Tenure-Track Faculty Job Offer Negotiation Guide

Receiving a faculty offer is a great accomplishment. Despite the challenges of the academic job market, it is still wise to negotiate your offer.

Through negotiation, you can ensure that you receive an offer that is well-aligned with the value you bring to your new institution and department. Negotiating benefits like salary also has long-lasting effects on future earnings.

Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor teaches students

This guide general advice and support about negotiating faculty offers. Because it is written for all disciplines, it does not include advice specific to any one field. To receive more tailored advice or support, please make an appointment with a graduate student career adviser and discuss your offer with faculty in your department.

Preparing to Negotiate

Know Your Priorities

An effective negotiation starts with knowing what you value most in an offer. This can help you better assess whether you are making a good decision for yourself. Taking time to think about what you value can help you strategically discuss key elements of your offer with the hiring institution.

There are a number of factors you can prioritize, and everyone’s list will be different. It can be helpful to think of an exhaustive list of items and try to rank order those. You can use this worksheet to get started. Note that you may have additional issues you want to include, and some of these issues may not be relevant to your offer or your field. Amend this activity as needed to suit your specific circumstances.

* Tenure-track faculty members usually receive a salary over the course of 9 months at higher education institutions in the U.S. (3 months of summer are not included).

Assess Your Offer

Now that you have a sense of what matters most to you, review the offer you received. Determine whether the elements of the offer align with your ranked list. For example, if you ranked salary as a top issue, decide whether the salary in the offer meets your expectations. You may also have gotten a sense from the chair or other members of the search about whether some pieces of your offer are more negotiable than others. Take this into account when deciding your course of action.

Do Your Research

After thinking about what pieces of your offer to negotiate, you will want to take some time exploring what is a reasonable ask of the department. Depending on which items you choose to negotiate, this research will look different. 

A great place to start is by talking with your adviser(s) or trusted mentors within your discipline. They can help you identify a reasonable offer for your department and institution type. If time allows, you can identify and connect with Princeton alums working (or who previously worked) as faculty members at the institution via TigerNet, a searchable alumni directory, to collect insider perspectives. 

If you are assessing salary, we encourage you to use the following resources: 

Be sure to check if there is a more recent dataset available when you are doing your research. The database breaks down salary by discipline and institution type, which can help you understand reasonable ranges for different positions.

Prioritize Areas for Negotiation

Once you know your top issues and have done your research, you can decide what you want to include in your negotiation. It is important to focus on multiple issues simultaneously so you do not spend a lot of time going back and forth with the department. Try to emphasize your most important requests to ensure you can reach a reasonable compromise.

When you negotiate, start with your top five items first instead of asking to discuss all the items on your list. It is common to ask for a higher salary. In some cases, departments may not have the ability to go higher on salary for a number of reasons like equity for new hires or their budget restrictions. For that reason, it can be useful to include some items in addition to salary (e.g., course load reduction, startup funds, relocation assistance). Departments can often justify one-time or more limited expenses more easily than higher salaries that follow a faculty member through their career.

It is important that you know your own minimum requirements to accept a job. Be thoughtful about what is most important to you and what minimum adjustments would be required for you to transition to your new role. This could be anything from a minimum salary to guarantees of a certain amount of course release for your first year. If you do not come prepared with this subjective minimum, it can make negotiation and eventual offer assessment much more challenging.

The Negotiation Process

Making the Ask

Ideally, you will have received your offer in writing so you can follow up thoughtfully over email. However, you may receive your offer package verbally. In this case, you can request an email containing the offer information. While it may seem daunting, negotiations are often more successful if you initiate the conversation via a brief virtual meeting or phone call. You can send an email to request a call and prepare an outline your main negotiation points to help guide the conversation.

Focusing on Mutual Benefits

The most effective negotiations are based on the mutual gain of both parties. Remember, the academic job market is competitive, and this department wants to hire you. You should frame your requests, when possible, in terms of how they can improve your productivity. 

For example, additional lab space or course releases may allow you to better focus on your research, which benefits the institution. When negotiating salary or relocation assistance, which may not as directly relate to teaching or scholarship, be sure to frame your ask in terms of your potential contributions to the department. What unique perspective, skills, insights, or expertise do you bring? You are essentially going to justify your higher compensation by highlighting why the department would benefit from recruiting you.

Navigating Follow-Up Conversations

When negotiating, minimize the amount of back-and-forth between you and the chair or other institutional representative. Along with your initial ask – which should include all elements you would like to negotiate – prepare for follow-up conversations which may be virtual, over the phone, or through email. You may also need to generate follow-up points based on these conversations. Be thoughtful and creative in suggesting solutions that can benefit both you and the institution.

Reviewing the Final Offer

Request your final offer in writing to ensure all of your agreed upon points are included. Make sure to reiterate once again your excitement about the prospect of joining the department and university. 

Once you have your offer in hand, return to your requirements. It is likely that a department’s return offer does not necessarily meet every item you requested. Reflect on whether the compromises made are sufficient for you to happily accept the offer and begin your new position. 

Communicating Your Decision

Once you have decided whether you are going to accept the offer or not, communicate that information as quickly as possible with the department. 

If you are not accepting the offer, be sure to express gratitude for their time and their willingness to negotiate. Maintaining these professional relationships is important, especially if you are accepting a different faculty offer; you never know when you may see these colleagues again in your career. 

If you are accepting the offer, be sure to do so with genuine enthusiasm to ensure you start your position on the right note with your new department. You should thank them for their time and for their willingness to negotiate with you. Express your excitement about joining the institution and starting your career.