoral-professional) university, it’s called a “market supplement” to salary, and the fund is typically used to increase the salaries of hires in Business and Engineering beyond the rates specified in our collective agreement. It’s not a secret but it’s certainly not advertised to prospective hires, who are ALWAYS told, “we can’t go any higher than step x on the salary scale.” That’s technically true for base salary, but the market supplement is considered external to the salary scale. I was also told that these supplements never go to us useless (“unmarketable”?!) types in the humanities, but, while that’s the case most of the time, it is not always true.

    In these financially troubled times I don’t know how many institutions have retained such funds, and I imagine it’s rare that an Assistant Professor outside the professional disciplines would get a bump external to scale. But I guess I find it psychologically useful information to have: you never actually know what the budget is, and they always lowball what they can give you. And if you’re in Comp Lit, be assured that they are paying your counterpart in Mech Eng a LOT more than you, and the university has not yet gone bankrupt. (Yet.)

  6. One more addition to this already excellent post: if you are offered start-up funds, ask about those funds carefully. I have seen people wrecked on this shoal.

    Do you have to use the start-up within a certain amount of time (does it disappear after 1 year? 3 years?).

    Do you pay for your moving expenses out of the start-up, or is moving separate?

    Do you pay for your computer out of the start-up, or is this separate?

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  8. Another issue I faced was that my current dept gave me an amazing run-around and had me deal with a number of different people. The chair made promises, the Dean made promises, I dealt with staff who are in charge of organizing space and some of the equipment requests to cover other issues, and finally the schedule of release time was arranged with another person. I got paper trails of everything and kept up a cc daisy-chain that was boggling so that no one could argue that they hadn’t been informed of a decision but this left people able to say “oh well so and so may have promised you this but I didn’t really agree to that”. This was a problem for those things that I was told didn’t need to be in the contract and at the time I felt silly insisting would be in the official offer (e.g. That I get the fridge left behind by a retired faculty which would save me some money from my start-up – I was told that sort of thing ‘couldn’t’ be in the contract and really why was I asking for something so small). Well basically the screwed me over with that stuff. So I don’t know what to say – do you ask for the level of specificity of the dept will provide a refrigerator, a desk less than 50 years old, 12 shelving units of type X, …? I was promised things like this that now I have to live without or buy on start-up because no one feels that the e-mails exchanged and agreed to applies to them. I think asking me to deal with so many people was strategy on their part so avoid that but what’s the solution to be sure you get what’s promised?

    • This is an interesting angle on the negotiating process—I haven’t had experience with the “talk to 5 different people” method. I *would* however say that….. in reality….. you kind of….can’t really …… negotiate for refrigerators and shelving. I would say that yes, that would be viewed as “too small.” And also, things that when you get on campus AND MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SECRETARY you can take care of bit by bit, informally, over the first semester or year.

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  10. I’ve heard that you can sometimes negotiate for summer salary for the summer before you start? Given the fact that contracts don’t generally start until the beginning of the semester, I’m curious how that’s possible. Or, is this part of “start-up money”?

  11. tt Fischer. The elder Fischer directed the desegregation of Baltimore’s public schools in the mid-1950s and was subsequently dean and president of T

  12. I’d like to negotiate for a couple things- higher salary, earlier start date, and higher moving cost assistance. Is it reasonable to ask for multiple things? If yes, should I ask for all these at once? Or one by one?

    p.s. Edits I made after reading your blog helped me get this offer!!! Thank you!!

  13. Sorry for the anon.
    I received an offer for a tt position over the phone. I then asked to confirm the terms and to see the contract by email. I was confirmed the terms, but told that the contract could not be sent until the offer was accepted (Is this right?). I replied that my acceptance was contingent to the deferment of the starting date, and I have been replied that they will look into it, but since then I haven’t heard back for two days.
    Should I be worried? Is there anything I should do, or just patiently wait?

    • This is too late to help you, but for future readers, if this happens, you should accept the offer in order to get the offer letter, and then rescind your acceptance later if something better comes along. This advice violates numerous recommendations in Karen’s post, but such a situation is highly irregular — the university is behaving unethically, and you have every right to defend your own interests.

      I would also tread very carefully in negotiating with such a school, since it is clear that they favor ruthless, hardball tactics. I wouldn’t even consider negotiating unless you have a competing offer; there is a good chance that the university will pull their offer if you try, and you need to be prepared for this possibility. If you have another, comparable offer, then by all means, squeeze them for all they’re worth. Once you sign the offer letter in writing, though, the negotiation is over. However, you certainly can negotiate in between the dates of your email acceptance and your written signature.

      Either way, you’ll probably want to be planning your exit strategy immediately. These types of institutions are not good places to work. Consider yourself lucky that you have been warned of their dysfunctionality in advance.

      • I just had the same thing happen to me and they did send it to me after I insisted though I was told this isn’t how things are done. Makes me nervous.

  14. I was just offered a two-year tenure track position, with a high salary and computer support. First, what is a “two-year” tenure track position? Second, in light that the salary is higher than other universities in the area, is it worth negotiating?

    • I confess I have no idea. Never heard of this. If it’s tenure track you have to have a tenure probationary period, and those are 5-6 years….so this makes no sense. I’d be interested to hear what you learn–email me if you’re willing, at

      • I suspect it’s like the description I just heard at an R1 in interview. They give you a three-year contract in the initial phase, and then another two contracts of two years each, to get you through tenure in year five or six.

  15. Thanks for the article and subsequent posts, this information is extremely helpful to me!

    I just received an email from the HoD stating that I was selected as the top candidate in their search, and that I should now provide within 3 days a detailed list of my startup needs before the official offer letter can be made. Apparently, the department is in the process of getting final approval for the official offer from the Provost, and they have to know my startup needs first, because the offer letter can’t be drafted and vetted until the startup information is included. Apparently, the HoD has to work with the Associate Dean and the Vice Provost to “define the startup needs”.

    Of course my questions now are:
    1. Since the list I will send them will apparently be included in their official offer letter, will I forfeit the opportunity to add items to this list at a later date?
    2. Will my needs remain negotiable once I have the official offer letter?
    3. Should I understate these needs at this point in time, given that (i) I do not have an official offer letter in my hand and therefore (ii) I want to avoid to trigger a potential withdrawal of the promised offer, which might happen if I ask for what in their mind may be too much?

    Thanks very much for your advice!

    • I confess that I’m not an expert in the kind of advance start up request model common in the hard sciences. However, I am working with several clients currently who have been invited to do so, and who are submitting ENORMOUS (but totally legit for their research) start-ups. They are being advised by their advisors while also working with me, and overall, it seems that you ask for exactly what you actually want and need; don’t skimp here. This is a kind of advance negotiation.

        • During my campus visit at a slac, the provost told me to expect this type of back & forth about start up funds & research equipment needs before they prep an offer.m I was told that justifying large equipment needs would go a long way. It feels almost like preparing legislation; it’s not brought to the floor unless everyone knows it’ll pass. This is a more comfortable bargaining position, because you do not have to make a counter-offer that implicitly rejects their first offer which may be rescinded. In the sciences, you’ve prepped a 5-10 year research plan and you should know what you need to make it happen. In making you the offer, they like your plan and will want you to succeed.

  16. I’ve recently had what seemed like a successful on campus interview at an R1 University for a newly-created position. I am a candidate with little teaching experience and 15 years professional experience in my field (design). I demonstrated a high potential for teaching and creative scholarship, which the chair has asked me to define further. They have also asked me for a “budget” for a shop facility for students. I have no offer yet. They expect to make a decision in a week from now. I am mainly clueless of academic job hiring and contract negotiation. Any advice about what I should be asking for if offered a position is helpful, and should I submit that to the department head before the offer is made or after? Thanks!
    -Clueless and Excited

  17. First off: thank you for all your excellent advice! I am one of the lucky ones with supportive advisors, but your advice is wonderfully specific.

    I just received a TT offer in psychology at a university of moderate means, and I’m wondering about negotiating startup. Some people I know have adopted the strategy of having a “dream list” and a “must have” list. To me, it seems like sending the “must have” list might be an example of negotiating like a girl: it just gives them an excuse to give you less money (“well, if you only really need $XX….”). What do you think?

    • You know, negotiating is a bit of an art. We have to know various things like what others were offered before you, how much they want you, what messages you got directly and indirectly from the chair and or dean…. this is why people pay money to work with me. I can’t really answer this without knowing the *specific* circumstances!

  18. Thanks for such wonderful tips!

    I just want to clarify. When I receive a call from the Head offering me a position, do I normally start the negotiation immediately? or should I first ask him/her to send a written contract, and after that all negotiations begin?

    Thanks in advance!

  19. First of all I would like to thank you for this wonderful advices.
    I had couple of e-mail exchanges with dept. chair regarding my start-up requests. Finally, we had agreed upon some numbers on this. Now, dept. chair is asking me to express my acceptance by e-mail, so that they can proceed further to send me an “official offer letter”. But, I am not sure of terms and conditions that they will put on the official offer letter.
    Looks like I should express my acceptance by e-mail in order to get official offer letter.
    Kindly advice me whether will I have any room to negotiate after “accepting” it on e-mail?

    • As I said above in my reply to Anon, you should accept the position by email in order to get the official offer letter, and you should feel free to rescind your acceptance later if something better comes along. Rescinding an acceptance is normally a big no-no, but if the department is going to play dirty in this way, you need to retaliate. It is the only way to defend your interests. The department cannot break the rules and then expect you to play honestly. One would also normally not ultimately take up a position offered in this way unless there is no other option, since such places tend to be rife with dishonesty and backstabbing.

      Rescinding your acceptance will piss them off, but it won’t harm your career as much as you think. Word does get around as to which departments are cheating the system, and being on good or bad terms with these departments is not such a big benefit/liability as it normally would be.

      • In this situation, why not reply with acceptance by email, but include in the email the terms as you understand them? So, something like: I would like to accept your offer as we have agreed on it. In my understanding this includes a starting salary of $xx with additional summer salary of $xx per year and a startup budget we previously discussed totaling $xx. This doesn’t necessarily need to come off as overly aggressive, as you are also doing them a favor by clarifying where you are in the communication process. However, it does force the Chair to acknowledge what s/he seems to have agreed upon with you.

  20. Pingback: Why Have I No Power? Thoughts on Tenure Track Negotiations | The Professor Is In

  21. Thank you for this useful post and also thank you to everyone for the helpful comments. I just received an offer for a very interesting temporary position that might turn into a tenure-track job. I am aware that the school and the state set certain limits and that this is a temporary gig, but would it be acceptable to ask for 10% more in terms of the salary, or even 15% more? I was asked to provide a specific number.

  22. I, too, am wondering if non-tt offers are negotiable. If they didn’t mention moving expenses or any benefits at all, can I bring them up? If they told me the dean found an extra $2000 over what they originally meant to pay, can I still ask for more as the salary is a bit low for the area?

    • Temporary non-TT positions might be all the rage. Could someone comment on whether the terms for these are negotiable and if they are even worth taking if what you are truly looking for is a TT position? Do you take a non-TT position and continue to apply for TT jobs or is that just not done? If the non-TT institution hasn’t committed to you (by giving you a TT position) is it understood that you are free to leave for that TT job if the offer arises? Thanks.

  23. Pingback: Advice For Preparing For The Job Market (For Scholars On The Margins) | Conditionally Accepted

  24. Pingback: Advice For Preparing For The Job Market (For Scholars On The Margins) | Conditionally Accepted

  25. Pingback: [ConditionallyAccepted] Advice For Preparing For The Job Market (For Scholars On The Margins) | my sociology

  26. Karen and all,
    I have 3 years in university A and on tenure track, university B is interested in hiring me and I really see myself with university B. The problem is I don’t want to waste all my publications that I did for university A. My former dissertation chair who is now in university B told me that I can negotiate for an early tenure if I decided to apply later on. What are your thoughts on early tenure for someone like me? or should I just start over and let it go of the previous credits from university A. I will appreciate all your comments and feedback.

  27. If you get a TT offer before hearing back from postdocs, is it possible to negotiate a leave for your first year so that you could accept a postdoc, should you be selected? A postdoc for one year would obviously benefit the hiring TT dept since it would offer the time to work on your manuscript or publish more– do they see it this way too?

    • You can sometimes achieve this, but the stars kind of have to align—it has to be a willing and open-minded department with the resrouces to cover your absence, and the postdoc has to be prestigious enough to merit this kind of accommodation.

  28. When given a time frame for accepting an offer (two weeks, for ex) is this from the day you receive the formal written offer or from the day you are informed of the offer by phone?

  29. I was just offered and received a 3 year postdoc in the UK. After reading this post, I felt worried about negotiating, fearing that the offer might be rescinded. But I decided to negotiate anyway, following the advice above for the US job market, and was very successful. It took about a month, but I received a 20 percent salary increase, a sizable moving allotment, a research budget, and a housing subsidy. None of those were in the original offer. UK institutions have defined pay grades with set salary increments. I researched the pay grade of the position and that helped me identify the salary range for this job, which in turn told me there was still plenty of wiggle room. Anyway, it’s worth finding out if there is room to negotiate or not, but I’m grateful that I tried. It’s made a world of difference to the outcome.

  30. Thank you for all your advice! Question: How much more salary can I ask for without being offensive if I do not have a counter offer if it is a private research university with substantial means? I am not planning on asking for many other things, as my research is not expensive to conduct and the course load is reasonable. $5,000 more?

  31. The advice here is fantastic. What is the longest you should wait before you politely and respectfully declining an offer? I don’t want to wait too long before it becomes unfair for the search committee to go after the second candidate.

    • This all depends on context and what timeline the school has given you, but you can try and negotiate extensions to accommodate other campus visits/decisions. Typically you can stretch to 2 or 3 weeks, but beyond that it’s pretty jerky.

  32. I was just offered a t-t job at a large state university where I am a visiting faculty. The dept. head met with me in person to tell me the news; I asked for a week to respond and he agreed. I received the offer in writing later that day. It asks for my response in writing on the deadline date. A more experienced academic friend in another state advised me to find out the pay ranges for assistant professors in the humanities (my field) at this university so that I can compare the offer and, importantly, request a salary that is the highest at this level since I have already published 2 respected books in my field and have considerable teaching experience. (I entered full-time academia at a somewhat older age.) I then located the office at this university that maintains such info, but they need several days to compile it for me. My question is this: I have scheduled a meeting with the dept. head for the day before the deadline in order to discuss and negotiate since I should have my data by then. Am I at risk of losing the job offer if our negotiations go beyond the deadline date? Or does entering the negotiations in good faith “stop the clock” on the deadline for accepting? This is happening this coming week, so any immediate advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

  33. The advice here is terrific. Question: I am an extreme night owl and do all my creative work late at night, between midnight and 5 am. I’ve been this way for 20 years and haven’t been able to change no matter how hard I’ve tried. I’ve been offered a t-t job at a research university that wants its faculty to publish. I would like to request afternoon classes only. Morning classes are a killer–I’m continually exhausted, get run down, and produce very little work. I plan to ask for an afternoon schedule when negotiating, but is this the sort of thing I can request be put in writing? I anticipate being told that the admin staff that does the scheduling will “do their best” to accommodate me, but that they can’t make any guarantees. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • You should accept the offer – and be immediately seen by a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist. You probably have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) (search wiki and your favorite journal search engine for plenty more). DSPD is a genetic disorder linked to ADHD by polymorphism in genes in common and involved with circadian rhythm. Either or both qualifies you for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They would have to accommodate your request by law.

  34. Any advice on the “bird in the hand is worth three in the bush?” dilemma? I have one good offer from a R2 that needed an answer within two weeks. I asked for an extension for an extra week as I finished three other campus visits with two good R2s (first of three finalists at each place) and my dream school R1 (first of two finalists). The first school’s dean is conferring with search committee if they can grant me a second extension, but I’m afraid relations may sour and they’ll likely want an answer by this Monday. Dream school R1 had to delay the visit of its second candidate to today and tomorrow, so it’s almost impossible I’d have an answer from them by Monday. So…I guess this is a “good” problem to have and wouldn’t even be a problem at all were it not the case that my Dream Job (top ranked program at R1) has me a finalist. I could still hear from two more institutions even if I do turn down this offer due Monday, but it seems so foolish in this market, no? Is one bird in the hand always worth more than three possible birds I won’t know about for at least another two weeks?

  35. How common is it to negotiate for early tenure? I have been trying to find information about this and am having difficulty. I realize that there may be reasons why getting tenure early is not advantageous (say, you want to leave down the road and you may have less mobility at the assoc. level), but there are also numerous reasons to go up early, too, if possible. For example, an offer from a department with a high rate of tenure and low tenure requirements might be worth negotiating this upfront, right? In my case, I have already surprised the tenure requirements (in my application) for the department I hope to join; thus, I can see the benefit of advancing the clock to a 4 year timeline versus a 6 year one. Any thoughts on this? I would certainly appreciate any advice.

  36. Pingback: The Rescinded Offer: Who Is In the Wrong? | The Professor Is In

  37. A related issue to leveraging other job offers – my spouse is leaving a lucrative job (diplomat) in order to follow me to the TT position. Is this a justification worthy of mentioning for requesting a higher salary?

    • unfortunately, no. That is a non-starter. They don’t care about spouses, except where there is a case for a spousal appointment at the university itself.

  38. I have an offer for a research asst prof (RAP) in a good ranked private research university in Cleveland. I am based in Europe as a post-doc where the salary is quite high. In comparison the RAP salary seems to be a huge drop and also unreasonable. Do you recommend me to negotiate for a higher salary, as I think I deserve more?

    • you’ll probably (but not definitely) be able to negotiate some increase (maybe 10%, maybe 15%) but that’s it. If that falls short of what you’re currently earning, nobody there in Cleveland really cares.

      • Thanks Karen.
        In any case it wont match up to my current salary. I just wanted to get an idea of how much room I have for manoeuvring.

  39. At a recent campus visit the Dean mentioned the “starting salary” for assistant professors and it was very specific. Does this mean it is non-negotiable?

    • No, probably not; there is usually scope for neg. (although I’d need to know the rank and type of institution and whether it’s unionized).

  40. I got a offer from a University here in United States for an assistant professor position, before that I spent 2 years as a postdoc also here. I am wondering if I could negotiate 1 or 2 years for the tenure-track, the only thing is that I had a previous professor position in another country (3 years). Do you thing it might be worth to try?

    • As I always say, I never opine on negotiations unless someone has signed on as a client. If you’re interested, please email me immediately at, for the info. I bleieve I post the service info and rates somewhere in this thread.

  41. I have found your website very helpful as I assist my husband navigating the academic world. I am in hr in the corporate world but am amazed by the differences in the academic world and would love some help.
    My husband is in an interesting situation. He is currently teaching at a public non-research institution contract and the head of the department has told him he is opening a FT TT position and wants him to fill the job. The pros is that his is tenure track but the cons are that it is not a research institution and may not position him well for the long run. Since then, he has been interviewing with a small private researh college who has told him he is their top choice for a 3 year full-time lecturer role. The pros are that it is a private instution that would allow him more research time but although they say they have intentions to convert to a TT position in the long-run, there are no guarantees.
    We are leaning towards the private college because of the research potential and waiting for the offical offer but I was curious if there are other factors we should be considering and when it comes to lectures/vap/non-TT roles – how much and what can you negotiate?
    Thank you in advance for any tips or advice you provide and congratulations on having your book on amazon!

  42. Dear Karen and readers of this blog,

    Is it customary to wait until one has the official offer to contact other schools, or is it advisable to contact other schools with whom you have had on-campus visits as soon as you have received a verbal offer and let them know that you have approximately 2 weeks to respond to the offer you have received (assuming the contract takes a few days to be sent and that I have about a week to reply once I have the official contract)?

    I have received a verbal post-doc offer over the phone and they have told me I will receive the official offer “in a couple days.” I am waiting on a response for a tenure-track position whose estimate of a decision is about 10-14 days from now.

    I would appreciate any thoughts as my advisors have given me conflicting advice, some suggesting I contact the TT school now and other suggesting I wait for the official offer and explicit timeline for a response.


  43. Hi,

    I have got a faculty interview at ETH Zurich (top university for engineering ) also got a post doc offer from the same school and the same department. I really want the post doc experience, since the prof is world famous and also there’s no guarantee that I would get the faculty job at ETH. Can someone please help me here about what should I do? My heart says go for the post doc, brain says take the risk. If I get the faculty offer can I defer by a year. Please help

    • I would postpone accepting the postdoc until you go through the faculty interview and get the possible offer, if that’s possible. that way you’re comparing two job offers. First tell them that’s what you want to do, and ask if that is possible.

  44. Hi,
    I got a TT offer from a teaching institute. During the negotiation period the dean offered me a start-up funding and moving sipport and she wrote those in her e-mail. However when I got the official contract I did not see the start-up money and moving support were mentioned there, just the salary information was written. Should I contact the dean and ask for the new contract that includes all of our negotiated terms?
    Thank you,

    • Yes, call to check, but it’s quite common for contracts to not include those details, which will instead stay at the email paper trail level. But confirm that’s the case.

  45. Hi, I’ve received a TT offer, and I’m wondering if I can negotiate a hire for my fiance (who has the added complication of living out of the country and not being a US citizen). How do I go about doing so? I’ve only received a letter with the job offer, but not what looks like a contract, and I do not understand when I would be presented with a contract with more details. The letter includes mention of a start up research package for two years, but not the amount. Is the contract something different/separate from the offer letter?

    • Rose, congrats! I don’t opine on negotiations unless somebody has signed on as a client. Here is the full rundown of info on that:

      Negotiating Assistance is $400/first week, and a week is virtually always sufficient (it goes down to $300, and then $200 for subsequent weeks in the extremely rare event that this is necessary). I count the week as 7 days of work, and they don’t have to be sequential. We can start immediately, and I make myself available by email and gchat (no phone calls) for the quick turnaround of responses required by most negotiations. While I technically don’t work on weekends, for NA clients only I check in to keep up with and respond to urgent updates. I assist you in evaluating the offer, clarifying your requests, crafting email and verbal communications, interpreting responses, and knowing how hard to push and when to stop. Most clients increase their offer by thousands of dollars in salary, research support, travel support, moving expenses, etc. (An R1 Humanities tenure track offer can gain $10-20,000 over the initial offer; at a small regional SLAC it may be closer to $2-10,000. An R1 Science offer can sometimes gain $20-50,000 over the initial offer). If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll invoice you today. I also have all NA clients sign a contract acknowledging the nature of the work, which i will attach to this email for your reference.

      Fine print: You must return the signed contract to proceed with the work. After payment you’ll get a set of instructions on how to provide the offer details; please don’t submit any info until you get that and can follow those instruction. If your negotiation requires fewer than 7 days I don’t refund payment or apply it as credit to other work. In the event that your institution refuses to negotiate and you achieve no gains, I will refund 50% of the payment ($200).

      For a client perspective, I will share a few recent testimonials:

      Assistant professor R1 Social Sciences: I increased my offer by $12,000 conservatively. Another major benefit was that I was confident I wasn’t asking for anything crazy, and I wasn’t missing anything obvious. Since this was my first go-around with a U.S. job offer I would have been much more uncertain about it, particularly in my situation where my advisor was unavailable due to a medical condition. Particularly when I had done the interviews and was waiting for an offer, which is a tense time, the fact that I had this service helped make that easier.”

      Associate professor with tenure, R1, Humanities: “As a mid-career academic in the humanities, I knew exactly how important it would be to negotiate good terms for my new position. Karen provided me with: concrete examples of things I could negotiate for; a sounding board for my requests; assistance in clarifying and rewriting my negotiation emails; and overall, tremendous peace of mind in what would otherwise have been an extremely stressful process. I successfully negotiated increases in my salary, start up package, and travel support, totalling 11K. I highly recommend her negotiation assistance services, no matter what career stage you’re in.”

      Another R1 offer (Sciences) client recently wrote, “I’ve been on the market for several years and had always imagined finally getting an offer as the ‘end’ of the lengthy and exhausting job search process; with that mentality it’s tempting to just flop over with relief and take the first thing thrown at you, thinking that you’re now ‘done’! It was hugely helpful to have someone to remind me that the negotiating phase is as much a part of the job search as any other step!”

      Let me know if you’d like to move forward, or have questions!


  46. Dear Karen and readers of the blog, I was recently offered a TT position at a university in the Northeast. That was a couple of months ago, I went ahead and accepted it, but although I am an American citizen, I am presently teaching abroad, and got married with a foreign national and had a child abroad. When I accepted the employment position, I was not aware of the immigration procedures in terms of how long it took to obtain a permanent resident visa for a spouse and child. We are talking about anything between 6 to 8 months. I spoke to the dean who offered me the position and explained the situation, told him I was not willing to separate from my wife and child for so long, and asked whether we could negotiate postponing my appointment for next January. After a few days we spoke again and the dean said they could cover for me. I did not, however, end up with the feeling they were very happy about the situation, and I can perfectly understand them, they were counting on me already, however, family is very important to me, and my child is still a baby, every day seeing her grow and being with her is a blessing for me. Anyway, I wanted to ask your opinion on whether I did the correct thing or am I risking the job; could it be that I am starting on a left foot, leaving a bad impression with my new employers and colleagues? I’d appreciate your comments, I could potentially still change my mind and start this upcoming fall. Thank you!

  47. In what sort of negotiation should the trailing spouse engage, especially if the offer is a nonnegotiable pay cut and loss of any perviously earned time towards tenure?

    • this is a case by case situation, depending on the nature of the spousal offer, and the type of institution and the power of the first spouse’s department… as policy i don’t advise on specific negotiations unless someone has signed on as a client because the stakes are too high. If you’re interested in that, email me at good luck.

  48. Dear Karen
    If a person receives an offer after already signing with another university, how common is it for the candidate to turn down the first institution? What are the consequences?

    • It is very bad form, but it happens. The consequences are that institution #1 despises you… depending on how influential the faculty members are, this could harm your reputation. But they likely have little legal recourse, even when you do sign the contract. At least, I have not heard stories of any school taking legal action when this occurs.

  49. Hi,
    Thank you for you fruitful website. I am not living in the US, but I have applied for a tenure track position recently (assistant professorship). A few months ago I received an email, so they asked a couple of reference letters. My former professor then sent some letters to the search committee. Now I am very close to receive an offer. Actually the hiring process in the US is quite different (than Japan). So I want to know what will happen after receiving an offer?
    What should I do? My I ask them to come to the university as a visiting professor and then change to a tenure track?
    Because I have no experience of life in an English-speaking country I am a little bit worry that it could be tough to adapt in a short time, then I need time to recover myself and be prepared to teaching and researching. I sometimes become worry that my English would not be adequate to work in the US. I need to have your advice about this matter.

  50. This is all extremely helpful. Still, even with all this advice, things can go bad. My wife recently received a tenure track offer from an R1 in a place she was really excited about. As it happens, I also interviewed for the job (we are in different but somewhat overlapping fields) and when she mentioned the spousal issue to the chair he and the faculty enthusiastically endorsed the proposition of a tenure line for me. When he got back to us after meeting with the Dean he had the 10% increase in salary, course remission and summer research funds she’d asked for, but no offer for me–the Dean said no, not now, not next year, not ever. A VAP or lectureship were also out of the question. The Dean also declined to help me find anything else at the University, this despite the fact that I’ve accumulated a fairly accomplished shadow resume is my time at our current institution, and would have gladly foregone the academic life so that my wife could take the job. In short, it’s definitely a buyers market out there. The funny thing is that my wife and I know the second choice, who immediately got the offer after my wife declined–whereas we would have gladly stayed for quite a while, she has already announced her intentions to leave for a more prestigious job at her earliest possible convenience. You get what you pay for, I guess.

  51. Quick question, and since this is a recent repost, I thought I’d leave it here.

    You have written in the past about negotiating for spousal hires when the spouse is also looking for TT jobs. How common is it to request/negotiate for a spousal hire in a non-professor job? We are a few years away from being on the market, but my spouse is getting a MA in Information Management (possibly with a concentration in library sciences) while I work on my PhD in Japanese history at an Ivy. The idea is that no matter what sort of college I apply to, they have libraries or other positions requiring data/information management. Would someone in this position (I doubt we’re the only ones looking for a “trailing spouse” to get a non-ac job) negotiate the same way you’ve suggested for an academic spousal hire? Thank you.

  52. Pingback: Tips for negotiating salary and startup for newly-hired tenure-track faculty | Dynamic Ecology

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