I'm specifically asking about full-time teaching staff (unlike part-time teaching staff such as professors, who as I understand it can just spend more time on research during semester breaks).

I understand US universities pay their professors only 9 months a year, which effectively means they're free to do whatever they want in the remaining 3 months. Does this apply to lecturers too? If so, since professors acquire funding so they can continue to draw a salary during these 3 months, do lecturers also have funding targets? In that case, are they even full-time teaching staff (since they also have to do research to actually acquire funding)?

What about non-US universities where staff are paid for the entire year?

From what I know about high school, there are some duties that teachers must do during the semester breaks (such as grade exam papers & discuss what to teach next year), but they are few. Once these duties are done then teachers have no duties - they don't have to show up to school - so they usually take the chance to go on holiday. However, at least in the high school I studied in, these periods are short - there's a maximum of 2 months of teaching downtime in the academic year (this neglects the afore-mentioned time taken to grade exam papers etc), which is well below the downtime at university. Surely lecturers don't just go on holiday for 3 months (they must run out of annual leave)? But if they don't go on holiday, what do they do?

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    "What about non-US universities where staff are paid for the entire year?": There may be not teaching staff. For instance in my country there are no positions exclusively dedicated to teaching. Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 4:44
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    Well, my brother is currently off in the Sierra Nevada climbing...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 13:06
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    In Saudi Arabia, there is no designated "teaching" position and almost all faculty enjoy 60 days of vacation.
    – seteropere
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 15:08
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    They do w/e they want, and if it's in violation of their contract it's called moonlighting. (which part of this question's way-too-many questions aren't POB?)
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 20:19
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    Many of my high school teachers had a summer job, because they are paid poorly. Adjuncts (the typical position for a teaching-only position at a US university, in my experience) are paid far worse.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 21:47

6 Answers 6


In the United States, the "9 month salary" for a faculty member is typically paid out over 12 months. For those faculty who engage in research or other pursuits during the summer months, the "9 month" designation gives the rate at which their salary can be enhanced through external funding.

So, what do "full time teaching" faculty do over the summer? Colleagues of mine in such positions generally still look at this time as an opportunity to focus on their professional interests, whether that is doing research or some other field-appropriate equivalent such as writing books, directing theatrical performances, etc.

Teaching responsibilities may also extend through the summer (and may be additionally compensated or not, depending on circumstances). Examples include teaching summer courses, preparing new course material, and supporting student groups' activities (summer is a common time for technical competitions, for example).

And some, in some circumstances, really do just take the summer slowly. In my experience, though, that tends to be the exception rather than the rule, with so many other opportunities and responsibilities at hand.

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    "really do just take the summer slowly" - it's not that uncommon, as far as I've observed...
    – xuq01
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 7:29

I'm pretty busy providing teaching and pastoral support for student who are doing resits or late assessments due to mitigation (such as medical issues). In addition I'm supporting student overseas via skype and instant messenger and pre-arrival support for overseas students. The time-zone difference also makes this quite challenging. Some of that is helping student work remotely who lack the technical skills to do it.

Shortly the late submissions will be submitted (as noted above) and then I have to grade them and give feedback and then start preparing for new student induction and welcome events. There will be examination boards and invigilation duties also.

I'm also improving the current teaching material, online pages on the VLE and so on.

There are quality process reports to be prepared on completed courses so management get their reports and completing students can look at quality and course reviews.

I also have to deal with a significant number of individual student queries from students who do not fully understand their results, or see a problem in their results or are in some other way unhappy with the information they have received from the automated information systems and want a human face of the system.

Then on top of that every thing @flyto listed. Then all the new edicts and demands from university managers who thinks we have nothing better to do with our summer.


Here at the college I work for, most full time instructors (we aren't a research place) are on "9 month contract" which means they teach 5 classes in the Fall and Spring terms, and are off Summer, but their pay is split across all 24 paychecks we receive in a year. Note that we have a few 12 month faculty, mostly in specialized areas that are working other jobs at the college - for example, the Stage Manager for our theater teaches in the drama department, but his teaching 2 classes is part of his regular 40 hour work week. Our nursing faculty (well, most of our health sciences - nursing, resp. therapy, radiology and nuke med, etc) are also 12 month contracted employees, since they teach courses and do clinical supervision all year long.

During summer, quite a few folk "check out" and we don't hear from them until the day before classes start. Some are even proud of the fact that they don't check email, etc. which makes administrative stuff kinda hard to do at times.

Many 9 month faculty also choose to teach extra classes over the summer, which they do at adjunct pay rate (about $2200 for a 3 credit class over 6, 9 or 12 weeks depending on sub-term the course is in). Teaching extra in summer can be a major pay boost for faculty, since in theory (and some do this) you can teach a full load (4 classes) in A term, and another 4 in B term. Most often I see this as people get near the "entire retirement" stage, since our state retirement system is based on the average of your highest 5 years of pay over your service time.

  • Does it really matter whether you get 24 paychecks over the entire year, or 18 paychecks over 9 months? A pizza isn't more filling if you cut it into 8 slices rather than 6.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 17:08
  • @Barmar for tax withholding purposes, various payroll deduction things like health insurance for dependents or retirement plan contributions, etc. Not to mention it makes it much easier on those who run the payroll system, not having to separate out various classes of FT employees into different pay dates, etc.
    – ivanivan
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 17:11

Some examples from the UK,

  • Research. Even staff who are theoretically on a teaching contract may need to do research for career development, or want to do research out of interest.
  • Writing grant proposals.
  • Other non-teaching commitments. Maybe they're the external examiner for a PhD. Maybe they sit on the University's Committee on Paperclip Allocation. Maybe they have a backlog of six things they promised to peer review in April, and now it's July.
  • Marking, supervision, teaching, etc., on courses that don't stop for the long summer break. E.g. in the UK it's common for one-year masters courses to take a calendar year, from September to August. Also, even courses that have summer holidays may have resits in that time.
  • Preparing courses for the next year. Especially if it's something you haven't taught before, it's difficult to do all the prep during termtime.
  • Exploring new ideas, or learning new skills.
  • Teaching (or attending!) summer schools or other training.
  • Holidays. Even academics need to stop occasionally ;-)

My mother, who lectures at a Chinese university, is paid during vacations but has no responsibilities (i.e., does not need to report to work or teach). The same applies in many countries, where university faculty are part of the civil service.

In the U.S., I believe that the 9-month rule applies to lecturers too.

  • Wow, sounds like magical Christmasland.
    – Allure
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 2:32
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    @Allure I assume the same applies in many countries: in many countries, university faculty are employed as public servants, and as such they enjoy all the benefits given to public servants, usually including being paid year-round.
    – xuq01
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 2:34
  • @Allure perhaps the grass is greener on the other side...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 5:43
  • @xuq01 Indeed, we have 2 months of paid vacations. I do not work there unless absolutely necessary. Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 13:54
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    I'm pretty sure this applies to most of Europe. In fact, I would say that it's the U.S. that is usually different from the rest of the world when it comes to funding public services such as education or healthcare. Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 16:44

Just to add to the above answers...

Consider that most college faculty receive zero sick leave, zero vacation, and holidays are built-in to the pay schedule.

During the semester/term faculty receive zero overtime, take nights, weekends, and holidays for preparing, grading, training, and more.

Many schools have mandatory things that take place between semesters - turning in grades, attending training, preparing materials, faculty meetings, and more, the 9 months is often 10 months.

In reality, many full-time career employees will get time off (10 holidays, 10 sick, 20 vacation) totaling about 8 weeks. And, most college faculty get about 8 weeks of time off, it just comes all at once.

K-12 school teachers do get some leave during the year, and less in the summer.

Considering that teachers are generally underpaid compared to what they could make working a "day-job", the summer break is a trade-off.

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    Is this answer US-specific? Many other countries, at least 145 have some form of paid sick leave by law.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 22:44

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