Worth It

Despite our moans about hours of work, pay, and pensions, being an academic is still the best job in the world for those of a particular temperament and talents. It can be worth the struggle and risk simply to have a decent shot.

And not even a decent one is worth it. Yes, it’s a gamble, but what isn’t? The payoff is fantastic if you get it. And it’s not like you risk much anyways.

I honestly don’t think I would have been able to have a career in anything else. My only alternative is something like free-lance translation.

8 thoughts on “Worth It”

  1. I am not sure what you mean about pensions. I retired earlier this year and my retirement income is about 4% higher than my salary at the time I retired. But it is not a pension; I have an annuity from TIAA.

    I agree with your sentiment/assessment. I could have found another way to pay my bills, but it would have been far less satisfying. There is some research I intend to finish that I have had on the “back burner” for quite some time. The connection with colleagues at conferences is sufficient reward at this time. I am teaching two upper level undergraduate courses this term as an adjunct. I am enjoying it, but I probably won’t do it again; I seem no longer to have the energy to do teaching and research in the same semester.


    1. Follow up: I recently bought your current book and have begun reading it. Judging from it and this blog, I believe you could and likely would have had a successful career as a freelance writer. (I would love to see you publish some fiction.)


    2. Having checked the source, David, it’s a UK article. Like other UK public sector workers, university academics and academic-related staff have traditionally accepted relatively low pay/few raises as part of a package which included a very sound final salary pension scheme (which we pay into and our employers pay into). This is being aggressively eroded and future benefits for those still working cut substantially, without any increase in pay, along with greatly increased government-encouraged senior management imposed bureaucracy and scrutiny (for example, to set any assessment or exam for my students, or even to choose a date that an essay is due, I have to document the task in detail, submit it on a four page form before the start of the semester, get it approved by both a School Committee and an External Authority, and some samples will go to Faculty levels as well – and if they dislike the assignment I have to change it. I can’t change ratios of assessment for a module e.g. 50% coursework/50% exam without more than a year’s notice. All in the name of improved standards).

      So HECK yes you better believe UK academics complain about their pensions! It was the golden bribe, the thing that helped us lie down under years of sub-inflation raises or no raise at all, at least I/my dependents will be looked after in our old age. And now that’s being taken away, along with many of the things like autonomy in the classroom and freedom to choose what to research which made academic life so suitable for those of a certain twist of mind! So that’s the context – glad to hear you’ve managed to do well in retirement – but so have colleagues of mine who retired in the last 20 years in the UK. Me, in my late 40s, with 15-20 years of work left? I’m NOT going to do great (my pay is less every year thanks to inflation, will be made worse by Brexit effects on currency, so although I am saving separately from the university scheme, it’s late and I can’t afford to really fix the deficits we face).


      1. Ah, it’s just like my university. We all knowingly accepted ridiculously low salaries because they came with great healthcare and pensions. And now, of course, the healthcare and pensions have gone to hell in a basket and our pathetic salaries haven’t even been indexed for inflation in 4 years.

        If I were on the TT job market right now, I’d definitely exclude public universities from the search. Wouldn’t even look at them. The model is dead and gone.


        1. The only privates in the UK are basically degree mills in pretty packaging with lots of regulation (and the government will get rid of that as fast as they can) – it’s publics or nothing 😦


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