Tag Archives: money

How to Negotiate a Faculty Salary

The Vetducator - coins indicate that money is the least important variable in deciding on a job.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

So you have an offer of employment- congratulations!  This is one of the most exciting experiences I have had in my professional progression (although I also enjoy interviewing).  Salary is only one piece of the negotiation package, but it is the one many people spend the most time thinking about. I would encourage you to focus less on salary, but you do need to earn a FAIR salary.  Fortunately, for most institutions, a fair salary is easy to determine.

Your goal with salary negotiations should be to get a FAIR salary.  You can always ask for the moon, but I believe it is better to be reasonable.  If you make a high salary a sticking point, you may put your future department chair and colleagues in an awkward position.  Because of salary compression, existing faculty may not make as much as incoming faculty. If you come in at a SUBSTANTIALLY higher salary than them, this may create resentment.

You should take advantage of a new offer to make your own life situation as good as possible without alienating your future colleagues.  You do this is by doing research. For most state schools, you can find the salaries for existing faculty. Find your rank (Instructor, Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor) and identify those current faculty at that rank.  Then search the salary database to get an idea of the range.

I would generally recommend choosing the median value within existing salaries, but you may adjust this up or down depending on your experience level and what else you are asking for.  For example, for my last negotiation, I came in as a Full Professor, but I am relatively young compared to many of the existing faculty. If I asked for a salary above what the highest-paid current Professor with 10 years’ more experience earns, I may have created some resentment.  And the median salary for current Professors was more than enough for me to be happy, so that is what I asked for.

Once you receive an offer of employment, you can indicate you are very interested and you need time to consider and get back to them with what you would like in your negotiation.  Many institutions will include a salary in the initial offer. In general, the first entity to give a number will set the bar for the negotiation, and it is preferable for that to be the institution.  However, I have been asked twice what I would expect to make DURING the interview, so you should have a fair number in mind. Whether they do or do not include a salary offer, do your comparative research so you can come back with either “That sounds good” or “I would like to ask for X amount.”

If you are applying to a private school or a school which does not publish salaries, you can still do the research.  Some institutions will have different salaries for different disciplines- supposedly to reflect the differences in the salaries those disciplines would make in private practice.  I personally feel that salary should be based on your rank and number of years of service and be independent of your discipline, but I don’t get to regulate the market economy. Find out approximately what others in your discipline and rank make at other institutions.  If you use those numbers, it is unlikely you will get a “Woah, that is way different than what we were expecting.” I expect most vet schools are within $10k of each other for starting salaries. Some may be dramatically lower- like Colorado State University (everyone wants to live in Fort Collins)- and some may be dramatically higher- like UC Davis (SO expensive to live there).

For most institutions, you can probably ask for a 5% increase over an initial offer without ruffling any feathers.  An administrator once told me, “Don’t lose a potential faculty member over five thousand dollars.” Some places will have a hard budget and not be able to move.  If you are asking for a LOT of other things or a high-cost item like a spousal hire, you may not be able to get any more in salary. If you have competing offers, you can share the salary information with each so they can factor that into their decision-making during negotiations.

Make sure to prioritize your requests so you will know how to respond.  It never hurts to ask, as long as it is a fair and reasonable ask. Consider if you will be happy regardless of the response.  If you ask for $120k, and they come back with $110k, is that acceptable? I think the most important question is: is that a fair salary for this institution, position, and discipline?  If it’s fair, then you need to decide how important cash money is to you.

Some people may be stressed about negotiating salary, but I don’t think you should be.  As long as you are professional, consider the impact on your future colleagues, and don’t get greedy, everything should be fine.

What Can you Negotiate For in a Faculty Position?

Well, you’ve made it!  You got an offer for an academic position.  You have said yes, they are excited you are coming, and all that is left is hammering out the details.  It is always possible things will fall apart during this process, but remember: everyone wants this to work out.  No department chair wants a failed search and no prospective faculty member wants to sacrifice what they need to be successful.  We’ll talk elsewhere about how to do negotiations, but now let’s look at WHAT you can negotiate.

1) Salary. This is pretty obvious and is sometimes the only thing prospective faculty think to negotiate.

2) Signing bonus.  Although rare in veterinary medicine, and some institutions don’t allow them at all, if you have extenuating circumstances (such as a very early start date) you can always ask.  Some institutions will wrap this into the moving expenses.

3) Moving expenses.  Some institutions have a maximum they allow- such as up to 10% of the offered salary- whereas others are less restricted.  Your best bet is to get an actual quote or two to use as data for the negotiation. “I have a quote for moving which will cost $8,000.” Is different than, “Can I please have $8,000 for moving expenses?”  The latter is perfectly fine, of course, but the former is more likely to get you the amount for which you ask.

4) Student research support.  If you want to ensure funding for your first Ph.D. student, or even for a vet student to do research with you during the summer, you can ask for that.  It is rare that this funding will be in perpetuity- it will usually be for a finite amount of time until you can secure extramural funds.

5) Full Time Equivalent (FTE).  You should know what the FTE for the position is to which you applied, and you shouldn’t stray largely from that amount.  For example, if you applied for a 66% clinic time FTE, were happy with that throughout the process, and now pivot and ask for a 50% clinic time FTE, they will not be happy.  The job is for 66% time. However, if it is for a tenure-track position and you think you can finagle things a certain way, you may be able to ask for 40% or 45% instead of 50% clinic time.  Be aware that this will affect the other faculty members in the discipline and may be impossible. Research and teaching FTE are more easily adjusted/negotiated. Regardless, I strongly suggest that you have your FTE in your offer letter.

6) Clinic equipment.  This can be anything as simple as a patient scale that’s needed in a key area to a renal dialysis unit.  If there is something you feel you need for ideal patient care or teaching, ask for it. I recommend reaching out to the existing faculty members to find out if they have any identified needs.  You can always ask for the stars, and if they give you less, then decide how important that is. Particularly if the clinic is dramatically behind the times or you are in a specialty with an expensive equipment need (e.g. radiology), this could be $500k or more.  Be as detailed as possible here, but you probably won’t have time to get official quotes.

7) Research equipment.  If you expect to have a lab or extramural funding, make sure they have the core equipment you need or make sure it is in your offer letter.

8) Startup funds.  This is money which is generally open to being spent however you need- office furniture, expendable research supplies, etc.

9) Time off.  Particularly if you have made a commitment to an event (like a conference) and the timeline is short, you can specify that you need certain time off.  If it has been years since you had a vacation, you may be able to specify several weeks of vacation even in the first year, before you have earned enough vacation time.  Realize that this is likely to be unpaid leave.

10) Staff, residents, or faculty salary lines.  This is a permanent or temporarily funded full-time position.  These are often extremely difficult to negotiate for, but they are possible.  I know of one person who had an offer for a faculty position who got a commitment for 3 residents and another faculty member in their offer letter.  It is likely the institution was looking to grow the program anyway, but you never know when your interests and the institutional direction will align.  If you see a strong need, you can make a case for it.

11) Spousal hire.  I will have a whole section on negotiating the spousal hire, but this is a possibility in the United States.  Most countries outside the U. S. don’t understand the concept, so you can ask but may not get anywhere.

12) A paid visit before the start date.  This is usually to look for housing, or for your spouse to see the area.  Some institutions don’t allow this as a matter of course and instead will wrap it into moving expenses.  Make sure it includes your significant other (if applicable).

13) Time off for studying for boards.  If you need to take boards, this should absolutely be in your offer letter.  I would recommend including a stipulation about time off to study in subsequent years in the event you don’t pass the first year.

It is possible there are things which basic scientists may ask for and of which I am unaware, but these are the major categories I can think of.  Do you know of any others? Do you have any concerns about how to negotiate your offer or what to ask for? Post in the comments!