Early stage startups and entrepreneurs often look at those with experience and knowledge for help in areas such as finance, management (HR), marketing and technology.

How many hours per week/month on average does a faculty member spend consulting/advising/coaching businesses?

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    Hi, and welcome to Academia.SE! Answers to your question will likely vary enormously by field (business school vs. math vs. medicine vs. humanities), possibly also by geography or school type. Could you please edit your question to indicate what specifically you are interested in? – Stephan Kolassa Apr 13 '15 at 15:43
  • Thanks for your response and advise. Early stage startups and entrepreneurs often look at those with experience and knowledge for help in areas such as finance, management (HR), marketing and technology. 1) In these areas, how much time do professors spend in consulting/advising/coaching on a weekly/monthly basis? – Harry Gardner Apr 13 '15 at 15:58
  • Welcome to Academia.SE! Please edit your question to improve it. Don't just leave clarifications in the comments -- edit the question so it is self-contained. Readers shouldn't have to read the comments to understand your question. Comments exist only to help you improve your question. Also, we have a general expectation that you will flesh out the question more, and that you will do significant research before asking here and show us in the question what research you've done and what you've found. You might want to peruse our help center to learn more how the site works. – D.W. Apr 13 '15 at 23:38
  • @HarryGardner I've incorporated your comments into your question – Jeromy Anglim Apr 14 '15 at 1:19

I would say the mean over all of academia is very low, almost zero. I would even go so far as to say that the median amount of time is zero. However, this includes all professors from all fields. It is not impossible for a Professor of German Romantic Poetry to find businesses that need their expertise but I would image them few and far between.

There is also the issue of contractual obligations. My current professorial contract states that during the academic year I cannot work for another institution as more than a "part time job" but during the breaks I could work for someone else full time. While this does not give concrete limits it is presumed here to be about 10 hours per week as a general maximum.

More applied professors I have met were officially funded by outside corporations so their research counted double as both consulting work and as their normal work load. So for them even during the academic year it could be over 40 hours per week.

So what I mean to say is that to get a useful answer you should probably be more specific about which fields you are interested in.

  • Thank you for the reply. I was looking at first some general responses and your response of maximum 10 hours per week is helpful. Thanks again – Harry Gardner Apr 13 '15 at 16:32
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    Bear in mind that that maximum is the informally understood value at one small college in the US. Nothing more than that. – BSteinhurst Apr 13 '15 at 17:59
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    A common policy is "no more than one day a week during the 9 month academic year." In my experience (at an engineering/science oriented university where there are quite a few opportunities) very few faculty do anything close to this much outside consulting. – Brian Borchers Apr 13 '15 at 19:27

I thought this was a rather fascinating question, and it turns out some researchers have agreed - enough to conduct their own studies!

In a paper from 1985, but with too wonderful a title not to note, consider And on the Seventh Day: Faculty Consulting and Supplemental Income

Obviously one will want to review this paper, as it's full of interesting observations, such as on the topic of how much this varies by field and how often/how much they are paid:

Less than 10 percent of college and university faculty employed in fields allied with science and engineering report supplemental earnings that represent more than one-third of their base academic salaries. The comparable figure for faculty employed in the humanities is only 4 percent.

So certainly consulting is much more popular in some fields than others, however also consider:

Sixty to 85 percent of all faculty report receiving some income beyond their base academic salaries. Supplemental income results from all forms of income-generating activities (for example, research and teaching during the summer months as well as consulting) and is earned both within and without the institution. The amount represents only about 15 percent of average basic academic salaries. About half of all college and university faculty report having some form of "outside" supplemental income during a given year.

So not only does it vary widely by field, but there is also a considerable amount of variation between individuals.

The bottom-line of the report is that a little consulting is extremely common, but consulting a lot is relatively rare - only 5-6% of faculty report consulting more than 1 day per week on average. This of course also permits variance throughout the year, with more consulting happening when classes are not in session. For non-US natives, it is important to note that in the US the concept of an "academic/9-month year" is common, and students and professors alike can take the summer off or work on their careers, take extra-paid employment (including classes), etc...and some people get stiffed and have to work for no additional pay, but that's unpleasant to think about!

This is certainly an older study, so let's consider some more recent research: Outside Consulting Income by University Faculty in Health Administration

Sadly this is pay-walled, but the abstract has good info that agrees with the older study nicely:

Based on a comprehensive survey of health administration (HA) faculty in the US, the current study presents data on the frequency, dollar amounts, and determinants of outside consulting income among respondents. Approximately three quarters of respondents engage in some consulting activities that yield, on average, approximately 25% additional income above one's university base salary. However averages can be misleading given that substantial variation in earnings exists among respondents at each rank. Median consulting incomes were approximately 9% of respondents' base salary. Various factors including rank, gender, and professional accomplishments were associated with engaging in any consulting activities. Among those who consult, school of employment, gender, and self-reported expertise are associated with the amount of consulting income earned.

In a quick Google Scholar search this question seems to have been highly studied in the 1980's, and so the foundation literature is from this time. More recent studies seem to generally accept the older studies conclusions, and then get ever more specific - examining cultural differences (like attitudes of Arab faculty and how it relates to consulting), individual fields and schools (comparing various law professors and positions in their use of consulting), etc.

If you are interested in this area I'd strongly recommend starting with a full read of "And on the Seventh Day" quoted above, as it also deals with thinks like reasons (which seem not to be strictly economic!), effect on research/teaching, and so on. Then some more specific poking around can narrow down your question, or it might just answer your question entirely!

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    Thank you very much for taking the time and helping out. I will certainly read "And on the..." I was also intrigued to see consulting in Health Administration. The document is pay-per-view but I am interested if the consulting is onsite or can consulting in that area be virtual / technology based only. Thank you again. – Harry Gardner Apr 14 '15 at 15:02

While you will get better responses if you narrow this down to specifics, I will answer generally for my experience in public health and medicine, as I have experienced it.

Consulting is definitely possible, and many clinical researchers do some consulting on the side, in addition to having grants from industry. Other than that, consulting is something that comes up from time to time, but not enough that I would call it a routine part of anyone's workload. Keep in mind that part of that is because as an academic you don't get much "credit" for consulting - your tenure package isn't improved by it, your chair isn't happy that you're bringing in some big overhead grants, etc. If it's regular work, it should probably be considered for a proper grant.

As for restrictions on it, I haven't encountered any hard limits as much as "This should not interfere with your actual job".

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