Sunday, January 6, 2013

CNBC: University professor is the "least stressful job"

According to, and as reported by CNBC, university professor is the "least stressful job" for 2013.  Here's what Tony Lee, publisher of, says about it:
"If you look at the criteria for stressful jobs, things like working under deadlines, physical demands of the job, environmental conditions hazards, is your life at risk, are you responsible for the life of someone else, they rank like 'zero' on pretty much all of them!" Lee said.
Plus, they're in total control. They teach as many classes as they want and what they want to teach. They tell the students what to do and reign over the classroom. They are the managers of their own stress level."
Let's go through some of this and see how it holds up.

Working under deadlines.  Hmmm...  I am always under some kind of deadline:  deadline for ordering textbooks; deadline for posting my syllabuses; deadline for posting office hours (coming up soon); deadline for entering midterm grades for freshmen; deadline for posting final grades online; and so on.  And those are just the teaching deadlines.  There are deadlines for applying for things, deadlines for signing things, deadlines for...  well, you get the picture.

Physical demands of the job.  Ok, in general this gig is not too physically demanding, but you can get pretty tired mentally and physically by the time you finish teaching for a day.  And try moving back and forth in front of 30 or 40 or a couple hundred students, lecturing and at the same time fielding some of the most off-the-wall questions you can imagine.  When you walk into a class and confront a group of college students, you really never know exactly what is going to happen, and you have to be able to think on your feet.

Environmental conditions hazards.  Yeah...  We actually had our social sciences building demolished because it was "sick," and making the people who inhabited it sick.  And, a few years ago I stood on a chair to put a video in a classroom VCR; the chair collapsed under me and I came away with a broken little finger, which required a trip to the emergency room so the good doctor could put the finger back together.

Is your life at risk?  Do I even have to say anything about standing up in front of dozens of people and telling them something they don't like to hear, in this day and age?  Especially when some of them are failing?

They teach as many classes as they want and what they want to teach.  No, not really.  At UNF we teach three classes per semester (in addition to performing service and research).  Those classes are dictated largely by what will put seats in the classroom chairs.  I'd love to teach a course on Caribbean Creole languages (my research specialty), but I'll likely never get to as long as I am where I am, because not enough people will sign up for it. What classes we teach is also dictated by our curriculum, which includes core courses that have to be taught, every semester.

They tell the students what to do and reign over the classroom.  "Reign" over the classroom, do we?  It doesn't feel that way to me.  One reason is the cultural attitudes students bring toward higher education and faculty.  We, the professoriate, are probably the most reviled class in America.  Articles like this one are a major reason why.

I'm guessing that Tony Lee never had to put together a tenure and promotion dossier, or an application for a summer research grant, or, well, whatever.


  1. I would like to add to your descriptions of "job demands." Many research institutions are now on 4-4 teaching loads and I am under a 5-5 teaching load obligation with 3 different courses per term. To top it off, our Dean schedules are courses when it is convenient for the STUDENTS not the faculty member. These include short sessions, long sessions, hybrids, nights and, for some, Saturday morning classes. There is also the shuffling between campus locales when there is no centralized location. As for the deadlines, don't forget committee work: search committees, accreditation committees, building and grounds committees, assessment committees, invitations for guest speaking, and then...and only then...trying to fit any "research" around the hour or two left per week.

  2. I'm glad you found this article as fascinating as I did! I'm pretty sure Tony Lee has only ever stepped foot on a college campus when it was being used as a film set because movies are the only place you'll find professors with such stress-less jobs. Frankly, the entire article was pretty demeaning.

  3. Stress free? Maybe, but not at the University of Akron. YOU try working daily under the "direction" of the grinding abrasiveness, self-service, and spinelessly sycophantic toadyism of our department chair. The exhaustion that comes from the professional embarrassment of being associated with thhis arrogant creep is enough to have me on three more meds.

    1. I've been there (not "there" in Akron, but "there" in the situation you describe). I feel your pain, even if Tony Lee doesn't.

  4. Lets not even venture into the fact that we are looking at a majority of "professors" being adjunct...meaning more stress, no benefits, multiple bosses - because youc an't live on one of those jobs- and NO SECURITY - financial, professional, etc.


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