How Stressful Is Being a Professor?

There is a lot that goes into being a professor. Not only do they teach, but they are also expected to write papers, books, and book chapters; manage a research group; and be active in professional societies. Regardless of their rank, all professors are required to perform these duties.

Being a professor is often very stressful and the work-life balance can be a serious issue for many. In fact, more than one-third of faculty report stress, hopelessness, anger, and grief as a result of their careers.

How to manage stress as a professor

Whether you are just starting out or you have been working in academia for a while, it is important to understand that stress is a part of every career. Managing stress is essential for a healthy body and mind, and it can be difficult to do so if you are constantly under pressure and overwhelmed.

1. The low supply of professorships

Getting a professor job is hard. In the current competitive market, there are more qualified applicants than available teaching positions. Even those with a great track record and extensive research experience may not find a permanent position.

2. The lack of funding

This is a huge problem for new professors. While universities are generous in providing funds for start-ups, most don’t provide enough money to keep a lab going for the long term.

When this happens, the new professors start to rethink their goals. They realize that it will take more than a few grant applications to make their lab sustainable in the long run.

3. The high cost of living

Some professors have to choose between their families and their paychecks. This can be very stressful, particularly if you have a family or have a significant other that depends on your income.

4. The need to balance work and personal life

As a professor, it is critical for you to find time to relax and de-stress. Taking time to enjoy the outdoors, visit your favorite restaurants, or spend time with friends and family is an important way to relieve the stress of your job.

5. Teaching students who are unmotivated

While most professors have a good background in teaching, there are many who struggle with the challenge of dealing with students who are not as well-informed and motivated as they are. Teachers must learn how to motivate these students while still maintaining respect for their learning efforts.

6. The need to make a living

In addition to juggling all of the above, a professor is also responsible for generating income for their family. While it is not a career that guarantees you a comfortable financial future, the pay and benefits can be very attractive, especially for senior academics.

7. The ambiguity of tenure criteria

Tenure is a complicated and confusing process that can be extremely stressful. In order to meet the requirements for tenure, new professors need to publish a number of high-impact journal articles and secure prestigious grants. Frustration, disappointment, and burnout are common during this journey.