Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On getting a non-tenure-track job

As I alluded to in my last job-market post: I got a job. The contract arrived today.

For the last six years, I've been telling myself and everyone I know that I don't really want a research position, but a teaching position. That's mostly been true. But I found myself this year applying for research and teaching positions in equal measure. I'm not sure why that was -- I think it's because that's what is expected when you do your PhD at a major research university (which almost all of us do, after all). It's just the next logical step in your career. 

But: I got a teaching job.

It's a non-tenure-track teaching job, but it feels like there is, in fact, a track. I kind of think of it not as a [non]-[tenure track] job, but a [non-tenure][track] job.  The dean (my dean? Can I say that now, my dean? Is that weird?), in his provisional offer email, referred to it as a "continuing-track" position. Your could say it has a "track"; that "track" could even eventually lead to tenure ... but it's not "tenure-track." It sounds odd, I know. (You can see this article for some information, though I don't totally agree with everything it says.)

What does this mean, in theory and in practice?

Most obviously, it means that my salary is lower than it would be than if I were an assistant professor, and that I'll be evaluated 80/20 on teaching and service (as opposed to 40/40/20, with research in the mix), and have a standard load of 8 classes a year instead of 4. It also means that even if I've been working there forever, I can still be fired if it's deemed budgetarily necessary.

That all sounds rather bleak if your PhD has been gearing you up for a TT job (though guess what? Only 23% of Canadian education doctoral graduates are TT professors!) but here's what else it means. Unlike some the contingent positions that are more and more the norm in academia, I get things like: an office, options for course releases, options for study leaves (every 6 years), prospects for promotion (from lecturer to senior lecturer to, in theory, Teaching Professor with tenure, which is identical in salary scale to any other tenured Professor position), and so on. And less tangible things, too, like being a member of the faculty in the department (with full participation in everything but tenure & promotion committees), having my web presence in the same place as all the other faculty members (professor or not), startup funds and pro-d money and eligibility for internal grants.

Compared to the pathway many starting PhDs expect (I certainly did), which is a 4-5-year PhD that seamlessly leads to a tenure-track job, this job might feel like a consolation prize.

The thing is, though, it doesn't, at all. It's exactly what I needed: a job in the city I live in (where we want to live & where we started our growing family); a job where I have no pressure to publish; a job where I can build on the networks I started to establish during my PhD but continue to expand at a new institution, doing work that will help me develop professionally.

So: It's not a "tenure-track" job. But I'm pretty happy with it.