3 Reasons Why You Should Pay More Attention to the Benefits Package in Your Job Offer

We analyzed the starting salaries and packages offered to new political science faculty in the 2017-2018 APSA Departmental Survey: New Hires Report for the 2017-2018 academic year. Three questions highlight illustrative findings from the report. First, who was offered higher salaries? Second, which types of positions were offered better benefits, and three, which positions were not? Higher starting salary offers were made by departments offering higher degrees (PhDs) and unitary degrees (not combined with another subject). Second, packages with better benefits and more professional development resources went to tenure-line faculty. Starting packages for contingent faculty rarely included benefits such as moving expenses and/or professional development resources.

Who offered higher salaries?

Higher starting salary offers were made by departments offering higher degrees (PhDs) and unitary degrees (not combined with another subject).

 In line with results from previous years (last year’s 2016-2017 APSA Departmental Survey: Salaries Report can be accessed here), departments offering higher degrees and unitary degrees also offered higher salaries for new hires. PhD-granting departments offered significantly higher salaries to new hires for most faculty ranks. MA and BA-granting political science departments offered lower salaries. Departments granting combined bachelor’s degrees or social science degrees tended to offer lower salaries to new hires, independent of their positions’ status, overall, than those offering unitary degrees in political science.

Which positions were offered better benefits?

Packages with better benefits and more professional development resources went to tenure-line faculty.

 Of hiring departments captured by our survey, 9 in 10 departments offered at least one professional development resource and/or benefits component within starting compensation packages to tenure-line faculty. Only 7 in 10 departments offered the same to starting full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. This disparity is more noticeable when examining specific professional development resources and benefits. For example, tenured or tenure-track new hires were offered moving expenses by 79.5% of departments, but full-time, non-tenure-track new hires were offered the same by just 28.7% of departments.

Differences in benefits can exacerbate existing differences in salaries. For example, 91.2% of departments offer medical insurance as a starting package benefit to tenure-line faculty, compared to 69.6% of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. On average, in 2017, the average total single premium for health insurance was $6,368, with employers contributing an average of $4,953.[i] In the 21.6% of departments where medical insurance is offered to tenure-line faculty, but not full-time, non-tenure-track faculty, this gap in salary is exacerbated by full-time, non-tenure-track faculty having to pay the full-cost of healthcare ($6,368), and tenure-line faculty having to pay only what is not covered by the employer ($1,415). Taking the average $12,621 difference in starting salaries of assistant professors ($67,750) and full-time, non-tenure-track faculty ($55,129), in departments where assistant professors receive medical insurance as a benefit and full-time, non-tenure-track do not, the salary difference increases to $17,574, based on average premiums in 2017. When considering family coverage premiums, this difference increases to $26,090, a difference of nearly half of the starting salary for full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. [ii] [iii]

Which positions were not offered better benefits?

Starting packages for contingent faculty rarely included benefits such as moving expenses and/or professional development resources.

 Just 3 of 10 adjunct faculty teaching multiple courses per semester, and 2 of 10 adjuncts teaching 1 course or fewer were offered benefits and/or professional development resources. Technology (e.g. a laptop) was the most common professional development resource offered to adjunct faculty, with 18.2% of hiring departments offering the resource to adjunct faculty teaching multiple courses per semester and 13.9% to adjunct faculty teaching 1 course or fewer.


[i] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) -Insurance Component, 2013-2017, Tables II.C.1, II.C.2, II.C.3 available at: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).

[ii] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) -Insurance Component, 2013-2017, Tables II.D.1, II.D.2, II.D.3 available at: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).

[iii] Health insurance premiums vary by state. As our survey includes institutions in various states, we use nation insurance premium averages for this analysis.