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How to negotiate an academic job offer

Negotiating Job Offers

Negotiating offers for academic positions is normal and expected. However, there is a tendency for junior scholars or those who have been on the adjunct/sessional market for a period of time to be hesitant about negotiating or do not negotiate because they fear that the offer will be rescinded or are not aware that negotiations are possible.

Below are some frequently asked questions that demonstrate what you can negotiate and why negotiations are crucial for your academic career.


Usually, it is recommended that you negotiate when you have a written offer. It is strongly recommended to avoid negotiating during interviews. You want to wait for the employer to give you a written offer first before they hear your expectations in order to decrease bias and increase the chances of getting an offer in the first place.

Although salary is a major negotiable item, salary is only one of the items you can negotiate. What can be negotiated depends on the field of the position, what is involved in the position, and if the position is research-focused, teaching-focused, tenure-track, or contract. Here is a list of possible items to negotiate:

Salary Start-up funds Computer and software
Teaching load Teaching release Guaranteed junior sabbatical
Research funding Conference travel Summary salary
Delayed start Early start/pre-contract advance Maternity/Paternity leave
Paid visit to look at houses Moving Expenses for the transfer of equipment Partner position
Family/housing benefits Grant support Equipment
Lab space and supplies Office furniture Library acquisitions
Subscription to journals and memberships Tenure Expectations (if coming in with tenure credit) Extension of decision timeline

The average range for requesting an increase on an offer is between 5%-15%. However, an important factor to consider is the institution and department that is giving you the offer and what they can manage. An R1 university can most likely match a 15% increase from their first offer. But a small liberal arts teaching college may only be able to offer near the lower end of the spectrum or will not be able to offer anything above their original offer. Research the institution/department by visiting the human resources page of the institution to best guide how much you can possibly request.

Additionally, consider the value you bring to the department. Has your research secured prestigious funding, or do you have an excellent publication record, or are the supervision/teaching areas unique and a necessity for the department? Use your academic accomplishments and uniqueness to further guide and support where you fall in the range of the 5-15%.

You want to avoid referring to a “standard” salary because each institution and department (even within the same institution) is different. To inform the range of salary to propose, do research on appropriately similar departments/institutions by visiting the human resources page of the institution.

Whenever you receive an offer, do not immediately accept or counter the offer. Instead, thank them for their offer and let them know you will think about it over the next few days.

When you do present a counter-offer, thank them for their offer and note that you’d like to discuss aspects of the offer. Following that, present a focused and prioritized list of your counter offer in paragraph format, providing reasoning to support your claims. For instance, “I would like to request a salary of $XX, which reflects my extensive research and funding background, particularly my four peer-reviewed journal publications and my two SSHRC grants.”

Prioritize your list of requests and tailor them to the job. Asking for too many things at once might deter the employer.

Always try to get the employer to say a salary range or talk about other aspects of an offer first. If asked about your preferred salary range, turn the question back to them: “I have done some research on the market and your institution, so I do have some idea of the market value. Could you tell me the range you have in mind?”

Similarly, if you are asked “is the salary range of %X okay for you,” respond that you can wait and discuss salary once you're both clear about what the position fully entails and what you can contribute to the department.

If you are in a position where they do not go first, then you can respond with: “In recognition of my publications, awards, I would be requesting a salary in the range of X.” Remember, however, that you should be offering within the range that suits the rank of the institution and the type of job.

If you are going to ask for a partner hire, generally wait until the offer is in hand before mentioning the partner. You can present the partner-hire as a deal breaker or a strong preference. It is suggested that you negotiate what you need and then tackle the partner hire separately but this isn't always possible. Listen carefully to cues from the person you are negotiating with about what is possible. Larger institutions can comfortably afford a partner-hire, smaller colleges may not be able to. If your partner is willing to work in a non-tenure track role, then that is something to consider as you negotiate.

Yes. For instance, if the employer cannot go above a certain salary, do not push on that same subject. Instead, see if money can come from other things, such as lab equipment, travel funding, etc.

Rescinded offers are rare, but they do happen. To prevent an offer from being rescinded during negotiations, ensure that your requests match the type and rank of the institution, that you are polite and professional in your requests, and that your requests are focused and prioritized. A rescinded offer may occur from multiple, intersecting factors, such requesting too many items, giving a counter-offer over the 15% that does not match the institution rank and type, or unprofessionally making requests.

Yes you can, but what you can negotiate depends on the contexts and circumstances of the post-doc. For instance, sometimes salary cannot be negotiated because the post-doc is directly funded from a grant, and so there is no room to increase your salary. Partner-hires is also not common in post-doc positions. However, you can negotiate such items like start time, how the department can provide travel funding, and/or if teaching opportunities can be provided (if you are concerned about building teaching experience).

University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development