As part of their job, professors have to take care of getting funding, prepare classes, advise students, fulfill administrative tasks and attend to various meetings/conferences.

How much time do professors have to carry out research on their own (i.e. excluding the above-mentioned tasks)?

I am especially interested in the field of computer science > machine learning, in the US, in an averaged-size university.

I am mostly looking for studies that try to quantify how much time professors have to carry out research on their own.

  • 20
    Professors don't write papers, professors write grant proposals :P
    – Peteris
    Aug 22, 2014 at 6:50
  • 2
    It depends on the field. For pure mathematics and theoretical physics, professors suppose to have more time for their own research.
    – mystery
    Aug 22, 2014 at 14:09
  • 5
    @Peteris: In mathematics, professors do write papers among other things. In fact, more than %90 of papers worthwhile reading is written by professors (mostly by a single author), not by post-docs or PhD students.
    – user4511
    Aug 22, 2014 at 15:37
  • 3
    Not enough - that is to say, not as much as he or she would like.
    – jwg
    Aug 23, 2014 at 7:12

3 Answers 3


I found this small-scale, not randomly-sampled survey from Boise State University:


All charts below are from TAWKS Phase 1 Stats, initial survey of 30 higher ed faculty from Boise State University. While findings are highly suggestive, they do not represent a random sample.

Answer to question:

Only 17 percent of the workweek was focused on research and 27 percent of weekend time.


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  • 1
    I'm a little confused by the first graph. I wonder why professors spend a greater proportion of their time travelling at the weekends? Also, what is "Professi..." that only seems to take up time on Fridays? I so hope it's "Professing". Aug 22, 2014 at 8:59
  • 2
    @DavidRicherby - they probably spend the same amount of time in transit, but their total hours are fewer on weekend, so it takes bigger percentage of graph when fewer hours are scaled to the same height. But that's just my guess, could be completely off the mark.
    – Davor
    Aug 22, 2014 at 10:17
  • @DavidRicherby Just a guess, but I'm thinking "Professional Development"?
    – BrianH
    Aug 22, 2014 at 14:12
  • 4
    These charts seem to suggest that professors are a bunch of loners who read emails all day. Aug 22, 2014 at 15:20
  • @DavidRicherby Nothing strange with that -- most conferences are Mon-Fri, so the travel often takes place during the weekend. Jun 10, 2017 at 11:11

The answer is going to vary greatly depending on whether the professor is in a tenure track, has already obtained tenure or is in a contingent/adjunct position.

Besides these issues of rank, it also matters a great deal what kind of university/college we are talking about. If you're a tenure-track professor in the so-called "R1" institution, you will surely be spending significantly more time doing research than a non-tenure, contingent adjunct at a community college.

The size of the university generally matters much less than individual and university rank.

On top of all that, it often comes down to the individual professors' interests and ways they conceive of their career.

  • To add to your answer, this is even greatly variable by sub fields within a general area of scholarship. i.e. ubiquitous computing research is quite different than critical design in the broader field of HCI.
    – Shion
    Aug 22, 2014 at 3:13
  • I read your second paragraph as - if institute A is a pure research institute (i.e. only PhD's and post-doc's - extreme example - IAS, Princeton, NJ) and institute B has {research + normal teaching activities (UG, PG) - example MIT or Harvard}, then people get more time for research in A than B. Valid observation, in general. +1 for this. However, productivity isn't that absolute. IAS is notorious as far as I know. Still +1.
    – 299792458
    Aug 22, 2014 at 6:16

The National Center for Education Statistics in the United States surveys faculty of post-secondary institutions (see the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty page for information on methodology). The most recently available data is from their 2004 survey, with 26,110 respondents across the United States.

The NCES allows you to create custom tables from this dataset using the PowerStats tool on their website. (You have to create an account to use the tool.) This is a valuable tool if you're interested in exploring these and other statistics.

As per user20959's answer, time spent on research varies quite a lot by academic rank:

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and by institution type:

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