Negotiating Academic Job Offers

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Getting the Offer

Offer tends to come verbally over the phone with few details. Later, a full written offer with further details will be sent.

Evaluating the Offer

  • Research the position and understand what terms are being offered in your contract.
  • Ask yourself: Does my start-up package cover my needs in terms of equipment, supplies, and staffing?
    • If you are not satisfied with the offer, try to negotiate better terms.
  • Remember, you are negotiating for the job you were offered, not the job you necessarily wanted. Make sure to tailor your negotiations to the specific job offered.

What is negotiable?

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Relocation
  • Start-Up Package
  • Teaching Commitments
  • Departmental Service
  • Student and Staff Support
  • Professional Development
  • Family Support
  • Start date

If you want more specifics about what is negotiable in an academic job offer, check out our detailed PDF.

How to Negotiate

  • Focus on what you can bring to the department and what you need to successfully transition to independent funding.
  • Choose three to six items that are most important and critical for your future success.
  • Explain why you are asking for a particular item, and why it is a plus both for you and the institution.
  • After initially discussing your negotiations, be patient. Get the new offer (if one is made) in writing.
  • Don’t decide between departments based on offered dollar amounts and don’t pad your requests. But do be sure that you will be able to conduct the research you plan to do.
Burroughs Wellcome Fund Survey of Salary and Start-up Packages:
Recent beginning 12-month salaries for Ph.D.s ranged from $78,000 to $135,000 (average = $102,153 and median = $100,000). For physician-scientists with an M.D. or M.D/Ph.D., salaries ranged from $92,304 to $145,000 (average = $121,058 and median = $120,000). Salaries are normally for a nine- or 12-month year, and the letter should clearly make this distinction. Typically, salaries at schools of arts and sciences are for a nine-month academic year and salaries at medical schools are for 12 months. The salary is usually fully paid by the institution for the first three years or so of an appointment; however, in some cases the institution pays 100 percent the first year and successive lower percentages for succeeding years.

Recent institutional offers of start-up support (excluding salary) for Ph.D.s averaged $800,000 (range $500,000 to $1,400,000), with a median of $750,000. Start-up offers for physician-scientists averaged $800,000 (range $100,000 to $2,110,250 ), with a median of $710,000. This money can be used for equipment, consumables, personnel costs, and professional travel. In many cases, the funds are made available for the first three years and normally (but not in all cases) may be carried forward if not spent. A few institutions may allow money that is not being used to be placed in an interest-bearing account with the interest added to the total start-up support.

Additional Resources

Academic Offer Letters, Burroughs Wellcome Foundation
Search and explore faculty, staff, and adjunct salary data at thousands of colleges
Cost of Living: Housing, Food, and Lifestyle
UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development Negotiating your Start Up Package
How to be honorable and strategic when negotiating an academic job