The Shrinking Tenure Track

New data show that while the number of faculty jobs is rising, growth is greatest for part-time positions and at for-profit colleges.
May 19, 2005

Between 2001 and 2003, higher education saw healthy increases in the number of faculty jobs, which grew to 1,173,556 from 1,113,183.

But if you're wondering why those 60,000 new jobs didn't ease your job search, it may be because the growth was greatest for part-time positions. And by sector, the largest growth was in for-profit higher education.

These results are from an annual federal report on staffing at colleges and universities. The report, released Wednesday, covers the fall of 2003, the most recent year for which data are available. Comparisons to prior years' reports offer some sense of the movement of academic positions.

Between 2001 and 2003, the number of full-time faculty jobs at degree-granting institutions rose to 630,419, from 617,868 -- a gain of 12,551 jobs. But the number of part-time jobs rose to 543,137, up from 495,315 -- a gain of 47,822 jobs. And as a percentage of faculty jobs at degree granting institutions, part-time positions increased to 46 percent, from 44 percent, over those two years. Anecdotal reports suggest that the increase has continued since then.

The growth in jobs was also uneven among sectors.

Sector Faculty Jobs, 2003 Faculty Jobs, 2001 % Change
Public 791,384 771,124   +3%
Private, nonprofit 330,443 306,487   +8%
For-profit   51,729   35,572 +46%

Another way to examine academic workplace trends is to look at the new full-time hires at degree-granting institutions, as the report did for the fall of 2003. Those data show that there were more secretarial and clerical jobs filled that year than there were tenure-track faculty positions. The following is the breakdown for the 126,521 new full-time jobs:

New Full-Time Hires at Degree Granting Institutions, Fall 2003

Job Category Number of Hires
Faculty total 45,003
   With tenure   1,806
   On tenure track 16,830
   Not on tenure track 26,387
Executive/managerial   6,930
Other professional (support services) 35,083
Technical and paraprofessional   9,599
Clerical and secretarial 17,890
Skilled crafts   1,436
Service and maintenance 10,580

The report contains pages of data about employees of colleges and universities. Some of the data, such as that on salaries, is already dated compared to that released by other studies. But on many issues, the report provides a snapshot of the professoriate, even if it is two years out of date. Among the findings for fall 2003:

  • Men held 61 percent of full-time faculty positions.
  • Three states -- California, New York and Texas -- have more than 40,000 full-time faculty members, while full-time faculty jobs fall below 2,000 in three states: Alaska, Delaware and Wyoming.
  • Of full-time faculty members, about 45 percent are tenured and another 20 percent are on the tenure track.
  • Full-time faculty members are most likely to be tenured at public institutions (48 percent), followed by private nonprofit institutions (40 percent) and for-profit colleges (3 percent).
  • Within public higher education, full-time faculty members are more likely to be tenured at four-year institutions (50 percent) than at two-year institutions (43 percent).
  • A greater proportion of male full-time faculty members (50 percent) than women (36 percent) is tenured.
  • A greater proportion of white full-time faculty members (47 percent) is tenured than are members of other ethnic groups: Asian (42 percent), Hispanic (41 percent), black (38 percent).


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