Tenure track & Clinical AMC career questions

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flerfmcgerf

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I'm on the counseling/clinical tenure track job market, applying to a variety of places ranging from liberal arts schools to non top-tier R1s. I was recently faced with the reality that while data.chronicle.com gives you average salaries per school, my heuristic of "taking off 5k" doesn't quite get you as low as psychology faculty actually salaries seem to be relative to averages (per a review of individual faculty members' publicly available salaries). Are there any folks out there that can speak to making it on these kinds of salaries (50-65k) with a family and how they came to the decision to pursue this path? I know cost of living matters hugely, and people all over the country make it on these kinds of salaries, but with so much time invested in school and training (including putting together 10 published articles), a 10k bump from postdoc just sounds so pitiful sometimes (granted you do also get 3-4 months "off"). Was the opportunity to have a side gig a factor in this decision? Did your position have anything built in to help boost your income off that side gig (e.g. a clinical day)?

At the same time, I've taken a peek at some AMC clinical/teaching oriented positions. What are folks schedules like in those environments? I'm big on work-life balance so the main question there is, what do schedules tend to look like in these positions? I'm used to seeing the 8-5 approach in the VA and am wondering if schedules in AMC's are much different and/or if schedules are largely dependent on the department.

Last question: Do you think a year or two at an AMC clinical/teaching/10-20% research job, while maybe publishing 3-5 articles, would be problematic for getting a decent (non-R1) tenure track job later?
 
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PsyDr

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$50-60k?! That’s $30/hr. You are absolutely being scammed, and harming the profession if you take that.

I thought one of the purposes of higher education was to have a higher standard of living than: prison guards, subway train conductors, dental hygienists, cops, heavy equipment operators, plumbers, trash men, military guys when you throw in their housing allowance, taxi drivers in medium cities, etc.
 
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bcliff

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$50-60k?! That’s $30/hr. You are absolutely being scammed, and harming the profession if you take that.

I thought one of the purposes of higher education was to have a higher standard of living than: prison guards, subway train conductors, dental hygienists, cops, heavy equipment operators, plumbers, trash men, military guys when you throw in their housing allowance, taxi drivers in medium cities, etc.

Assuming $50-60k for a 9 month contract, I think it’s actually a little higher (i.e., ~$35-40/hour). I don’t disagree that it’s low, but I’ve seen some tenure track positions start around ~45k.
 
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WisNeuro

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Assuming $50-60k for a 9 month contract, I think it’s actually a little higher (i.e., ~$35-40/hour). I don’t disagree that it’s low, but I’ve seen some tenure track positions start around ~45k.

Man, even if I absolutely loved the academic life, I don't think I could fathom accepting a FT job that pays less than my postdoc did.
 
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Ollie123

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Yeah, I can understand why that would be tough to swallow. My colleagues who have taken similar positions all arranged to spend 1 day a week engaged in some other activity (clinical work, industry consulting, one person is a scientific officer at a tech startup). Coupled with some summer income from teaching/grants/other things that made it a bit more reasonable.

At least for the R1 world, that looks unusually low though (even non-top-tier). I'm mostly seeing around 80k for a 9-month.

AMC clinical schedules will vary enormously so it is going to be tough to get an absolute answer. It is also absolute chaos during COVID, but that's not necessarily an indication of how things will look in a year. I've seen everything from a fairly cush 35-40 hour week on up to 70+- it just depends on clinic, staffing, setting, culture, etc. And personality. If you let them work you 70 hours a week, they will be happy to do so - even in many places where its not expected.

I assume you are ruling out AMC research positions because of concerns about work-life balance? With 10+ publications as a grad student, you could conceivably be competitive depending on your research focus. Pay can be immensely better. 2-3x the salary range you stated is not at all out of the question, even at the assistant prof level.
 
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PsyDr

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Assuming $50-60k for a 9 month contract, I think it’s actually a little higher (i.e., ~$35-40/hour). I don’t disagree that it’s low, but I’ve seen some tenure track positions start around ~45k.

Like a waiter asking me "is Pepsi okay?", or a girl saying "it's not reaaaaaaaaally cheating if....", I'm not buying that line of reasoning.

Annual income is annual income. Mortgage brokers, the IRS, leasing agents, and credit agencies don't care if you make all of your money in one month, or if your earnings are spread out across 12 months
 
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bcliff

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Like a waiter asking me "is Pepsi okay?", or a girl saying "it's not reaaaaaaaaally cheating if....", I'm not buying that line of reasoning.

Annual income is annual income. Mortgage brokers, the IRS, leasing agents, and credit agencies don't care if you make all of your money in one month, or if your earnings are spread out across 12 months

Well... I think that by that logic, we should assume that OP is able to work/maintain that "hourly rate" over the summer months (e.g., teaching, supervising, private practice), which would mean that we're actually talking about an annual salary range of ~$65k-$80k? (e.g., 50,000 / 9 * 12)
 

DynamicDidactic

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Are there any folks out there that can speak to making it on these kinds of salaries (50-65k) with a family and how they came to the decision to pursue this path? I know cost of living matters hugely, and people all over the country make it on these kinds of salaries,
My first job was a 60k, 9-month, tenure track job at a masters-level school. I lived in a low-medium CoL. With a working spouse, a new child, and renting a large house there really wasn't an issue. In the first year, we paid off my small pre-doctoral loan and purchased a new car. Though, I did leave mostly b/c of the salary and teaching load. But, for starting, it wasn't bad. There were opportunities for summer teaching but I did not take those. I was geographically restricted b/c of spouse, so I was happy to get the experience under my belt and then find a higher paying, lower teaching load TT position. After 2 years, we bought our home and I started a different job.

This is why the members on this site stress the importance of low debt burden. CoL is also important. Psychologists do no make large sums of money starting out. And, remember, your first job is not your last job. You only help the field by leaving low paying jobs for higher paying jobs.
 
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summerbabe

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I don’t disagree that it’s low, but I’ve seen some tenure track positions start around ~45k.
At my non-flagship state school, the psych dept tenure track profs started below that and full associate prof salaries are in the low 60s IIRC. It's an area in the south where you can buy older but perfectly livable homes in the 5 figures so CoL can be super low depending on your lifestyle needs.

Our psych dept also tended to hire straight out of internship rather than postdoc and some faculty would then get poached by other institutions before they were up for tenure review, especially if they didn't have a family connection to the region.
 

PsychPsyance

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Like a waiter asking me "is Pepsi okay?", or a girl saying "it's not reaaaaaaaaally cheating if....", I'm not buying that line of reasoning.

Annual income is annual income. Mortgage brokers, the IRS, leasing agents, and credit agencies don't care if you make all of your money in one month, or if your earnings are spread out across 12 months

This is a very good point. My first TT job was $60k/9 mo in a city with an average COL (this was in 2012). I negotiated summer funds for three years, and additional startup that I could use after that if I hadn't spent it on my research. I've been fortunate enough to always have summer funding, but if I didn't, teaching was always available. I also negotiated a 1 day/week release to do clinical work. Between my 12 mo uni job and 1 day/week clinical work, I was making ~$100k in my first year.

However, as far as the bank was concerned, the clinical work hadn't been around long enough to count as a secondary source of income, and my contract at the University was only for 9mo (so they didn't count summer salary). I also had some debt. So, despite pulling in $100k+/year, we could not get a home loan. It's frustrating.

I don't have a lot of advice, but hopefully this info helps. I've been able to maneuver the system well, and it has paid off nicely. The ability to do this will likely vary a lot by person. But there was definitely a lot of sacrifice up front.

FWIW, we just hired a new TT faculty at a little over $100k/9 mo with a pretty generous startup. She negotiated hard (and had people like me pushing hard for her on the other side) to make that happen though.
 
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beantownpsych

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For an R1 50-60K seems extremely low. Most of the people I know started in between 105-130K with the upper range for those that had summer salary through grants etc. Biased sample though as I am only really familiar with the coasts. My friends at R2s or SLACs started at 65-80K depending on location. AMCs vary in how they are structured. For clinical faculty sometimes this is based on how many RVUs you generate other times (perhaps more rare now) it's relatively independent of RVUs if say for example you work on a IP, PHP, IOP service that has bundled rates. All the clinical faculty I know make substantially more than 50-60K in their first year following postdoc. The lowest I've heard of is low to mid 80's. At my current AMC, beginning clinical faculty (assistant prof level) make ~ 110-120. Not sure about instructors or teaching oriented positions although I think my AMC pays next to nothing for teaching (like 5% a class or something ridiculous).
 

flerfmcgerf

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Thanks for the responses. They've really been helpful to review. A couple folks mentioned the listed salaries being low for R1s and yes, you're right. The salaries I listed are for the places I've received more recent interviews. The R1's I applied to ("average" salaries are listed as 75-85 - with psych tending to be a bit lower) haven't been overly excited with me so far.

$50-60k?! That’s $30/hr. You are absolutely being scammed, and harming the profession if you take that.
You may be happy to know that this sentiment, along with your interesting little avatar picture were running through my head when I realized these salaries.

I assume you are ruling out AMC research positions because of concerns about work-life balance? With 10+ publications as a grad student, you could conceivably be competitive depending on your research focus. Pay can be immensely better. 2-3x the salary range you stated is not at all out of the question, even at the assistant prof level.
Yes, work life balance, and I feel like I lack the single-minded focus/pedigree/connections/grant training/willingness to postdoc again. It's my own fault that my research trajectory has been relatively wonky and undisciplined - so I feel like I have to let the AMC research route go. But who knows, maybe something relevant will open up.

[...] I was happy to get the experience under my belt and then find a higher paying, lower teaching load TT position. After 2 years, we bought our home and I started a different job.

[...] And, remember, your first job is not your last job. You only help the field by leaving low paying jobs for higher paying jobs.
Well this is an interesting perspective. I guess as long as I'm willing to relocate for a first job and then relocate again in 2-4 years maybe I can make an upward move to something that feels a little more reasonable. It's always good to remember the "first job is not your last job" idea because even now, I forget it.

This is a very good point. My first TT job was $60k/9 mo in a city with an average COL (this was in 2012). I negotiated summer funds for three years, and additional startup that I could use after that if I hadn't spent it on my research. I've been fortunate enough to always have summer funding, but if I didn't, teaching was always available. I also negotiated a 1 day/week release to do clinical work. Between my 12 mo uni job and 1 day/week clinical work, I was making ~$100k in my first year.
[...]
I don't have a lot of advice, but hopefully this info helps. I've been able to maneuver the system well, and it has paid off nicely. The ability to do this will likely vary a lot by person. But there was definitely a lot of sacrifice up front.
The summer funds and 1 day/week release seem like great ideas. Thanks! What do you see as the important factors that will affect a person's ability to maneuver the system?
 
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PsychPsyance

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Thanks for the responses. They've really been helpful to review. A couple folks mentioned the listed salaries being low for R1s and yes, you're right. The salaries I listed are for the places I've received more recent interviews. The R1's I applied to ("average" salaries are listed as 75-85 - with psych tending to be a bit lower) haven't been overly excited with me so far.


You may be happy to know that this sentiment, along with your interesting little avatar picture were running through my head when I realized these salaries.


Yes, work life balance, and I feel like I lack the single-minded focus/pedigree/connections/grant training/willingness to postdoc again. It's my own fault that my research trajectory has been relatively wonky and undisciplined - so I feel like I have to let the AMC research route go. But who knows, maybe something relevant will open up.


Well this is an interesting perspective. I guess as long as I'm willing to relocate for a first job and then relocate again in 2-4 years maybe I can make an upward move to something that feels a little more reasonable. It's always good to remember the "first job is not your last job" idea because even now, I forget it.


The summer funds and 1 day/week release seem like great ideas. Thanks! What do you see as the important factors that will affect a person's ability to maneuver the system?
This isn't going to sound ****ty, but here goes. I teach stats, and I'm pretty good at it. The students love my class, and they come out knowing a lot more than when they went in. I teach a multi-semester sequence, which is now taken by several departments (including every doctoral program in my dept); this has made me fairly indispensable. Now for the ****ty part. I have been offered jobs on multiple occasions over the past few years (either by applying or being recruited). In each case, I've used that to leverage a salary bump (note, I've always been open to leaving, which is an important part of applying). I've been a faculty member for 8 years, and make more than twice what I was initially hired at. Also, I'm generally liked by the entire faculty (perhaps my most impressive feat), so no one wants to see me go. That's what I mean by maneuvering the system. Getting grants, publishing, etc., are all important for keeping your position. But the best ways to get large raises seem to be through working the system.
 
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Spydra

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This isn't going to sound ****ty, but here goes. I teach stats, and I'm pretty good at it. The students love my class, and they come out knowing a lot more than when they went in. I teach a multi-semester sequence, which is now taken by several departments (including every doctoral program in my dept); this has made me fairly indispensable. Now for the ****ty part. I have been offered jobs on multiple occasions over the past few years (either by applying or being recruited). In each case, I've used that to leverage a salary bump (note, I've always been open to leaving, which is an important part of applying). I've been a faculty member for 8 years, and make more than twice what I was initially hired at. Also, I'm generally liked by the entire faculty (perhaps my most impressive feat), so no one wants to see me go. That's what I mean by maneuvering the system. Getting grants, publishing, etc., are all important for keeping your position. But the best ways to get large raises seem to be through working the system.
This is what I have learned occurs in industry all of the time and is actually expected, why academia seems to do this less (or maybe no one talks about it?) I do not know. I am not at this stage yet so I am not totally sure how it works. When you are leveraging a salary bump are you asking them to simply match the other offer or are you asking them to exceed it? Are there any modifications to this strategy that you would suggest to those at departments that may be less able to match or exceed offers? I imagine the solution can't just be always accept the other offer because it seems at some point one would be viewed as always wanting to leave rather than someone open to staying.
 

WisNeuro

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This is what I have learned occurs in industry all of the time and is actually expected, why academia seems to do this less (or maybe no one talks about it?) I do not know. I am not at this stage yet so I am not totally sure how it works. When you are leveraging a salary bump are you asking them to simply match the other offer or are you asking them to exceed it? Are there any modifications to this strategy that you would suggest to those at departments that may be less able to match or exceed offers? I imagine the solution can't just be always accept the other offer because it seems at some point one would be viewed as always wanting to leave rather than someone open to staying.

This definitely works outside of academia as well. If possible, always apply a little more broadly to have some offers in hand. Can be a little harder if you are a specialty area, or in a smaller population setting.

First things first, monetize everything about the offer (PTO, insurance premiums you pay, 401/403 match, etc). That gives you your true compensation package beyond salary. You'll find some places may look like an attractive starting salary, but they are actually six figures less than another offer you have due to the benefits package. Also depends on who you are working with. Sometimes it's the HR person, and it's simple enough letting them know that you had another offer for a significantly higher salary. Boom, 10k higher salary than offer off the bat.

At that point, learn the lay of the land around town, look into what it would take for PP, decide if you like the place you are at and what it would take to stay there long-term, and so on. Sometimes people suffer from complacency, where they're not really happy with their job, but feel like leaving would be too much of a hassle, and their salary just stagnates.
 
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AcronymAllergy

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This is what I have learned occurs in industry all of the time and is actually expected, why academia seems to do this less (or maybe no one talks about it?) I do not know. I am not at this stage yet so I am not totally sure how it works. When you are leveraging a salary bump are you asking them to simply match the other offer or are you asking them to exceed it? Are there any modifications to this strategy that you would suggest to those at departments that may be less able to match or exceed offers? I imagine the solution can't just be always accept the other offer because it seems at some point one would be viewed as always wanting to leave rather than someone open to staying.

It's definitely pretty common in many other industries. Anecdotally speaking, I'd say most of my (non-psych/non-healthcare) friends change jobs every few years as a means of moving up and increasing compensation. I think I literally may know one person who's still at the same company they started with after graduation. Although most of my (non-psych) friends work in finance and tech, so I'm not sure how well that applies to other fields. The physicians I know seem to stick around longer. Nurses have seemed more mobile.

For me, if I liked my current employer and genuinely wanted to stay with them, I would ask them to match the other offer(s). If I were indifferent to the current company and/or very interested in the new position, I'd probably see if the current company would exceed the offer.

As others have said, this seems to be most effective when you're actually willing to walk if need be.
 
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Ollie123

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This is what I have learned occurs in industry all of the time and is actually expected, why academia seems to do this less (or maybe no one talks about it?) I do not know. I am not at this stage yet so I am not totally sure how it works. When you are leveraging a salary bump are you asking them to simply match the other offer or are you asking them to exceed it? Are there any modifications to this strategy that you would suggest to those at departments that may be less able to match or exceed offers? I imagine the solution can't just be always accept the other offer because it seems at some point one would be viewed as always wanting to leave rather than someone open to staying.

Oh, this absolutely happens in academia all the time and is incredibly expected and is often the primary way to move ahead and get resources. This seems especially true at AMCs where salaries are higher, positions are easier to come by and poaching someone at the right time can bring millions of dollars in indirect grant costs to the institution but it absolutely happens in all departments. Any time you see someone giving an invited talk at another university, there is a not-unreasonable chance that is a "soft" job interview;) I know several people who have landed job offers without even knowing they had interviewed. I have "interviewed" people who likely didn't know their meeting with me was an interview. I have also been asked to meet with people I didn't know I was supposed to be interviewing until I got a survey afterwards asking me to rate them.

Negotiation strategy is going to depend on situation and what you prefer. If you would PREFER to stay, you might ask for a match and settle for less. If you have one foot out the door already, you make it clear that unless they blow the offer out of the water you walk away. I think the one big difference with industry is that there moving around locally is more common and in academia it (usually) necessitates a move so people may be at least somewhat more reluctant to change jobs.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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Well this is an interesting perspective. I guess as long as I'm willing to relocate for a first job and then relocate again in 2-4 years maybe I can make an upward move to something that feels a little more reasonable. It's always good to remember the "first job is not your last job" idea because even now, I forget it.
To be clear, I did not relocate geographically. I found a new job in my geographical area. My spouse did not change jobs but I did.

This will be dependent on the area. There are a lot of universities in my geographical area. That was also key. I took my first job knowing that over the next few years I could apply to different TT jobs in the area, and I had very good reason to leave my old position that would not be a red flag.
 
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