I would like to know the following. This is for the US.

Is the deadline in the offer letter a deadline to come to a finished negotiation, or a deadline to say you'd like the job and then to enter into negotiations.

How exactly and with whom do you negotiate? Is it with the sender of the job offer, and is it usually done over email or a call? It seems email may have the advantage that there is a written record.

I'm thinking of ways of reducing the teaching burden by asking, for example, trying to minimize the number of unique courses over the years, while agreeing to the number of courses taught per semester in the job description. Is this a reasonable thing to ask for, and is it too vague?

What happens after the negotiations are finished? Do they revise the offer letter or do they draft a contract? How long does it usually take from finishing negotiations to confirming that you have the job (which I suppose is when a contract is sign)?

  • 3
    Is this tenure track? Jan 25, 2020 at 14:55
  • They will specify a starting date, to allow preparation time usually, as the course will start on a precise date.
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 25, 2020 at 16:56
  • Please ask one question per post. Also, these questions depend on the institutional and personal preferences of the employer, so they are off topic. Jan 26, 2020 at 6:30
  • 1
    I agree about too many questions. I’ll answer one: it’s not a reasonable thing to ask for. Teaching duties are subject to the needs of the department. The department chair might have some leeway to promise a teaching reduction for X years (although you’d need some pretty strong leverage to get X larger than the standard), but no sensible chair will agree to tie their hands or the hands of a future chair by promising that you won’t teach too many unique courses or promising specific courses. There are too many unknowns, it’s simply not a promise they can make in good faith.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 26, 2020 at 8:43

1 Answer 1


I'll assume this is for a permanent, not a temporary or part time position.

Unfortunately, there is no general advice that would be applicable everywhere. The US doesn't have a national system for such things, nor even one that applies to any single State. You may have a lot of flexibility or very little. But if the offer lays out a lot of things then you probably have less wiggle-room than if it only says a bit.

But you may get at least a promise that they will try to accommodate the needs of a new member of the faculty. Not too many preparations is a good thing to talk about and most universities will probably try to do that anyway, but it is hard to guarantee. Funding for travel is another thing to explore. But, you may not get any guarantees.

On the other hand, nearly everywhere will have an interest in bringing on a new member of the faculty smoothly and not inundating them with scut work. You might get a pass on committee assignments for a while. You might get a "promise" that you can teach in your specialty. But, depending on the size of the place and its main focus, the constraints may be strong. A large place with a research focus and lots of TAs probably finds it easier.

I was once at a top university where a lot of things were arranged around helping a young newcomer to the faculty advance her research agenda by inviting post-docs whom she favored. I was very impressed that the "old codgers" on the faculty were so supportive of a new person. But this is, I think, an outlier. Not every place can or will be so accommodating.

I also once negotiated a promise that the university would cover rather extensive international travel. I swapped a bit of salary for that, but everyone came out happy in the end.

If you want to negotiate, it is very useful if you can do it in person, probably with the program chair or even a Dean. If you can be flexible about some things, then, perhaps they can be flexible about others. Deans often have some pot of money they can use for such things. They also have a bit more flexibility with "bending" policies.

At the other end of the scale, I doubt that very many offers are "take it as is, or leave it." They will talk to you, nearly everywhere.

Yes, after you come to an agreement, a contract needs to be signed spelling out everything. You will probably only have a short time in which to sign and return it.

  • 2
    In my experience, negotiations always go through the chair and talking directly to the dean would be very unusual. (Of course the dean will be involved, but through the chair.). I’ve also never heard of anyone flying somewhere for in-person negotiations. Jan 25, 2020 at 17:18
  • 1
    @NoahSnyder My experience was the opposite, I negotiated directly through the dean in working out my contract. Jan 25, 2020 at 17:24
  • Interesting. I wonder whether there’s a pattern in which schools work that way. Jan 25, 2020 at 17:26
  • 1
    In my case the Dean was responsible for several departments on several campuses, but all were in computing and information systems. It wasn't like a more general Dean of Liberal Arts, or Dean of Engineering. And I did, initially work through the chair who escalated the conversation for flexibility.
    – Buffy
    Jan 25, 2020 at 17:28
  • And, negotiating face to face is a powerful tool, whether unusual or not. It is harder to say no to a person in front of you that you want to hire. But, yes, not always possible. Make it happen if you can.
    – Buffy
    Jan 25, 2020 at 17:30

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