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My partner and I are both in academia - he is a medical fellow and I am a PhD candidate in biology. It looks like I'm going to be defending in about a year or two and he will likely be finishing his fellowship in 2 years. This means that we're going to be in a position where we're looking for long-term positions at the same time. We are not married nor engaged, so I fear that a spousal hire may not be offered if we are only partnered. Of course, in this situation I would be the one that is the spousal hire and not him. Also in this situation we are hoping that he gets funding to impress a university.

How have you all fared with spousal hires specifically in the US and Canada? Or what have you all heard?

Thanks!

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  • Would your partner be looking for a job at a university or a hospital? If a hospital, then that usually would not be the same institution, even if there is a university affiliation for that hospital…
    – Dawn
    Aug 18, 2023 at 14:07
  • Or are you thinking you would be the spousal hire within the hospital or hospital-affiliated labs?
    – Dawn
    Aug 18, 2023 at 14:09
  • >Would your partner be looking for a job at a university or a hospital? That is a great question. I assume that he would be willing to work at either. He is aiming to to be more of a researcher rather than a physician and alot of his research work so far has been computational. I am open to working at hospital-affiliated labs as a tech but we might be more likely to find a university rather than a hospital that fits as both.
    – bribina
    Aug 28, 2023 at 20:39

5 Answers 5

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This will depend on the institution's policies. But for most places I've seen, no, you don't have to be married. Most policies will talk about "domestic partnership" instead of marriage. The rules can differ for other issues related to the hire, for example, health insurance.

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"How have you all fared with spousal hires specifically in the US and Canada?"

I fared rather dismally: my (now ex-) wife was in medical profession and I was in mathematics. I had to change the location twice: first time when she finally got a long-term job and second when she lost it in one place and found it in another state. Once I was even seduced by my friend to accept an invitation to be a speaker at the ICM: he claimed that "if I agree, the university would certainly assist me with finding a job for her in the area" (that was when she was looking for a new job after she was told that her contract wouldn't be extended), but nothing of the kind really happened though I honestly went there.

I should say that all places I worked at were very accommodating as far as my own needs were concerned and allowed me long absences and such when we were living in different states with a small daughter (the longest commute was from Michigan to Vermont: an 11 hour drive through Canada one way) and I'm really grateful for that, but as far as finding a job for a spouse, they either could not do anything or weren't willing to and I'm not guessing which one was the case.

A former postdoc of mine was a bit luckier: they hired his wife to one place and himself to another 4 hours (by car) away. They were able to reunite 2 or 3 years later. But they were both mathematicians, so everything could be decided within a single department, which usually makes negotiations much easier.

As far as I see it, formal marriage is not really required in most places in the US, but being in different fields can subject you to all uncertainties of the political relations between different departments (from my perspective biology and medicine are, of course, closer than mathematics and medicine, but they are still not exactly the same thing). I wish you all the luck, but be ready for a bumpy ride at least in the beginning and try to be flexible and consider sacrificing some of your ambitions if you value your relationship.

Everyone's experience is different of course, but you asked and here are my 2 cents :-)

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Obviously it may vary from university to university. But in most cases, if university likes you to join them, they try to make the offer as attractive as they possibly can. I have seen them helping find a job even beyond the university. Usually these terms are not written in stones and have to be negotiated. If a new faculty a university is interested in and said they love the job but can’t move as their partner also needs to find a job. The things they typically do is try all avenues to accommodate the request but nothing is guaranteed (spouse or not)

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I'd guess that in the US and Canada, any couple could make it known that they are a "package" and require some accommodation if an offer is to be considered. I wouldn't assume, however, that you are the lesser quantity in that package as your skills might be much more valuable to an institution than (gasp) a medical person.

If there is no possibility of considering the package they will let you know and you can look elsewhere. But you have to make it clear. A university has to be convinced that both (each) of you are capable and potential contributors to the overall mission. No one rides for free.

You might also consider looking in places that have several universities and, perhaps find a pair of jobs at nearby institutions. That doesn't necessarily mean NYC or Stanford. Even in my rural location there is a State university and three four liberal arts colleges within an easy commute. Several community colleges as well. And several hospitals, though they aren't research hospitals AFAIK.

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    "No one rides for free": True most of the time, unless you are some kind of superstar. Not very likely directly after a PhD, but also not impossible. Aug 18, 2023 at 15:04
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You should make the right decision. You will be defending your thesis in 1 or 2 years, that means you have enough time to know your partner more. You are interested in spousal hire, which means you want to be with your partner in the same institution, which means you are likely committed in your relationship, so it is better to take final decision about your relationship when you start at job at same institution. After knowing each other enough, if you are determined about the relationship, then marriage is beneficiary in every way, either in ethicality of professionalism in your future work place or in social perspective. But if you are not sure about your relationship even after 1-2 years, then you should think carefully about joining the same workplace. So at first get out of the complicated zone by deciding something suitable for you.

Regarding your question, it depends on the institution you would want to work with. Certianly there will be less choices if you are not married with your partner compared to the situation when you are married with your partner. People might not flag your relationship status directly but might have hesitation in their mind when hiring you and your partner.

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    I don't think it's appropriate to give OP advice on whether they should get married.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 19, 2023 at 1:27
  • @BryanKrause, sorry it was not my intention. I just wanted to explain to take the right decision. Either this side or that side, rather than keeping in the complicated zone. Ofcourse this is personal opinion/suggestion.
    – learner
    Aug 19, 2023 at 4:34

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