I recognize my questions have some overlap with this one and this one. I feel those are largely talking about different things, though.

I am in a situation where I have been offered a non-tenure track faculty position at my current university. This is also the institution in which I did my PhD, but the tenured faculty I would be working for is not the person I did my PhD with; I have been working with them since finishing my PhD though. So I feel a great deal of appreciation for the institution and the faculty member I'd be working with.

However, there are a few issues with the position, and I am considering a competing offer in industry that seems to better fit my personal goals. I (and some mentors without a dog in the race) feel that I would grow more in my area of research in the industry job. The non-tenure track position has been very hard for the faculty to fill, and they tend to lose whoever they hire to industry anyway because industry offers far better compensation. If I accept the industry job and turn down the faculty job, I will still be working with the faculty for a few months. I am not worried about the faculty seeking retribution, or that I will be burning a bridge, especially because I have been open about other offers and my goals from the beginning. Despite that, I still feel a sense of guilt considering the industry offer, and I think that might be clouding my judgement in the decision of which offer to accept.

So the question is as stated in the title, but I can be more specific. I recognize this may not be a question that can be answered with concrete steps, but what I am looking for is how to decline the faculty job in a way that will be palatable and not seen as greedily choosing industry over what I'm offered here.

  • So it is only about your feeling of guilt?
    – user111388
    Feb 12, 2020 at 18:16
  • Talk to some good friends about this dilemma. They will bring you on the right path.
    – user111388
    Feb 12, 2020 at 18:16
  • @user111388 It is, basically. I'm posting this ideally to get insight from others in this position or those who have been the faculty in this situation. I have discussed with friends and mentors, I just wanted to get broader perspectives.
    – RexJ
    Feb 12, 2020 at 18:19
  • 5
    What's wrong with "Thanks for the offer, but I've decided to accept a different position."? There's absolutely no need to apologize. Feb 12, 2020 at 19:04

3 Answers 3


If they really wanted you (or anyone) enough, they would make the position more desirable (tenure, pay, etc.). They do it for other positions.

Don't you worry yourself a bit. Be pleasant on the outside, sure. But realize this is a business situation. You have competing offers. Take the one that does more in terms of pay/etc.

Also, often to advance in life, you need to move around some. That's nice that you have a cozy situation there and people that value you. But move on and do it elsewhere. It's not unusual for companies or organizations to pay more for someone external than someone internal.

In particular, it is completely normal for someone in your situation to move on (recent grad). If anything hanging out at your school is more the oddity. So nobody will care that you moved on. Will wish you the best.

  • 1
    Indeed, if they really, really wanted you, they'd make it tenure-track or tenured, and the pay could be better. Feb 12, 2020 at 22:58

Why guilt? You have a right to work to maximize your future as you see it. I don't see any basis for guilt. I hope it isn't a feeling of "letting them down". The position is hard for them to fill because it isn't sufficiently attractive to candidates. That is their problem, not yours.

Think about where you want to be in, say, five years. And 20 years. Then think about a path to get there.

There are some non-tenure track positions that offer enough security and enough benefits for the right person. But not all do. For example, Professor of the Practice positions at Duke, CMU, and Stanford (& probably others), while not, technically tenured, offer a career path for teaching faculty. But other non-tenure teach positions offer no security and no real job satisfaction.

No Guilt.

If you need a way to decline "gracefully", it is enough to say that the job doesn't align with your current goals.


Feeling of professional guilt is justified when you made a promise and broke it. Here you haven't done anything of sorts.

When asked about reasons why you decline an offer, use your own language:

Thank you for considering me. I have another offer that seems to better fit my personal goals. I and some of my mentors feel that I would grow more in my area of research in another position.

The fact that job is not filled is 100% responsibility of the administration. They don't know what they are doing or lack resources to fill the job.

Use the "default" approach here. Imagine that non-tenure job is offered 1000 miles to the east of your current location, and industry job is located 1000 miles to the west. Pick the one that suits you better.

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