For computer science tenure-track faculty, the standard teaching load at a major research university in the US is 1-1 (meaning 1 course each of the two semesters). My understanding is that in math the standard teaching load is 2-1 (two courses one semester, one course the other).

What are the standard teaching loads in other fields (e.g. physics, history, etc.) at major research universities in the US?

  • 5
    even in CS the 1-1 formula varies by level (assistant/associate) and department.
    – Suresh
    May 10, 2012 at 19:33
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    Yeah, that's totally not Berkeley's standard. eecs.berkeley.edu/Policies/wrkload-frmla.shtml
    – JeffE
    May 10, 2012 at 19:35
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    1-1 is considered on the lighter side IMO.
    – Suresh
    May 10, 2012 at 20:32
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    I wonder, if your institution participates in the Delaware study udel.edu/IR/cost/brochure.html, if you could get the data from there? May 10, 2012 at 22:24
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    Another issue is that "standard teaching load" can be ambiguous, since some departments have a higher standard on the books than they use in practice. The idea is that being research active entitles you to a lower course load, but the existence of the higher standard gives added flexibility for chairs to deal with anyone whose research productivity slips. May 11, 2012 at 13:11

3 Answers 3


There is no standard load; it depends widely on the department, the number of students enrolled, the available number of faculty, and so on.

Moreover, in some departments, it is possible to fundraise your way out of commitments. For instance, if you bring in X dollars in overhead, you can "buy" out of teaching a class for a semester.

In addition, stating that a load is "1-and-1" can mean different things. In the department where I did my graduate work, professors now co-teach one class per semester, and sometimes offer an elective course on top of that 1-and-1 load.

  • In addition to being able to "buy out" via grants, you may have 100% soft money positions mixed in with hard money positions within a dept., or folks brought on specifically to add a expertise to the course selection. "It depends" is the only viable answer I see.
    – Fomite
    Feb 4, 2014 at 18:25

In the largest national survey collecting this data is the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/nsopf/design.asp) It was last conducted in 2003-4. The average number of classroom hours for full-time faculty ranged from 7.9 in engineering to 11.0 in fine arts (as of 2003). See: http://nces.ed.gov/das/library/tables_listings/showTable2005.asp?popup=true&tableID=2128&rt=p


It does depend on how popular the field is among undergrad majors, and whether or not their courses are often pre-requisites for courses in other majors.

In the fields I'm in (astronomy, earth/atmospheric science), there are so few undergrad majors, and so few majors that use their courses as requirements, that the professors generally tend to have much lighter teaching loads (often one course per year) than professors in other fields with more undergrad students.

And in some departments where there isn't even an undergraduate major in them, professors often have years without needing to teach at all (e.g. Pathology or Physiology/Biophysics at the University of Washington).

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