I’ve recently been chatting to a couple of seniors who are contemplating grad school and we’ve been discussing the various career paths that one can pursue in academia. We ran through the tracks - clinical, research, tenure, adjunct, etc - and discussed the pros and cons of each.

And then the question came up about the workloads associated with each position. Because I have a marginally lighter teaching load than my colleagues, the students are apparently under the mistaken belief that my workload is much lighter than the others. Because all they see is the person standing in front of their class.

So we discussed what my colleagues and I actually do, our responsibilities, what our workloads are really like and how that might differ depending on your individual circumstance.

For faculty members who are either clinical track or adjunct, teaching 2-4 courses per semester can be burdensome. But what if you've taught the class before? What if you've taught the same class for 5 years? 10 years? How much additional preparation do you need to do for each class? Is it easier to teach a large intro course with a slew of TAs or to teach an upper level course where there are a handful of students and just you? And what if teaching is 95% of your total workload with the remaining 5% being a minimal service to the department (maybe one committee) and perhaps being on Professional Organization committee?

For me, as a TT assistant professor, my teaching load is a tad lighter than my colleagues. Why? Because my energies need to be focused primarily on my lab’s research productivity and obtaining extramural funding. Why? Because that’s what I was hired to do. And if I am not successful in that venture, my lab will disappear and the research stuff (and me) will be gone.

So what is it that I actually do?

I teach a graduate course; write grants; have several manuscripts in press, a couple in review, a metric fuckton in various stages of preparation; supervise a student organization; am an associate editor for a journal; have a postdoc and several graduate students and an undergrad lab flunky trainee; manage the financial (ill)health of the lab; am on both departmental and Professional Organization committees; am required to attend faculty meetings and to meet with prospective students. Next semester I'll be doing all of the above as well as teach an undergrad class that I've taught before.

So can you compare workloads between faculty members who are on different career tracks?

Sure you can. But why would you want to? Everybody thinks they work harder than everyone else. I sure as hell do.

But which track is a better career option? Depends on what it is you want to do, what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at, etc. There’s no right or wrong answer.

Do I like what I do? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Overall, mostly yes. But sometimes, not at all. It depends on the day.

Ok, enough with the stupid questions. Some of us have work to do.

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