Crystal Lee (she/她)

What can you negotiate for in an academic job offer?

Someone recently asked me what you can actually negotiate for in an academic job offer. "They always tell you to negotiate," this person told me, "but I don't even know what I could ask for." This seems to be a common sentiment; there are all sorts of stuff about negotiation strategy without telling you the universe of stuff that could be available. (I am guilty of this, particularly in this thread about how to negotiate.) "Think of what you might need to succeed," these voices say, to which I always want to respond: but I don't even know what that might be! I've never done this before!

In trying to negotiate my own job offers and listening to other folks' experience, I've put together a short list of things that you can ask for in these negotiations. Please email me at crystall [at] mit [dot] edu if you have others that I should add to this list (or if you've found this helpful)!

Very difficult

  • Spousal or dual hire
  • Salary (I have found from personal experience and from talking to others that this is one of the harder things to budge on unless you have a competing offer; easier to push on other items )

(Relatively) easier things to negotiate

  • Start date and postdoc before beginning faculty position
  • Junior sabbatical / teaching releases for course development or research
  • Increased discretionary funds over a longer timeline (e.g., $10k per year for 4 years instead of 3, or a larger lump sum)
  • Administrative assistance, usually in percent effort
  • Owned media: publicity about your research as a faculty profile
  • Summer salary (especially good for course development)
  • Office location and space provisions (stipulation that it has windows)
  • Guaranteed spot in university childcare center
  • Sponsored house-hunting visit
  • Access to university-subsidized housing developments
  • Interim faculty housing before purchasing or renting
  • Limitations on service and advising (e.g., capping the number of advisees and committees)
  • Computing needs
  • Stacking teaching loads (e.g., turning a 1:1 into 2:0), teaching reduction, or opportunity to buy out teaching with grant support
  • Requesting guaranteed TAs for undergraduate courses
  • Mentorship structure

Lump sum devoted to specific line items

  • More than $10k
    • Conference on topic of specialization (ask for admin support!)
    • Housing allowance / subsidy (e.g., contribution to down payment)
    • Conference / research travel funding
    • Research assistance: postdoctoral fellow, undergrad research interns
  • Around $5-8k:
    • Workshop for book manuscript (honoraria, travel, etc for senior scholars to have devoted time to read your work)
    • Moving expenses
    • Professional development courses (e.g., NCFDD, conflict resolution and mentorship courses, CPR / physical and psychological first aid)
    • Research equipment: laptop, printer, tape recorder, camera, hard drives, etc.
    • Tech: software licenses, cloud storage, domain names, digital services to protect privacy (like VPN)
    • Writing assistance: developmental editing, writing retreat space
    • Professional art and design: professionally designed website, commission some art that represents your work that you can use for presentations and journal covers; graphic design for website, research group, figures
    • Curriculum development based on your research
  • Less than $5k:
    • Upgraded office furniture: standing desk, ergonomic chair, white board and/or projector in office, external monitor
    • Wellness: HEPA filter, humidifier, SAD lamp
    • Upgraded Zoom equipment: webcam, mic, speakers, lighting
    • Membership dues for professional society
    • Books (for your research and / or to create a small research and methods lending library for students)
    • Academic regalia
    • Transcription credits
    • Book and journal publishing: open access fees, indexing services, image licensing
    • Lab swag