A commitment to work and family balance, a collegial environment and good compensation all contribute to satisfied early-career faculty, according to a recent survey by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education of 42 member institutions. The poll of nearly 5,000 junior faculty members found some of the most satisfied professors at Brown University, Auburn University, Ohio State University, Stanford University, Davidson College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign--all of which received outstanding marks in four of the seven categories assessed by the survey. For all seven categories, psychology faculty reported higher job satisfaction than their colleagues in other departments.
Barry Burkhart, PhD, chair of Auburn's psychology department, was not surprised by the survey results: The school has established several policies aimed at increasing junior faculty satisfaction, he says. For instance, Auburn allows faculty members who become new parents to take a semester off from teaching. The psychology department keeps teaching loads light for all first- and second-year faculty members, and allows third-year faculty to take an entire semester off.
"They take advantage of that semester teaching leave and write up papers and that put them in good stead for the typical fifth-year nomination for tenure and promotion," says Burkhart.
Across all the institutions in the survey, junior faculty reported high job satisfaction--averaging 3.84 on a five-point scale. However, university professors were less satisfied than their college-based colleagues, averaging 3.90 as compared to 4.15.