14 Pros and Cons of Working at a University

University

Have you ever considered working at a university?

There are a plethora of advantages to taking up a position at your local university.

On the other end of the scale, there are a few disadvantages to working at this type of institution as well.

In this article, we will dive into some of the advantages and disadvantages of working for a university. 

Pros of Working For a University

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the benefits that university employees enjoy.

1. Educational Benefits

Many tertiary institutions offer discounted, or in some cases, free tuition for courses in a tuition-waiver program.

This is probably one of the biggest advantages to working for a university, as the prospective student may end up saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars in tuition fees.

Not only are the employees entitled to free education more often than not, but this benefit is also extended to the spouses and children of these employees.

There are many institutions that also partake in a tuition exchange program that aims at enticing prospective employees to work at these institutions.

The tuition exchange program allows the children and/or spouses of the faculty and staff that are employed by the university to attend another tertiary institution that also partakes in the tuition exchange program.

For example, if the faculty and staff member’s child wishes to study at a university in another state that participates in this program, that child is able to do so and enjoy the tuition waiver or attend the institution at a reduced tuition rate.

2. Time Off

Many universities offer additional paid time off to employees during the course of the year. 

In addition to the standard paid time off that the employee is entitled to during the year, some institutions may offer an additional period of time off during spring break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holidays.

Furthermore, during the summer holiday when the business of the institution has subsided, some universities may offer time off on a Friday in exchange for extended hours worked from Monday through Thursday.

While this may not ideally qualify as paid time off, it is still time off when compared to the corporate world which does not qualify for these benefits during the summer break. 

3. Convenience

When working in the corporate world, employees rarely find the time to get errands done, let alone find the time to exercise, or do other ‘to-do’ items. 

Several universities allow faculty and staff access to training facilities, as well as other recreational facilities.

Some universities will allow employees a certain number of hours off work in order to participate in activities.

In addition, these benefits may be extended to the spouse and children of employees and faculty members.

Furthermore, in an attempt to promote healthier lifestyle choices, some universities may even reward employees for participating in fitness activities in order to help maintain a healthier workforce and thereby reduce the burden on the healthcare insurance provider when employees are sickly. 

4. Housing

Certain universities offer housing programs that either assist employees with purchasing a property that is closely situated with the university or for renovations to these properties. 

In addition, the university may partner with third-party organizations that assist employees with getting a discounted rate on rental properties that qualify for these programs.

Usually, a property may qualify for these discounts and/or assistance based on where the property is situated in relation to the university. 

5. Transportation

Many universities often have a free shuttle bus that offers rides for students to busier metropolitan areas.

Employees of these institutions are able to take advantage of these services and save a substantial amount of money on transportation to and from work.

Furthermore, these institutions may also offer carpool matching services for employees who wish not to only save on transportation costs but also want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Alternatively, these institutes may offer bus and subway pass to employees who do not want to commute to and from work using their own means of transportation. 

6. Childcare

Several institutions offer high-quality, affordable, on-site child care that is free of charge to employees.

Some institutions also host and offer employees the opportunity to take advantage of their kids’ summer youth programs. 

7. Retirement

One of the things that many universities are well known for is the fringe benefits offered to employees, such as their retirement funds.

Many institutions may make contributions to the retirement fund without requiring the employee to do so as well or, alternatively, may cover the full contribution from the institution’s side and from the employee’s side. 

Cons of Working For a University

As previously mentioned, it is not always sunshine and roses.

There are a few disadvantages to working for a university.

1. Earning Less Money

One of the biggest disadvantages to working in higher education is the fact that you will earn a lower income.

These institutions are known for not paying too well.

While we all know that a senior tenured professor working at an institution that is well known and well respected may receive a great salary and have excellent job security, reaching this position is not as easy as one might think. 

2. Contract Work

There is not always a lot of stability that comes with this type of job.

Many institutions are moving away from tenure positions and only seem to be offering contract positions.

This means that every couple of years or so, you will be in the job market again looking for another job.

And, as many may tell you, finding another full-time job is actually a job in and of itself. 

Furthermore, the lack of job stability and security may lead to higher levels of stress when the contract period is nearing an end. 

3. Moving

As previously mentioned, there is very little job security, and contracts only last so long.

In addition, there are only so many colleges and universities in any given metropolitan area.

This may mean that you will be required to move to cities or states more often than those with a stable job. 

4. Time-Management

Depending on your role at the institution, you may have little to no free time as most of your time will be spent at the university.

Those in faculty positions may be required to fulfill three different roles at once.

For example, they may be required to teach, perform research and bring in grants with their research, and also serve on committees.

Research work alone may take up a substantial amount of free time.

While most college professors may love what they do and enjoy spending time working on research projects, family members may end up suffering due to the lack of presence of the academic employee.

5. Higher Levels of Stress

Whether you are working in the administrative office or as part of the faculty, you may experience higher levels of stress.

For the administrative staff, this is any period between holidays, and for the faculty staff, this is throughout the year, as these professionals are required to fulfill multiple roles, such as mentoring students, conducting self-directed research, teaching courses, performing departmental service, publishing papers, as well as applying for grants.

The workload alone may take its toll on employees, not to mention the deadlines associated with some of these tasks. 

Unproductive employees are easily and quickly replaced, which brings us back into a full circle.

6. A Sense of Being Disconnected

Many college employees have stated that they experience feelings of being disconnected due to different schedules than traditional work environments, work overload, and the general atmosphere of working in such an institution. 

This seems to be more the case for those working on research as opposed to those in administration.

Research papers often take up copious amounts of time requiring that candidates completely submerge themselves in their work for weeks, months, or even years.

This may heighten the sense of disconnect with the environment around them.

7. Lack of Challenging Work

This is another factor that seems to be mentioned a lot.

Many candidates, both lecturers, and administrative staff have mentioned that they simply do not feel challenged enough by their work and experience much lower levels of job satisfaction, often citing boredom.

Pros and Cons of Working at a University – Summary Table

Pros of Working For a UniversityCons of Working For a University
Educational BenefitsEarning Less Money
Time OffContract Work
ConvenienceMoving
HousingTime-Management
TransportationHigher Levels of Stress
ChildcareA Sense of Being Disconnected
RetirementLack of Challenging Work

Should I Become a University Worker?

There are many benefits that outweigh the disadvantages of becoming a university worker.

For those individuals in the lower ranks working at these institutions, the benefits of healthcare, housing, transportation, and retirement alone make this industry worthwhile.

These individuals and their families are able to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in education costs, housing costs, and transportation costs, among other things.

On the other hand, as a teacher or lecturer, the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages.

Constantly having to move, spending copious amounts of time at work or doing work, and the stress of having to continuously outperform competitors combined with the lowered salary may not make this field worthwhile. 

Unless you have a true and deep passion for the field you are working in, no need for a high salary, and are willing to spend copious amounts of time on research projects, this may be the ideal job for you. 

Jamie Willis