What is FTE and why do you Need to Know It?

This is important for anyone applying for a faculty position.  The FTE is a core part of every faculty position. It dictates how you’ll spend your time, how you will be evaluated, and what the main focus of the position is.  The FTE, or sometimes EFT, means “Full-Time Equivalent” or “Equivalent Full Time”, and is divided among teaching, research, service, and administration. The FTE always should total up to 100% for a full-time position.

Every academic position includes the classic triumvirate: teaching, research, and service.  How much you do is dictated by your FTE. Teaching includes didactic teaching and perhaps clinical teaching, depending on the institution.  Research dictates the amount of publications and extramural funding required in your position. Service is divided among clinical service and other responsibilities, such as committee work.

The service component for clinical faculty is arguably the most important variable, as that dictates how much time you spend on clinic duty.  It’s tremendously difficult to do research or didactic teaching on clinics, so the more service time you have, the less you will be able to do the other domains.  Tenure-track clinical faculty typically have approximately 50% service. Clinical-track faculty typically have approximately 66% service. Non-clinical faculty may have very low service FTE; for example, pharmacology faculty may have 5% FTE which reflects their committee responsibilities.

The research component indicates what is expected in the realm of scholarly activity.  This differs by the institution, but in general a low research FTE, such as 5-10%, usually indicates an expectation for case reports, case series, or contributing authorship on other people?s works.  A high FTE, such as over 50%, usually has the expectation of significant extramural funding. Many tenure-track clinical faculty have a research FTE between 20-30%, which indicates they should have some publications and, depending on the institution, possibly some extramural funding.

Teaching often covers the balance of the FTE, and I suspect for most institutions it is not clear what the teaching FTE translates to, with respect to the number of hours spent in the classroom.  For example, is course coordinator for a 1-credit class worth 5% FTE or 10% FTE? Or some other value? I suspect few institutions have this down to an equation, but if yours does, please share below.  As a general rule, the greater your classroom teaching time, the higher your teaching FTE, but this is relative to others in your institution and may be fairly fuzzy.

Administration FTE is typically reserved for section chiefs, directors, department chairs, and other administrative roles.  Section chiefs may have a small administrative FTE- such as 5%- whereas department chairs often have 50% or more. Most regular faculty do not have any administrative FTE.

The FTE distribution I held as an associate professor and section head was 40% instruction, 35% service, 15% research, and 10% administration.  The FTE distribution I held as a department head was 20% teaching, 35% service, 20% research, and 25% administration.

Realize that a full-time faculty position does not necessarily mean 35 hours a week, or 40 hours a week, or 60 hours a week. Like any good workplace, academia is results-oriented. Some weeks you may work 20 hours, some 60 hours. The FTE indicates your relative distribution of your time, NOT how many hours you work.

The FTE is usually a component of the job description and should be a component of the offer letter.  You want to know what you are getting in to. The FTE may change slightly from year to year, but it shouldn’t change dramatically unless your job duties change dramatically.  You need to know what FTE you have for any faculty job to which you apply.

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