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5 tips on how you can negotiate your first faculty offer

Negotiating a job offer in higher education can be stressful as there are no hard and fast rules that you’re expected to follow. And there are a number of benefits of negotiation that you would miss out on if you accept a university’s first offer. You could be leaving money, vacation time, research grants or more on the table. Here are five tips, along with things to negotiate in a job offer, to help make negotiating go as smoothly as possible.

One of the benefits of negotiation is that it allows you to focus on the value that you bring to the department and the institution.

1 Do your research

Before you start the conversation, you need to know what’s open to negotiation. Ask current faculty at the university what they would consider a fair package to get an idea of what you can, or should, try to achieve. Peruse the university website to get an understanding of how your future school handles human resources issues including benefits, child care, elder care, relocation, dual-career accommodations, disability services or diversity.1 Here are some items typically open to negotiation:
  • Housing: Determine the cost of living where the school is located to see what housing options are affordable. Is there on-campus housing open to faculty? Is a housing stipend offered? Online calculators, such as one on NerdWallet’s website, can help you figure out housing costs in various cities. Use them when considering your options.
  • Moving expenses: Your first faculty job may be at your alma mater, but it could also be across the country. Say yes to the bonus road trip and ask for expenses to help get you moved and settled.
  • Family benefits: If you already have children, would they cover child care search fees or school deposits? And if you don’t, are any child care costs covered or subsidized? This may not seem important now, but could become crucial sooner than you think.
  • Appointments of spouses or partners: If you’re moving with your spouse or partner, does the university offer spousal hiring options? Or, are there any policies that would prevent your partner from working at the same place?
  • Research: How much research time vs. class time can most people in your position carve out? You may be able to negotiate for more research time.
  • Sabbaticals: These may be down the road for you, but until then you may be able to negotiate for more time for projects and publishing. Both are important to building your career.
  • Start Date: If you need more time to wrap up a current role, finish school or simply move and get settled, you can try negotiating your start date so you’re at your best when you begin your new job.
  • Tenure: Is this a tenure track role? You may be able to negotiate some of your expectations around tenure to ensure that you and your boss are on the same page.

2 Prioritize
your asks

Before you start negotiating, you need to prioritize your list of requests.2 Think about the top two or three things that would make you the happiest or most successful at the institution.

If you want to ask for a higher salary, this should be at the top of your list. Salary negotiation matters not just for the present, but also for the future, as pay increases are usually calculated as a percentage of your current salary. Be clear and direct when you state your desired salary: Decide on your counteroffer before the conversation starts.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that while the size of your paycheck matters, a lower salary might be offset by other advantages, such as the institution’s location or its commitment to research. That’s why it’s important to distinguish between your must-haves and nice-to-haves before you start the conversation.

3 Frame your
requests appropriately

There are two sides to every negotiation, so it’s important to frame your requests in a way that demonstrates how they will benefit the university and help you be successful and productive in your new role. Be intentional with professional reasons for everything you are seeking. Remember, it’s in the institution’s best interest for you to succeed. For instance, if you’re negotiating a start-up budget for a lab, you may want to suggest sharing equipment or grad students with fellow faculty so that you and the institution  benefit.3 One of the benefits of negotiation is that it allows you to focus on the value that you bring to the department and the institution. Take the time to explain your perspective on which items are most important and how they will support your career, making you a better employee.

4 Be polite
and positive

Attitude is everything, and it’s just as important during the negotiation process as it was during the interview. The way you negotiate your first faculty job can set the stage for how you will interact with your colleagues while in your new role. You want to make a great first impression and don’t want to appear as a bully with a negative attitude or as a pushover who won’t speak up. Be willing to compromise and accept no as an answer with grace.4

5 Get everything
in writing

By the time the process has drawn to a close, you should know what your final offer will look like. You may have received some, but not all, of your requested items, but it should be a good start to your career in higher education. At this point, be sure to get all of the details of your official offer in writing.5 Any items not documented could be lost in the shuffle when positions change. You should request and receive a letter that includes your salary, start date and the date by which the university wants a decision from you. When you receive your written offer, make sure the offer letter displays exactly what was discussed and agreed on during the negotiation. If the letter contains inaccurate information, it’s reasonable to note the discrepancy and request an updated letter. If you’re professional, honest and play fair when negotiating a job offer, there’s no harm in asking for the perks or salary you desire. Just remember that every institution, and even different departments within the school, have different amounts of flexibility. Some have fixed salary schedules by convention or union contract, while others simply have limited resources. Know going in that you most likely won’t get everything you ask for when negotiating a job offer, but remember that it can’t hurt to ask.
1,5. Aguilar, S. J. (2019, March 13). Yes, You Should Negotiate. Retrieved November 16, 2019, from
2. Kelsky, K. (2014, March 24). The Professor Is In: OK, Let’s Talk About Negotiating Salary. Retrieved November 16, 2019, from
3. Hull, D. (2018, February 2) Negotiating for Novices: A Guide  to Negotiating Faculty Positions  and Postdocs. Retrieved December 15, 2019, from
4. Matrone, M. A. (2016, August 8) Worth vs. Value in Job Negotiations. Retrieved November 16, 2019, from
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