I just got tenured and promoted to an associate professor, the contract for which will start from Fall this year. However, my partner, who is also in academia just accepted an position in another city starting from this Fall. Our plan is to give up our current tenured positions and move the entire family to the new city (for a better environment and better education for our children). The question is: when would be a good timing for me to move?

We have small children (toddler and infant), so it seems to make most sense if we all move together this summer. I am not currently on the job market, but I am open to giving up my tenured position (to trade with a better location for the family) while trying to find something in the new city (I am ready to apply for adjunct teaching positions, contract based faculty positions, or tenure-track positions in the new city, whatever becomes available, or to find some creative ways to engage in work meaningful and inspiring to me while trying to meet our financial needs).

Now, should I at all consider the possibility of staying behind and teaching as an associate professor for a year before leaving my current job?

In other words, in thinking about future career trajectory, would having one actual year of experience as a tenured associate professor make a big difference on the prospect of future job applications? Or, would showing evidence of having achieved tenure/promotion in a previous institute be equivalently useful?

What are some other possible alternatives?

Any advice on this would be much appreciated!

  • 9
    PhD's work very hard to get tenure, yet you're willing to give it up and adjunct. This is very bizarre to me. How long have you been tenured? How can you explain your willingness to abandon it?
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 18:05
  • 18
    @AaronHall the reason is written explicitly in the question. What is it you find 'bizarre'?
    – Cape Code
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 19:07
  • 2
    I find bizarre your willingness to possibly derail your career. I'm confident in your ability to work as an adjunct. I'm not confident in your chances of getting tenure at a convenient or equally prestigious location when you move. I hope I'm wrong. Perhaps you're publishing and getting cited in the 99th percentile in your (uncompetitive) field, which I hope you'll say you are. Or, perhaps you're at the 50th percentile for your graduating cohorts in a very competitive field, and you do not fully comprehend your good fortune in getting tenured.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 19:25

6 Answers 6


If you stay behind and work for a year as an associate professor and go on the job market the next academic year, you'll be in a better situation to search for a new tenure track position than if you leave your current position and move immediately. It's always better to look for a job from a tenured/tenure track position than as an unemployed academic with no current affiliation. Furthermore, if you leave at this point it may appear as though you didn't receive tenure in your current position.

When/if you do go on the job market you can explain in your cover letter that you're moving to the new city because your partner is there in a tenure track position.

Another avenue to follow up on is seeing if your partner's new institution might be willing to employ you (either now or perhaps in a year from now.) Many institutions have specific "spousal hiring" policies that might be helpful.

  • Doesn't read like it's tenure track, reads like it's tenure.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 18:01
  • 1
    It's always better to look for a job from a tenured/tenure track position than as an unemployed academic with no current affiliation. Certainly that would be true if she wanted to keep open the option of continuing to work indefinitely at her present job. She doesn't.
    – user1482
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 19:31

Another addition to Brian's answer: you can see if you can go on leave without pay from your current position for a year. This is a normal thing to do at decent-sized universities, though I don't know about smaller schools. This gives you the flexibility to go back if the city doesn't work out, and you'll still have a position that you can put on your CV when you apply for jobs.


In addition to Brian Borchers' good answer, your partner may also be able to defer their start for a year, particularly if their contract is for a tenure-track or other long-term position. This possibility might also motivate your partner's institution to think more seriously about hiring you as well.


Echoing a point made by others: perhaps you've been lucky with the whole tenure-track/tenure thing, and don't realize that even for very good people there is a huge element of chance involved in getting a tenure-track job, much less tenure. I get the impression that this might be the case from your (to me seemingly casual) remark about "adjuncting until you find a tenure-track job"... in a specific city. Unless (and even if) you are more-or-less a superstar, that day might never come, I fear.

Unless I'm completely missing the mark, I'd recommend that you not give up your current tenured spot until you see what the possibilities are. A year's leave of absence ought to be ok with your current institution. If you discover that tenure-track jobs in the new city are not so easy to come by, you might want to pursue some long-distance commuting arrangements, as @Flexo mentions. The difference in salary between tenured and adjunct might make it more-than-worthwhile.

  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question. She didn't ask for advice about whether to move, she asked for advice about when to move.
    – user1482
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 19:25
  • 11
    @BenCrowell, well, maybe, but what if the answer is "never"? When a question has self-fatal premises that we don't truly know how carefully the questioner has thought through, I feel it'd be remiss to not raise those background questions. After all, some people who ask questions here are naive or ill-informed about The Game of Academe, etc. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 20:28
  • Though Paul's valuable and sensible answer does not address the question, at least not directly, it is often the issues or the questions that people don't ask that are the most important. I concur that one should be very cautious before leaving a tenured job, but is it really so hard to get even a tenured track job these days? Paul writes: "even for very good people there is a huge element of chance involved in getting a tenure-track job, much less tenure" and also "Unless (and even if) you are more-or-less a superstar". (Upvoted, of course.) Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 15:42

Depending on the subject, flexibility of your institution and the distances involved it may be possible to do a compromise deal of some sort, for example:

  • do all your teaching work in one semester and work from home on research the rest
  • do all your teaching on one or two days of the week and fly weekly
  • do all your teaching each semester intensively over a two week period and run long coursework stints.

Of course that may not be acceptable but it does no harm to ask even if it's only a slim chance. They may be less inclined towards flexibility if your intention is to quit though.


When you apply for jobs in the future, the main factors in getting interviews will be:

  • education
  • teaching experience
  • research (if it's a school where research is part of the job)

You're far enough along in an academic career that I don't see a year as mattering very much one way or the other.

A separate issue is that when people are looking at your job application, they want to know whether or not you have a history of success. For this reason, it's very important to them to know why you left a previous position. That's why they usually have a space for this on the application form, and they also may want to hear an explanation in your job letter (unless your previous job was something like a postdoc, which everyone understands is temporary). In your situation, this is straightforward. In the blank on the form, you put "reason for leaving: family." In your letter, you give the explanation: "after achieving tenure at X University and being promoted to the rank of Y, I made the difficult decision, for family reasons, to move here to city Z." You can also allay their misgivings by supplying references from people at X University who will say how great you were.

So in general, I see very little advantage in staying behind while your spouse moves, and there is the obvious disadvantage of severely disrupting your family for a year.

BTW, I'm dismayed by some of the reactions you're getting here, which seem to me (a) to be condescending, (b) to show a lack of realistic appreciation for the need to balance work with family, and (c) to be off-topic because they focus on the decision you've already made, rather than the decision that your question is asking about.

  • 1
    Regarding your last paragraph: these reactions may nevertheless be useful for the picture they provide of how people in academia will perceive this decison: if leaving a tenured position for an adjunct position is perceived as indicating a lack of interest in research, this could be useful information for the original questioner, even if these opinions are misguided. ("You send your CV to the hiring committees you have, not the hiring committees you want" -- or something like that.)
    – Tom Church
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 0:59

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