Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ADVICE: Negotiating for a Tenure-Track Position

When CSWA first started compiling advice on applying for tenure-track positions, we got some great suggestions on negotiating from Alison Coil. Alison is an associate professor at UC San Diego in the Physics department and Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences.  She was previously a Hubble fellow at the University of Arizona and a graduate student at UC Berkeley.  She is an observer who works on galaxy and AGN evolution.

A great thing to do is ask people at other institutions who have recently started their faculty jobs what they asked for and what they got. It's good to know what the range is, and there can be a significant difference in what is offered from place to place. You'll be at a disadvantage if you don't know what is reasonable. You can also ask recent hires at your own institution. Everyone who I asked gave me information; no one was offended, they all wanted to help. So the first thing to do is gather information on what other people are getting!

Things that people routinely ask/negotiate for now:
- Salary - Always ask for 10% more than what they offer. Your starting salary often affects your long-term salary, so best to keep it high in the beginning if possible.
- Summer salary - Ask for 4 months of summer salary
- Lab space - Ask for what you'll need in 5 years, not the first year
- Office space - Ask to be near the center of action, near faculty with similar scientific interests
- Teaching relief - Always ask for at least one class less than normal the first year. Some people ask for an additional one class of relief to be taken sometime in the first N years - this is especially useful if one is going to be extremely busy one semester setting up a new lab or conducting a major new survey or if you have a child!

Start-up funds: include requests for:
       - graduate students; it is common at some places to get support for 2 students for 2-3 years
       - a postdoc; it is common now to request one postdoc for 3 years
       - travel support for yourself and students/postdoc for 3 years
       - computer; again, ask for what you and your group will need for 3 years
       - page charges; again for the group for 3 years
- Buy-in to a survey - For institutions without significant telescope access, observers can now ask their institution to buy into a survey (i.e., SDSS-III) or buy nights on a specific telescope for their research. This has become quite common.
- Help with finding a job for a spouse
- Positions in campus day care for your kids

The general idea with the start-up package is that it will be used to get your research going at the new institution. This means supporting all of your research needs and costs as well as those of your students and postdocs. As grants are hard to get (and getting harder to get) it can easily take 2-3 years before you get a grant. So the start-up should support you for 2-3 years. However, if possible, ask that there is no time limit on when you use the funds i.e., if you do get a grant you can keep the funds in the bank to be used later.

Also remember that guys (and gals) routinely ask for these things, so the main thing is to not feel bad that you are asking for this! The worst that will happen is they will say no. Women so rarely ask for too much that you are not likely to offend anyone, and in general the university wants to support you so they will offer what they can.

The other thing to realize is that if you have more than one offer, it is to your advantage to negotiate at the top two places you want to go to. So you may end up negotiating at more than one place. It's not fun, but it's very worth it in the end!