By Richard Vedder
Scott Jaschik has a nice article in INSIDE HIGHER ED that shows that on average professors are more satisfied with their jobs than non-academic workers in the same fields --the overall average satisfaction for professors was 3.58, above the 3.44 for non-academic professionals. The authors of the study, two sociologists, apparently felt rising budgetary pressures and the increased "corporatization" of universities had reduced their relative job appeal --but the evidence does not show that.
And why shouldn't professors be more satisfied? They are reasonably well paid, they have great job security after obtaining tenure, they work when they want to on projects largely of their own choosing, and they can basically ignore their bosses when they want to. They have no worries about downsizing, outsourcing, or other factors that the discipline of the market forces on mere mortals outside of academe.
When people claim that university people are mistreated or poorly paid, they seldom consider the value of all of these fringe benefits along with other traditional ones, such as great retirement and health care plans. I "retired" a few years ago, started teaching part-time instead of full-time --and my paycheck rose significantly. That is common in higher education, but in few other places in the economy. Some Department of Education data, self reported by professors, claims professors typically work 50 or so hours a week. I know some that do (yours truly among them) --but I know more who likely average 35 hours of work a week for maybe 45 weeks a year, a total of less than 1,600 hours --less than most professionals work by a good deal. I know some who work far less than even that --and get away with it. No wonder the faculty tends to be more satisfied --they are insulated from the economic realities of the real world.