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I have been offered two positions, in two different countries, and I am trying to determine which one is a better fit.

POSITION 1: The first position is as Instructor - a teaching only position - which is offered in one year contracts for the first three years, then in three year contracts, until certain conditions of excellence have been satisfied in which case I may qualify for the status of "senior instructor." This position comes with the summer's free to pursue research or any other opportunity.

POSITION 2: The second is an Assistant Professor (equivalent) position in my home country, where the pay is less than half, and this position comes with the same teaching load, but also the expectation of research. This type of position is known to be strenuous and I have rarely met individuals holding this position that seemed happy (it comes with the usual tiresome academic hassles). The only silver-lining - and at this point I am not sure I consider it a silver-lining - is that this position comes with lifelong job security.

Both positions are in top 10 universities in their respective countries.

I guess I have two questions.

  • First: I am being told by the recruiting committee of position 1, that people recruited in this position have found it easy to continue working on research part time. Yet this could be to convince me to take the job. And it could also be a case of the "Most say that they would do research, but instead discover that teaching fulfills all their needs" (which might be the case, or rather might be that most people are susceptible to inertia). I do not have the perspective to judge how likely this is.

  • Second: I cannot either determine if this type of position - by contract - is meant to be long term or not. Even though it is something favorable to me, I am intellectually opposed to tenure, even if I understand how it is important for research where month to month (or yearly) productivity is not guaranteed - but it seems less pertinent for a position evaluated on the basis of teaching alone.

Yet if this position is only going to last me a year or two, it seems suicidal to turn down another more permanent position - however weak it is.

Any opinion on this would be truly appreciated.

(Finally, for full disclosure, I should mention, to be fair, that position 2 is in a city that has a significant richer cultural life.)

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I am being told by the recruiting committee of position 1, that people recruited in this position have found it easy to continue working on research part time. — And did the people previously recruited into this position agree? You did talk to a few of them, didn't you? –  JeffE May 10 at 15:54
    
Without specific details (country, university, your preference for country, career goals..) it is hard to judge. It also seems you are biased against Position 2. Position 1 can be a potential career killer, if you want to continue research. People at interview can say whatever; I don't think you confirmed. Position 2 looks like most academic research jobs with tenure track or similar. –  Greg Oct 27 at 3:53

1 Answer 1

I will not be able to provide a full answer, but here are some assorted thoughts:

First: I am being told by the recruiting committee of position 1, that people recruited in this position have found it easy to continue working on research part time. Yet this could be to convince me to take the job.

I am sure this depends, but I would certainly not take the committee's word on that. Instead, I would talk to other instructors informally. To be honest, if the summer is the only time where you could do research (as in, during the term you have no time at all), I would assume that you will be out of the research game entirely before long. Further, if you are not evaluated by your research outcomes, it may be hard to keep up the motivation to do any research and not focus solely on teaching.

Second: I cannot either determine if this type of position - by contract - is meant to be long term or not.

It sounds like it's supposed to be long-term by default, but keeping the window open to get rid of you should you (a) underperform or (b) your expertise not be needed anymore short-term.

this position [the assistant professorship] comes with the same teaching load but also the expectation of research.

Something seems off here. If the first post allows for research only during the summer, and the second post requires research and teaching, with teaching load being as high as in the other post, when would you do the research?

My experience is that it is very hard to estimate in advance what teaching load one really will have at a new place. Number of courses, number of students, etc. are all relative coarse-grained instruments, as it is entirely unclear how much work teaching X courses per year will actually be. I tend to look at what the committee expects you to do in addition to teaching, as this will be based on what other people in your post manage to do. If they expect you to do teaching and research in the second post, I would assume that the actual teaching load will be measurably less than in the first post, where they seem to assume that you have time to research "during summer".

This type of position is known to be strenuous and I have rarely met individuals holding this position that seemed happy (it comes with the usual tiresome academic hassles).

Yes, assistant professorships tend to be hasslesome, because you have to juggle a lot of balls. However, if you plan to take the instructor position and do serious research on the side, you will have the same problem (maybe worse).

The only silver-lining - and at this point I am not sure I consider it a silver-lining - is that this position comes with lifelong job security.

It is a silver lining. Lifelong job security does not mean you are chained there and can never leave. Even if it is not your dream job (which it clearly isn't), you can stay there until you are able to secure a better position, and then move on. Having an unbounded contract can almost by definition not be a bad thing.

the pay is less than half

This is clearly an important argument, but do take costs of living into account. Typically, the places that pay very well are also very costly to live in (I work in Switzerland, I know what I am talking about here - I would not have deemed possible how much more expensive living here is than in my home country).

Both positions are in top 10 universities in their respective countries.

But how are they in relation? Being Top 10 in Austria says next to nothing (we have less than 10 actual research universities in total). Being Top 10 in the US is pretty cool...

Finally, for full disclosure, I should mention, to be fair, that position 2 is in a city that has a significant richer cultural life.

I consider this a very important factor, but judging whether the same is true for you is an entirely personal thing, which we cannot help you with.

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