I know that the time greatly varies from professor to professor, but what are some good 25th percentile to 75th percentile estimates? And does the time spent reading/replying to emails generally increase when the professor is teaching a class?

What are some other factors that influence the number of emails a professor receives?

  • Just out of sheer curiosity: why are you interested in such statistics? – Anthony Labarre Mar 5 '12 at 10:56
  • Just trying to understand the mental burden that I might put on professors when I ask them questions via email and when I might sometimes expect long responses. :) Even though the profs have so little time and so many emails to respond to. – InquilineKea Mar 5 '12 at 15:51
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    Admit it, you just want to verify phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1047 – phihag Mar 6 '12 at 23:35
  • I think there is no single answer, it depends on too many factors. Vote to close as non constructive. – Gopi Apr 18 '12 at 14:14
  • Looking at emails: too many. Actually reading emails: not enough. – Dave Clarke Apr 18 '12 at 15:43

I'm not sure what the exact percentiles are, but I'd estimate that most faculty members who handle their own emails (more on this below) probably spend on the order of an hour a day or more dealing with emails.

I think that emails don't necessarily increase when one is teaching as opposed to other times of the year—unless there are no TA's for the course. In that case, since the professor is the only contact point, emails will rise, although this depends on the course enrollment.

Other determining factors are more or less obvious: the more active and senior a professor is, the more emails they will get:

  • Professors with larger research groups will have more email traffic associated with group management.

  • Professors in larger departments will have more email originating at the department and committee level.

  • As professors move up the ladder, they are asked to participate in more reviews and external programs, which increases the burden still further.

On the other hand, one advantage that many senior faculty have is that they may have dedicated administrative assistants, whose responsibilities can include filtering out the unimportant messages for them.

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  • Very good points. I've often witnessed something peculiar though: a lot of times, the more famous professors are more likely to reply to my emails. Not all of them seem to have personal assistants - although maybe they simply find it easier to respond to emails since they know more? – InquilineKea Mar 5 '12 at 5:14
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    "they simply find it easier to respond to emails since they know more?" Try not to say something like this in front of "less famous" professors. – Amy Mar 6 '12 at 17:39

It greatly varies, my adviser replies at lightning speed, if I ask any questions. He never replies if I ask for an appointment though,LOL. If I ask a question, that he already knows, then within next 2 - 5 mins, If I ask some question, that need some thought, a day MAX. But I took courses with people who ignore stupid questions and move on, even though, that is introductory course. Not saying its wrong, kinda grey area though.

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