ASSISTANT PROFESSORS unhappy

Are ASSISTANT PROFESSORS Unhappy ??

Achieving tenure is not less like reaching the summit of the Mount Everest for most professors.

Most of you will answer this question as yes. Lets understand what is need of asking such questions about assistant professors even and Im sure everyone of you can correlate to this.

Lately, a lot of emphases has been put up on some adjunct issues. An assumption has been made by all for that associate professors have conferred superhero and that they reside in a fortified ivory tower.

Achieving tenure is not less like reaching the summit of the Mount Everest for most professors.

According to some researches, it has been concluded that as compared to either assistant or full-time professors, the associate professors are some of the unhappiest people in academe. The dissatisfaction is likely begins once the hard work and anxiety of the probationary period are over and tenure is granted. 

An associate professor has a life which is even more overwhelming and isolating. Assistant professors have the guidance of their more experienced peers. They are still relishing the anticipatory euphoria of working toward the ultimate prize of tenure.

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Once tenure is received by them, they lose the guidance. Their workload becomes disproportionately composed of committee work and service at the expense of their own research. Assistant professors are very much insulated by these goals and excused from extraneous tasks because their research is so critical to their tenure prospects.

It is also possible that even though the assistant professors are successful enough to earn tenure, but, like many associate professors, they generally struggle through the long years of mid-career, which can be apparent by exhaustion, doubt, and even depression.

According to the New national data, the associate professors are some of the unhappiest people in academe. Significantly, they are less satisfied with their work than either assistant or full professors.

According to the statistics, there are about 510 professors at 69 colleges and universities by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, at Harvard University.

The unhappiness with the work conditions of the Adjunct professors has also been made well known. Moreover, the focus of the Harvard survey was on faculty members within the tenured and tenure-track ranks.

Here are a few reasons behind, as to Why Associate Professors are so unhappy ??

Discontented and Underappreciated

1. Discontented and Underappreciated

Once the Beginning professors are promoted to associate professor, and as soon as they start making tenure, they go from being one of the rising young stars of the department to being one of the workhorses.

It can also be said that there is bound to be a letdown in the associate-professor years that follow as the run-up to tenure is tend to be very demanding in academe.

According to the respective survey, professors are happier while working toward tenure than they are once they’ve earned it.

It was around 150,000 professors, who are associate professors amongst all tenured and tenure-track faculty.

The service of an associate professor is constantly underappreciated. The discontented behavior towards associate professor is not hot news in town. The gap between expectations and the cold reality of the job comes out to be a major reason for dissatisfaction among the associate professors.

In India, associate professors are not given the deserved respect and appreciation.  Once the students working hard to be professors end up in joining the academe do not find their jobs as special as they imagined in the first place as they land in a tenure-track job in an increasingly competitive academic job market.


The study doesn’t explicitly state that there is a difference in the quantity of work going from an assistant professor on the tenure track to associate professor with tenure.

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It appears that the amount of time and effort devoted to one’s own research and writing decreases which, coupled with the “what now?” crisis contributes to dissatisfaction and, in many cases, depression. 

It would be reasonable to assume that full professors enjoy more freedom to conduct their own research, have greater opportunity to direct their own programs and are more likely to have access to junior professors or graduate students to share their classroom duties.

Midcareer Depression

2. Midcareer Depression

According to an article, ‘I’ve Got Tenure. How Depressing’, written by Kathyrn D. Blanchard,  it is said, “I went into the nonprofit sector because I thought that would be worth something.”

It is also believed that associate professors find themselves unhappy because the academic labor market is very tight. Associate professors spend less time on their own research and writing and more of it on service work. Therefore, the ability of the associate professor to be competitive in the job market and move to another institution is diminished.

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Some associate professors also say that they have accustomed their earlier goals and dreams, and even the expectations of their universities, with the reality of the job and their own sensibilities. Mid-career depression is one of the basic reasons as to why associate professors are unsatisfied and unhappy in their careers.


Obviously, it should be observed that not all associate professors are singing a sad tune.   Investigating the existence of associate professors and not seeking for those who are sufficiently satisfied with their positions, is of no utility.  Doctors tend to intervene when an ailment emerges and not the question of what to do about their healthy patients. 

To be sure, we are much more interested in the aberrations, pathologies, counter-intuition, and exceptions to the rule than that which we take for granted as being as it should be.  Everyone is much more interested in the negative, or even extremely positive, than the neutral.

Assistance from Universities

3. Assistance from Universities

In order to give them guideposts during the associate-professor years, self-help groups are being designed.

The recognition of the pitfalls of the associate-professor years is now being done by a few universities. They have also thought of taking some action for the issue.

Since so much of the job is about directing and serving on committees, workshops are also being started in order to help associate professors develop leadership and managerial skills.

These days the associate professors are mostly feeling exhaustion. It will take years for them to shake off the fatigue and get going again because the run-up to tenure is so stressful.

They constantly become literally depressed. Universities are also creating alternative paths for associate professors to be promoted to full professor, giving scholars credit for directing research centers that get grants.

Universities are now beginning to recognize and address the issues that beset associate professors. They do this by creating alternative paths to full professor, giving credit for directing research centers, creating workshops aimed at developing leadership and managerial skills, and organizing support groups for associate professors to vent and discuss challenges in their research. 

These types of interventions, if they prove helpful, could be applied across professions as surely doctors, lawyers, corporate executives and many other professionals who have spent years toiling away in order to achieve their own version of tenure.

This could potentially make the associate professors happier and more satisfied in their own careers and avoid the purgatory of “now what is next?”

Academics comprise a unique breed of professionals. They are considered as the super high achievers throughout their education and are tend to have equally high expectations of post-graduate, post-tenure track careers that often fail to meet with the reality of academic life. 

It is rather a matter of fact that many find that they are stuck doing mundane tasks which are more administrative than scholarly and, rather than celebrate job security afforded by tenure, they resent the constant presence of colleagues for whom they have less than amorous feelings for. 

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Another indicator is that higher education attracts people who tend to be predisposed to unhappiness or, to put it another way, perfectionism which, by definition, is impossible to attain and therefore disappointment is inevitable.

But yes, let us wait and watch what the future has in stock for the associate professors.

Let me know in comments how you feel about this question and may suggest some solutions.

Also can help us know more problems you are facing in acdemeia and thats unheard.

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