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I am a second-year assistant professor who is hoping to make a pre-tenure move to a school/location that is better for my family. It is not a situation where my current department is bad or toxic, but I think my partner (job) and kids (schools, time with relatives) would be happier elsewhere.

I read a lot of advice which suggests that it is best to make a move before tenure rather than after. However, no one seems to specify when pre-tenure one should be looking. I am inclined to begin looking even before my mid-tenure review because the departments I would be looking in are typically small and I can't rely on the fact that they would have an opening in any particular year.

Is there a "normal," "accepted," or "typical" time to be make a pre-tenure move?

Here are some related questions:

What is a better point in an academic career to move to the U.S.: as an assistant professor or after tenure?

Job search when coming up for tenure

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There’s no such thing as a normal or typical time to move. Faculty move when the right opportunity presents itself. So long as you’re upfront with everyone, I wouldn’t worry about the timing. The only caveat is to try not to leave your old department in the lurch when you go—if possible, give them enough notice that they don’t have to scramble to replace your teaching load and other assignments on short notice.

Note that those arrangements could be through adjuncts or reassigning the load among the existing faculty, or anything else. I agree waiting for a TT hire is unreasonable—the process just takes too long. However, if you've been there a year or two, you should already have a sense of when teaching assignments are being decided for the following year and can plan accordingly.

  • Thanks! Is it considered proper to give enough time to have my teaching covered with adjuncts? Or do I need to give enough time for them to make a new TT hire? I think the latter would imply a much earlier job search on my part and I might need to skip some jobs posted later in the hiring cycle... – Dawn May 11 '18 at 15:40
  • It could be through adjuncts or reassigning the load among the existing faculty, or anything else. I agree waiting for a TT hire is unreasonable—the process just takes too long. However, if you've been there a year or two, you should already have a sense for when teaching assignments are being decided for the following year, and can plan accordingly. – aeismail May 11 '18 at 17:07
  • @Dawn Also, I wouldn't ultimately let your old department making arrangement for your absence be a guiding concern; obviously, it's better not to leave them in the lurch, but covering their teaching is their responsibility, and they have a lot more resources and flexibility than you do. When I've moved, I've told my chair my final decision in February or March, and moved over the summer, and it's never been a big issue (or at least not in a way that changing the timing would have resolved). – Ben Webster May 20 '18 at 18:56
  • @BenWebster: In the US, February or March is more than reasonable for August. And I should have said "try not to" rather than "don't"—you have the right to make career decisions for yourself. It's more of a courtesy if you can do it so they can plan ahead. – aeismail May 20 '18 at 19:02
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I think the answer is "when you find a good opportunity." I have a slightly embarrassing amount of experience in this regard, as well as some experience on the other end of things viewing such applications. My experience is that they will not care where you are in your tenure review process; the advice about moving pre- vs. post-tenure is mostly just because there are usually more internal barriers to hiring someone with tenure (which still happens quite often).

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