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I have received a job offer for a full-time contract position at a college in the US. The offer says that my salary will be $70,000/year for nine months’ employment payable over a period of twelve months. I received my offer not long ago, and although I will most likely accept the job, I didn't want to ask immediately about salary issues because I didn't want my first interaction after receiving the offer to be about money.

Since I am not familiar with university payment/hiring practices, which one of the following options is the correct one:

a) I will be employed for 9 months, then my salary will be ($70,000*9 months)/(12 months*1/year) = $52,500/year And since it is paid over 12-months, then my monthly salary before taxes will be $4,375/month.

b) Or is it simply $70,000/year paid over 12 months, that is, $5,833/month before taxes.

The wording of this is confusing and even my (non-US based) accountant is confused about what the salary will be.

Update: 7 days after posting this question, I have confirmed that the salary is $70k/year.

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    A third option offered at some institutions is c) $70,000 paid out over 9 months, or $7,778 per month for the nine months of the academic year. With either (b) or (c) faculty can earn up to 3 months (3 times $7,778) of additional salary for work done during the summer such as teaching summer school courses or working on research grants. – Brian Borchers Apr 25 '20 at 14:19
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    Strongly recommend you clarify exactly what they mean by asking the college itself in writing or email and get a reply in writing or email. Just because other people think they know what the college means does not the college is not applying it's own meaning. – StephenG Apr 26 '20 at 4:55
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    @Disgruntled Doctor don't forget to accept the answer you're happy with! – Dave Kanter Apr 27 '20 at 16:02
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    Can you clarify your edit? You are saying the real answer was neither A nor B and that your total compensation is $60K? – commscho May 22 '20 at 22:50
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    Sorry about that @commscho, it was a typo. – Disgruntled Doctor May 24 '20 at 6:29
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Option B.

Typically this confusing language reflects that you only have to teach for 9 months, and your salary is tied to your teaching responsibilities. So the university gives you $7777/month for 9 months and $0 for the other three. You can then supplement your income for the remaining three months. In particular, many research grants allow you to cover part or all of your own summer salary at your usual rate -- so if you win such a grant, you can actually gross $7777 every month and end up making a total of $93K per year.

In your case (perhaps because it's a teaching college and research grants are unusual?), they will "pay the salary over 12 months," which works out to $5833/month. This will save you the trouble of having to set money aside during the year and use it during the summer.

Note, your college may still require you to be "productive" over the summer (for certain values of "productive"). For that matter, they may provide the opportunity to take on additional paid work (i.e., teaching summer classes).

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    Many thanks for your clarification. You are correct, it is primarily a teaching college so I don't expect research grants to come flying my way. I think that this payment setup also allows one to maintain benefits throughout the year. – Disgruntled Doctor Apr 25 '20 at 5:46
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    Note, however, that such colleges, especially prestigious ones, expect you to be "productive" during those months. But you get to define productivity. Sitting on the beach may not be productive. Sitting on the beach writing publishable poetry may be, if, say, literature is your field. – Buffy Apr 25 '20 at 9:52
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    I don't know of any US colleges that leave their regular faculty unpaid for three months. Adjuncts, perhaps, but not regular faculty. You get 1/12 of your annual salary every month, including summer months. It isn't a question of being paid more or less per month. The only issue is whether you have assigned duties or not for a few of those months. So, it is $70,000/12 per month for 12 months. Less taxes, of course. Don't forget the taxes. And you may need to contribute to your health plan, and may need to contribute to a retirement plan. Typically those three are shared expenses. – Buffy Apr 25 '20 at 14:57
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    But you are probably allowed to take in additional funds/stipends during the "summer" even from the university itself, if you take on additional duties. – Buffy Apr 25 '20 at 15:00
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    @Buffy: I'm regular tenured faculty and I choose to take my pay over 10 months and not over 12, so I actually do not receive a paycheck from my university two months every year unless I have an NSF grant. – Noah Snyder Apr 25 '20 at 18:09
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This is a common type of arrangement for US faculty jobs, and in my understanding exists to allow supplementary summer salary from other sources (e.g. grants). The stated figure is the actual salary, but it is paid throughout the year instead of only during the 9 months of the academic year where your duties take place.

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    Actually, you are "employed" throughout the year per US labor law. But you have no assigned duties for three months. You can use it for research, for extra stipends for teaching summer courses, for consulting, etc. You are free, but still employed. You can't get unemployment insurance, for example. Your health insurance stays in place, etc. It is just a way to help you manage your income flow over the year so that you don't need to either save or seek other funds for a few months each year. The practice is standard if not universal in the US. – Buffy Apr 25 '20 at 9:44
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    You also get health insurance and other benefits during the summer months even though you don't have any work responsibilities. – Brian Borchers Apr 25 '20 at 15:16
  • @Buffy: thanks for pointing that out, I was not aware of that. – Remy Apr 25 '20 at 17:48
  • The spread over 12 months is almost always available, but not always the default. I know of at least one colleague who got caught their first spring when they thought they had been receiving salary on a 12-month schedule but were actually on the default 9-month schedule. – RLH Apr 25 '20 at 19:29
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In my experience it is always B

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  • Great! Thanks for the help. I wanted it to be (B) as well, but I wasn't sure about the implications of "9-months employment payable over 12". – Disgruntled Doctor Apr 25 '20 at 5:22
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There's a lot of answers that go into much more detail, but the answer seems without a doubt, right here in your own question:

"The offer says that my salary will be $70,000/year for nine months’ employment payable over a period of twelve months."

Therefore:

  • You will be getting $70,000
  • You will be working for 9 months
  • But it will still take you 12 months to receive the full $70,000.

Congratulations on the job by the way!

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  • You can still usually choose for it to be paid in 9 months – Azor Ahai -him- Apr 28 '20 at 21:52
  • @AzorAhai this is a good point, and the OP can make this request if they really want (although asking for things is sometimes like a "currency", you don't want to ask for things all the time because eventually people will stop giving them to you even if it doesn't cost them much). My interpretation of the contract still stands though.... if their request is granted, it is out of good-will and generosity, not because of legal obligation in the contract. – user1271772 Apr 28 '20 at 21:55
  • That's not a big deal - just talk to the payroll person after starting. The people hiring you don't need to know (nor would they care). No legal obligations. Just addressing your point it would take 12 months to receive the full salary. – Azor Ahai -him- Apr 28 '20 at 22:09
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Not relevant to this question, but perhaps relevant to others that might come here.

In the UK, it would probably mean A: A university techer positon might be grade 7, which attracts a base salary of £32k a year, but some university teachers are only paid for 9 months of the year, so they are only paid £24k. But it make it easier for them to budget, the university will pay them £2k a month for 12 months. This also applies to high school teachers in the UK I think.

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  • Exactly, in the UK, the yearly equivalent is just 12*monthly payout; then if the contract says you will be employed for X months, you only get X*monthly payout. So a contract for £24 a year, in a duration of 3 months, would pay you out £2k/month for 3 months (before taxes) -- and you might be able to arrange it with the employer to pay it in more, but smaller, instalments in case of teachers and academics. – penelope Apr 28 '20 at 10:14
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I understand your reluctance to ask directly about salary. But I don't think it would be amiss to say that you were uncertain of the details of the offer, and could they please clarify exactly what it meant. There is absolutely nothing wrong or pushy about wanting to be completely clear on the terms.

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    Yes and as Noah Snyder mentioned in a comment, you may have options available. – Buffy Apr 25 '20 at 20:06
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    I am at a lost to know why this is voted down. Regardless of the OP's reluctance to ask it's the correct course of action and the only one guaranteed to eliminate potential misunderstanding. – StephenG Apr 26 '20 at 4:57

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