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Businesses Education The Almighty Buck

From School to Work to Working at School? 73

torgosan asks: "After years of school and many years of toiling in the corporate world and being laid-off in one of the seemingly perpetual down-sizings [my former company was employee-owned until a corporate buyout a few years back, after which point it all went downhill - a mini-Enron, as it were, including crooked execs, cooked books, SEC investigations, the whole mess], it appears my days of joblessness may possibly be coming to an end. A small university near my hometown has an opening that has my name written all over it. This is all still early in the process and the offer hasn't come yet but that's not stopping me from researching the target city, moving expenses, cost-of-living comparisons, living arrangements, etc. Taking the position would mean a sizable pay-cut but I need to get back to doing what I love to do and this seems to be 'it'. What I haven't been able to find, though, are the insights into university employment and how it compares to working in the 'real world'. This would be a staff position working with other staff and professionals and with some interaction with the student body. So my question for you uni workers out there is: What sort of adjustment should be expected? Is the uni workplace as structured as the corporate world? Pet peeves? What are the politics like? I ask as I attended a commuter-school with little campus life and have little to draw on for perspective."
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From School to Work to Working at School?

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  • by Jim Morash ( 20750 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:32AM (#8655657)
    ... as a Research Engineer, building robots and helping out grad students with their thesis work. It's a pretty cool job. I get to travel a fair amount, spend a little time at sea for field testing, it's not all desk work. There are other nice things - I get a good amount of vacation time, the benefits are decent.

    Downsides: low pay, not very well organized, always chasing money (i.e., writing proposals). Definitely less structured than the corporate world. Students can be fun or infuriating to work with (sometimes both). University politics can be among the ugliest in the world, it's best to try and stay out of the way.
  • There shouldn't be many real differences between that kind of job and one in the real world.
    • by jhoffoss ( 73895 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:47AM (#8655829) Journal
      You've never worked in a University, have you.

      Yes, it's a job. Yes, you have some sort of schedule. yes, you have a boss, co-workers, etc. That's probably about where the differences stop. As another poster stated, politics are huge around a University. Gossipers tend to run rampant, where, while they're present in the corporate world, they can't be so blatant about it all the time (from my experience.) Budgets are extremely important, and you may have to be there for awhile and make friends before you're ever able to acquire extra finances for a project you'd like to pursue. This, of course, depends on what you'll be doing, and how much your boss wants to take care of you (he probably already has the swing to get some extra funding for you.)

      All in all, it's a trip. The thing I wasn't prepared for was the amount of laziness all around me. Granted, I worked in the Facilities Mgmt department, so not faculty or directly involved with the academics, and we had almost all of the union employees at the school. But still, the amount of maintenances guys I found napping, the difficulty in reaching half of the managers (most of which have since been fired, thankfully) was rediculous. And infuriating, considering I was a student employee making $10/hr doing helpdesk with four others making $50k, and I did more than any one of them, and usually more than any two of them combined. Now THAT would have been a nice gig. $50k, 40 hours, work stays at work when I walk out the door.

      Anyway, I have since left and stepped into the corporate world, so I'm working backwords from where the poster is headed, but it's amazing the differences I've seen. Where I work now, the politics are there, but seem much more elusive, where in the University, the politics are right there in front of you, every day of every week.

      Now that I am "staff", and I have a desk and chair designated for staff, and my manager has a desk and chair designated for a manager, and my principal a desk and chair for a principal, I kind of yearn for that laid-back and more enjoyable atmosphere.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        The thing I wasn't prepared for was the amount of laziness all around me. Granted, I worked in the Facilities Mgmt department

        I also worked for the facilities management department at my school (full time after I graduated). I haven't yet met a group of more dedicated or competent people.

        With three other things, I shared your experience:

        1. Politics are quite important. Fortunately, my manager did an excellent job shielding me from most of this.
        2. Budgets are very tight. This means that IT person
      • I had the choice between moderating this up, or re-emphasising what you said...

        I'm writing this at my desk at a state university... I spend 1/4 of my time in meetings, 1/4 of my time trying to track down people (for authorizations, "support" (politics in education are crazy), and other things)... and 1/4 of my time waiting for my superiors to get done with paperwork so they can give me work to do... the other 1/4 of my time is trying to lead a group of people who are officially my equals and I have no auth
      • You've never worked in a University, have you.

        Have you worked in the corporate world?

        Last year I went from 24 years in the corporate sphere to academic work. I am so happy now I don't know what to do with myself, even though I'm making about $30,000 per year less than I was.

        When I interviewed at the university, I was told how laid back everything was, how 9-5 it would be, and how I would be pretty much my own boss. Most of that turned out to be a total crock. Most things about university work are pretty

        • I mean not to disagree, but just point out that a: I was one of those weird student employees that wasn't there to get paid while doing homework; b: I went the other way, student/University [student] employee to the real world, (and I've been there only six months) I'm just very good at "seeing things for how they are" for someone so young; c: administrative side, not academic.

          I did TA for one semester, but stayed out of the department completely except to meet with the prof periodically, gather my pay stu

  • fewer rules... (Score:5, Informative)

    by james b ( 31361 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:36AM (#8655702) Homepage
    OK, so the number one thing I notice about my university compared to the jobs I've had is the lack of rules:
    • There's no fixed hours - it depends on the job, obviously, but lots of people seem to show up pretty casually.
    • Zero dress code - eccentricity is praised rather than condemned, and no-one bats an eyelid if you wander around barefoot in heavy metal T-shirts and bright blue hair.
    • Self-motivated work - there aren't any bosses prowling the cube-farm looking for slackers, so you have to have self-discipline to get anything done
    These are all observations as a research student working with and around employees at my university, so I may be somewhat inaccurate.
    • Re:fewer rules... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gudlyf ( 544445 )
      I, too, noticed the three things you mention. Basically you can dress like the students dress. One professor used to ride his bicycle to work and wouldn't even shower or change his clothes, muddy/sweaty or not. Not that that's remotely right, but just saying.

      And self-motivated work -- you got that right. I guiltily admit that I spent far too many hours dinking around playing Ultima Online in my office when things were slow. If the department (or University for that matter) would've allowed me to expl

    • Sounds like Microsoft.
  • Rules to live by (Score:5, Informative)

    by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:38AM (#8655722)
    1. Professors are gods: All ideas come from them, even if you thought them up. Let the profs be the thought leaders and you will do OK.

    2. Staff positions may be subject to the whimsy of grant-givers: Your position may be tied to long-term research grants or funding that can dry up.

    3. Lots of smart people: Profs and grad students will, by and large, be smart and interesting. If you like thinking/talking about new ideas, you will have fun.

    4. Slower pace: Universities don't operate on the same timescale as entrepeneural companies. "I need it soon" might mean "I need it next month."

    5. YMMV: as with corporate life, specific situations or bosses might suck egregiously or be ludicrously enjoyable.

    Good luck!
    • Missed one

      6) If they say it they need it tomorrow, they really need it that afternoon.
    • 3. Lots of smart people
      Smart in an intellectual way, not smart in a "this is how the world really works" way. The old adage, those who can't, teach, is at least partially true (yes, I said partially).
      • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:55PM (#8658980)
        Bullshit. A made up asserion by those without the talent (and yes, it takes talent) to teach. I agree with Feyman- anyone who can't explain what they're doing to a relatively intelligent 3 year old doesn't really know their stuff.
        • I agree 100%. I have had some very good teachers, and I have actually taught at the University level. Unfortunately my experience working at several, and attending a few, universities has shown that many do not have this talent. And these are not local community colleges. Hell, one of the most highly regarded technical schools in the country is in my backyard and most of the professors barely speak english. How do you explain Feynman's theories to a 3 year old if he cannot even understand you. Language is n
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I do agree with you in theory, however, I found that most of my professors' inability to teach well and communicate the material was due to their complete and total lack of communication skills period. its not that they were too stupid to teach, its that they were just unable to bring any idea into a coherent thought. I literally think that some of them spent so much time with their noses in papers and dissertations that they literally forgot how to speak in normal terms.

          Its kind of like when my tells me
        • It does take talent to teach, but not a talent for what's being taught as much as a talent for teaching (although a thorough understanding of what one is teaching is certainly desirable). There's a certain amount of truth to the old adage's extension : "Those who can do, can't teach". For those to whom something "just comes naturally" there's no need to analyze how they go about achieving their results, and they have no way to know what it's like to not instinctively know what to do, so they can't break d
        • What about the other thing Feynman said -- the bit about how "if I could explain it simply, it wouldn't be worth the Nobel prize?"
    • 4. Slower pace: Universities don't operate on the same timescale as entrepeneural companies. "I need it soon" might mean "I need it next month."

      Actually, as staff, you rank pretty low. If a professor says, "I need it soon", it means "Do it now". If a grad student says, "I need it soon", it means, "Do it soon, or I'll tell my prof you're holding me up". Of course, if an undergrad says, "I need it soon", the proper response is to hand him/her 50 forms to fill out and get signed.

  • From this side... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:39AM (#8655742) Journal
    Having just gone in the opposition direction, it seems like major differences on the big corporate side are:
    • You need to show up at work at a regular time.
    • They make me use Windows which is preventing me from copying and pasting list item tags from one item to the next because Windows IE is too "smart" to let me do that. Anyway...
    • Generally, computers are far more locked down and standardized. On the other hand, as someone pointed out, they're therefore not broken half the time.
    • Breakfast and lunch meetings provide food, and it's not immediately stolen by starving grad students.
    • I can't wear a t-shirt and jeans every day.
    • They pay a lot more.
    • Total Slashdot time is unchanged.
    OK, the combination of the last two has shamed me to going back to work...
  • I went back to graduate school after a few years out in the real world. Presently I work as primary IT staff in a small engineering career services office that serves a large Big Ten university. Anyways, the biggest difference for me is that compared to my outside jobs, this is a very relaxing position.

    For the most part, people here tend to work 40 hour work weeks. Some work more, but it appears to be more of a choice than a requirement. Also, there's little or no pressure to get the big X done in ti
  • my .2c (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:40AM (#8655749)
    The politics are much, much worse. People have 'ownership' of things and places, and this can make your life difficult. Policing the network is harder, because anything you try is 'affecting peoples education'. People with Masters degrees in english think that their education means more than your knowledge and experience.... otherwise, there are advantages. I'm sure the guy who said co-eds will get marked as a troll, but don't knock it till you've tried it...
    • Re:my .2c (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jmlyle ( 512574 )

      But in the corporate world

      The politics are much, much worse. People have 'ownership' of things and places, and this can make your life difficult. Policing the network is harder, because anything you try is 'affecting the bottom line'. People with Masters degrees in Business think that their education means more than your knowledge and experience.... otherwise, there are advantages.
    • "I'm sure the guy who said co-eds will get marked as a troll, but don't knock it till you've tried it..."

      You might want to be sure about exactly what university policy is on "fraternizing" (not to mention checking up on state laws regarding just how old one has to be for what) before "trying" them.

  • by WildFire42 ( 262051 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:41AM (#8655768) Homepage
    I work in an IT Division in an institution of Higher Education.

    All in all, compared to the corporate world, things are quite a bit quieter, more laid back, and you tend to have more loyalty (you get more of a chance to look at the big picture).

    With that being said, this coprorate world mentality of nepotism scams, idiot re-orgs, mass exoduses (exodi?) etc., is beginning to permeate the world of education, which has traditionally been in it's own little world, so I don't know how long things will stay quiet and laid back.

    Good luck. It can be the greatest job in the world. It can also really suck at times, as well.

    Taking the position would mean a sizable pay-cut

    HA! I would love to make what I could in coprorate. But, you don't enter the field of education, even as support staff, to make money. It's just that simple.
  • by Gudlyf ( 544445 ) <gudlyf@@@realistek...com> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:44AM (#8655797) Homepage Journal
    Well, first of all, you don't mention what field you're going into. Are you an IT guy now going to do IT work at a University?

    I worked in IT for a small company, then switched over to working for a University for a few years, essentially doing the same thing (sysadmin, netadmin, etc). I left that job to come back to the corporate atmosphere about four years ago, and I'm very happy where I am now, politics and all.

    At least where I was working, things were very laid back vs. a corporate atmosphere. The pay was less, but it was pretty cushy -- had my own huge office, could pretty much buy whatever I needed, etc. All employees got full tuition reinbursement before having to pay yourself (with no grade requirement), and the courses did not have to do with my job function (I could take piano if I wanted to). Another nice benefit was spouse and children (I didn't have any at the time) get 1/2 tuition at the University.

    As for politics, there were some run-ins with the tenured profs, who may have felt a little kingly in their status in the department. Other than that, there really were no politics to speak of.

    Why did I leave? Well, I needed to get out and learn more. One frustrating thing I had to deal with was the University's lack of desire to branch out to technology that could possibly do things better for us, or at least test the new tech out to see if it met our needs. Many suppliers would gladly give out free trial gear to a University -- that's BIG bucks for them if they get a sale out of it. Also, since I worked for a smaller department and not the "head" IT department of the University, I felt a bit pushed away from what I really wanted to do. It took me months to convince them I could do a simple copper wiring job in the network closet (which they previously charged our department $200 for each drop we wanted moved or added -- a two-minute job at most!). I wasn't learning anything, and I had too much time available to me to play games in my cushy office (I think I logged more time playing UO in those days than I care to admit). I needed to get my head out of the clouds and get back to a place where I could learn more, branch out more and step back into reality.

    Most people I tell this to say I was crazy for leaving such a sweet deal, but they just don't get it. It was a great job to spend one's pre-retirement days doing meaningless, mediocre sysadmin work that never changed, but not for a 20-something trying to make something of himself. If I stayed in that job too much longer, I'd be hard pressed to find a company out there to hire me. As far as I'm concerned, I got out in the nick of time.

    Anyway, that's just my experience.

    • I wasn't learning anything, and I had too much time available to me to play games

      Um, who's fault is that? There's not much else one requires to learn other than time, you've already said you could get free trial equipment to play with and I have to imagine that there was plenty of handy reading material at a university.

  • My experience (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zach Garner ( 74342 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:46AM (#8655814)
    Low Pay, but usually Low Stress and Good Benefits. I get decent health care, and an extra week of vacation time. My pay is about 3/4 to 2/3 of what I would get in industry, but I'm not expected to work overtime, have flexible hours, no dress code and a great deal of control over what I do.

    Your exact work environment can vary greatly, not only from university to unversity but from department to department. Universities are good about keeping their employees. If you are unhappy or need more money, see about getting transfered to another department.

    It greatly depends on your department for a number of things. You asked about how structured it is.. My department is very flexible and casual. We've got a small group, and things flow well. Other departments (Engineering IT support or User Services, things like that) can be fairly strict. If things you are doing involve the University as a whole, you may have to go through a great deal of hierarchy as policies need to be implemented correctly.

    Politics seems to be high, from my experience. This is especially true when funding from Grants are involved. There are a lot of people at universities that have been there a long time. These people don't like others impeding with the things that they view themselves as controlling. When it comes to funding you could be competing with a professor next door, or a department down the hall.

    You've probably gotten accustomed to good travel perks. If your university sends you to conferences, don't expect these as much. It depends on the department/university, but you likely won't have a company credit card to charge things on, and you likely could be sharing a hotel room with others from your department. Expect to pay all of the bills yourself, in advance, and get a refund later.

    Because of the Low Stress and relatively High Politics, you'll likely find that things move slowly. It's hard to get new ideas and solutions implemented. If you are going to a Windows only department, don't think you'll be able to switch them to linux quickly. A lot of people will (a) not want to do more work than they have to (b) not want to learn or do anything new and/or (c) will require any change but pushed through high viscosity red-tape.

    You'll need to understand how you get paid and how your department gets paid. It may be simple for you and your department. Or your department may get portions of funding from grants and portions from the unversity or other departments to carry out certain obligations. This is important to your success -- you need to know who the customer is (could be students, researchers, staff, the vicepresident of IT, the NSF or DOD, or some other unversity as part of a collaboration...).
  • by drnlm ( 533500 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:09AM (#8656049) Homepage
    The answers to your questions vary greatly from institution to institution and from department to department within a given institution. Tradionally, the humanities and the pure sciences are the least like the "real world", and engineering departments the most bussinesslike, although this is by no means universal.

    At some universities, administration bureaucracy is a major problem. Usually, larger and/or older institutions are worse, smaller and/or newer institutions are better, but there are exceptions in both directions.

    Academic politics is always bloody. Kissinger's "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small" is apparantly universal. Fortunately, the tradition of lying low and avoiding getting involved is also well established. If you can avoid getting seriosuly involved, that is probably a good thing. If you actively want to get involved, then there is no hope for you :).

    Best course of action is almost certainly to talk to few people working there, especially people in the department you hope to be appointed to, and see how they feel about these things.

  • About the politics of a university.

    The Lighter Side of Education...

    The Dean:
    Leaps tall buildings in a single bound,
    is more powerful than a locomotive,
    is faster than a speeding bullet,
    walks on water,
    gives policy to God.

    The Department Head:
    Leaps short buildings in a single bound,
    is more powerful than a switch engine,
    is just as fast as a speeding bullet,
    walks on water if the sea is calm,
    talks with God.

    Leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable winds,
    is almost as powerful as a switch engine,
    is slower than a speeding bullet,
    walks on water in an indoor swimming pool,
    talks with God if special request is approved.

    Associate Professor:
    Barely clears a quonset hut,
    loses tug of war with locomotive,
    can fire a speeding bullet,
    swims well,
    is occasionally addressed by God.

    Assistant Professor:
    Makes high marks on wall when trying to leap tall buildings,
    is run over by locomotive,
    can sometimes handle a gun without inflicting self injury,
    dog paddles,
    talks to animals.

    Graduate Student:
    Runs into buildings,
    recognizes locomotives two out of three times,
    is not issued ammunition,
    can stay afloat with a life jacket,
    talks to walls.

    Falls over doorstep when trying to enter buildings,
    says look at the choo-choo,
    wets himself with a water pistol,
    plays in mud puddles,
    mumbles to himself.

    Department Secretary:
    Lifts tall buildings and walks under them,
    kicks locomotives off the track,
    catches speeding bullets in her teeth and eats them,
    freezes water with a single glare,
    she is God.
  • As somebody who works in a small university, I have to say that it is a great job. Yes, the pay isn't all that great. However, I have all the freedom I need. Most people around me works 35-40 hours/week, but there are a lot of slacking off among some of the staff members (I swear some secretaries work way less than 30 hours/week in actual working time).
    Work hour can be very flexible. I know people who comes 7 AM and leave by 3 PM, or 10 AM and leave 7 PM. On the other hand, if you work for non-academic de
  • One major question: Who will be your boss? You'll have more job security if the person is an administrator or staff employee than if the person is a professor.

    As a full professor myself at a major research institution, I can say faculty run the whole range from wonderful to work with to requires an immediate regime change. If you go up against a grant-getting professor, you will lose regardless of the merits of the case. Some faculty believe themselves to be God (not merely a god!) and there's nothing yo

  • Universities and colleges can offer some benefits you won't find elsewhere. Free tuition for yourself (if you want to pursue a degree in a hobby field). Free or reduced tuition for your children. More vacation time.

    When I was in college, most of the janitors I knew told me they were thankful for their job because they had, or would soon have, kids in college.

  • What sort of adjustment should be expected? Is the uni workplace as structured as the corporate world? Pet peeves? What are the politics like? I ask as I attended a commuter-school with little campus life and have little to draw on for perspective

    you don't mention what department you're going to work for, and that makes a big difference. working in an academic department is very different from working in IT, which is different from working in a research group, etc. my experience is working for a short

  • by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:02PM (#8657496) Homepage Journal
    This is all still early in the process and the offer hasn't come yet but that's not stopping me from researching the target city, moving expenses, cost-of-living comparisons, living arrangements, etc.

    I was all set to move. Two weeks later when I got the form letter, I was quite disappointed. Save your time and energy until you actually have the job.

    • that was my thought. University usually means State. If it is anything like federal jobs, they have to go thru the motions of listing, interviewing, etc, but 99% of the time, they know the contractor they are going to hire ahead of time. Notice any strange little, highly specific items buried in the job listing like "ideal applicant will be knowledgable in the UCXLAQD education initiative #14 requirements"... that's because the job description has been reverse-engineered from the desired hireee.
  • by InfiniterX ( 12749 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:38PM (#8658015) Homepage
    When I was sent to a conference in DC for the announcement of the completion of the human genome project, I decided to dye my bright blue hair down to something more normal. They probably wouldn't have even said anything otherwise, but I've got at least an iota of professionalism.

    22 days of paid vacation annually is very nice. I take a 3 day weekend every month and still have plenty of vacation time stacked up that I could take a whole week off when I move to a new apartment this summer.

    ATTENTION NERD TOY COLLECTORS: A nice perk that offsets the lower salary: Educational employees are eligible for educational personal purchase discounts. This amounts to 10% off Apple hardware and software, and a comparable amount with Dell, etc.

    Because my university has negotiated various discounts, I save money on rental cars and hotels when I travel, and get a break on my cell phone monthly charges, too. I saved about $100 on car rentals last time I traveled.

    Use your employee ID badge to collect student discounts at the movies!

    I believe the retirement plans are pretty generous, too. I know for mine, I was eligible for the university's contribution after a year and I was vested immediately.
  • You've never worked in the private sector. I have. They expect results.
  • what more is there to say?

    perhaps that the social/moral "productivity"
    of the work is no more or less questionable,
    so that if it is an issue for you, asking
    the question is wise.

  • "...and being laid-off... Taking the position would mean a sizable pay-cut..."

    Unemployment is paying really well these days, I guess. I'd stay unemployed if I was you. ;}

  • by DuckDuckBOOM! ( 535473 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:57PM (#8659014)
    Don't know torgosan, & a quick search didn't turn up his/her line of work. On the assumption it's IT, here's a few hints based upon 5 years on a facilities mgmt. contract at a SE Mich. community college:
    • The environment was low-key, relaxed, relative to corporate IT. Deadlines tended to be looser and less arbitrary. Minds tend to be more open (with the occasional hellish exception, see below); if you're an OSS advocate you'll have a MUCH easier time getting support for introducing or expanding its use.
    • As with any non-profit org, budgets are tight. The budget model may not be what you're used to. xxCC had separate funding pools for operations (revenue mostly from tuition and local millage) that was usually hurting, and for capital acquisitions (revenue mostly from bonds and fed/state grants) that was usually bulging. We didn't get new toys often, but when we did we got GOOD ones, and lots of them, with tons of software and long-term maintenance bundled in to shift those costs out of the ops fund.
    • Job security is much better than average, IF you stay on the right side of the political game. See below.
    • Politics are vicious, even by corporate standards. Our situation was aggravated by a board of trustees with delusions of godhood - long, entertaining story in itself - but the main source of grief here is professors, especially tenured ones. Expect a caste system based on level and number of degrees you hold, minus about two caste levels' handicap because you will be lowly staff, not lordly faculty. Plus pecking-order infighting within each caste. You will make friends among staff, but you will need friends among faculty. Do favors for faculty members above and beyond what your job requires. And keep in mind that some faculty will view you as sub-scum no matter how friendly and helpful you are. Be cordial and professional with these people, but avoid them otherwise, and never turn your back to them. (We had one business prof who was utterly convinced that the job scheduler on our mainframe was racially biased. Really. We had to prepare more than one report for mgmt and trustees detailing the way jobs were prioritized because he kept raising the issue in meetings. I was more than a bit curious as to how he thought the VT220s we used distinguished caucasian from african-american input, but I never worked up the cojones to ask him.)
    • Management will probably be much the same as mgmt. anywhere else. We had good ones and bad ones.
    • Bureaucracy will probably be about the same as anywhere else. Pluses are that college admin tends to be relatively small and centralized; minuses are that the purchasing pipeline can be extremely long, slow, and politicized. You will have incentive to build all but the most complex solutions in-house. See above re OSS.
    • If staffing is in any way adequate, you can expect to work more than a few projects on tight deadlines, esp. around enrollment time. . .but you can also expect to have more than a few slack periods to clean up loose ends, refactor code you rushed through earlier, and engage in whatever loosely-work-related intellectual pursuits you might enjoy. At least where I was, mgmt didn't have a problem with this as long as you weren't running a warez distro hub or cranking out CGI pr0n on the lab servers or such.
    • HTH.

  • I have been working at a university for the last year and a half and am now getting out to get back IN the corporate world. Here's my take on things. Bare in mind, I have been at a religious-based university.

    1. The polotics are HORRIBLE. Every single things has to go through 10 committees and finance groups and can still be killed on the whims of the CFO. You have to be 100% politically correct all the time or you are frowned upon. My experiences with corporate politics have been MUCH easier to deal with.
  • I work for a rather large community college...

    I get 2-3 weeks extra paid time off for the winter break. I get spring break off - paid. I also get my normal paid time off, sick leave, etc.

    I get free classes,as does my wife, and eventually my 2 kids. Good state benefits for health/dental insurance, etc. Reserved parking.

    Oh, and having the campus filled with hot co-eds isn't so bad either... just remember to look but don't touch (wife's rule, not the colleges).
  • by deanj ( 519759 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @03:50PM (#8659652)
    I've worked both for Universities and in the "real world".


    1) Lots of vacation, generally around 20 to 25 days a year, plus holidays, and around 21 sick days. (This of course varies from place to place).

    2) Depending on the position you hold, you'll have very flexible hours. If it's not an IT position (mine haven't been), you get a lot of choice on when you get in, and when you can leave. (Of course, this depends on the boss you have).

    3) It's pretty laid back, and usually the only pressure comes when funding gets low, or there's some big demo.

    4) If you work on campus, generally the places you can go for food are pretty decent.

    5) Pay isn't that bad, depending on the position. Many people have said that the pay is lower, but I've never had a problem with getting relatively high pay. I'm probably one of the lucky ones. Pay increases do tend to be low, and there's never a bonus, so get hired at a high salary; don't expect it to increase that much.

    6) You'll be able to take classes at a discount, and if you have kids at go to school there, you'll get a big discount.

    7) Unless you work at a pretty cool place in the business world, you'll probably have more gadgets and "toys" to play with in academia (again, this varies with position).

    8) College towns have pretty good sporting events and concerts that come to town. Take advantage of those.


    1) If you don't have anything above a BS degree, they won't take you seriously when it comes time to putting people in charge of things. I don't care if you're the tops in your field at whatever you do, if it's a choice between someone with a BS with tons of experience and a PHD with no experience in that field, they'll go with the PHD.
    I've seen this many times.

    2) Politics. Several people have mentioned that already. I'm not sure what else I can say, other than imagine the worse politics you can think of (probably marketing vs. engineering), and it's like 10x worse than that. At least with marketing vs. engineering you knew where it was coming from; in an academic environment, you'll constantly have to be on the lookout.

    As far as "real world politics": If you're a conservative, learn to bite your tongue. If they figure this out, some (not all!) people *will* retaliate against you just for being a conservative, and no other reason than that. If you're a liberal, there will be many people that agree with your views, so you're probably ok.

    3) You'll be used as a step for someone else's career. I've seen very little promotion from within Universities, mainly because the people doing the promoting don't see what benefit it is to THEM. A project that's done will in business might get your promoted at your next review; you might not even get reviews in academia, at least none that lead to a promotion.

    4) Parking. You will probably have to pay to park on campus. Some universities charge a LOT of money to park there each month. Plus the waiting lists for parking lots can be long. Like three years long.

    5) If you work for an academic department (again, probably not IT), and you write something that will be published, your boss *will* also put their name on it, whether or not they actually wrote anything in it. This seems to be standard operating procedure. Unfair, yes; anything you can do about it, probably not.

    Could go either way:

    1) Office space. This is always at a premium. Some of my best offices and some of my worst have been a universities. Mine have all been better than in business though.... never had to work in a cube since that time.
    • 4) Parking. You will probably have to pay to park on campus. Some universities charge a LOT of money to park there each month. Plus the waiting lists for parking lots can be long. Like three years long.

      Damn right. I just looked at my pay stub now, because I never checked to see what my monthly payroll deduction for parking changed to on 1/1/04.

      The damage?

      $47/month, or $564 annually. It comes out of my paycheck before taxes are calculated, but still -- that's a lot of bank.
  • Go for it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @03:59PM (#8659759) Journal
    I left the corp world several years ago for public school education and have never looked back. Much more flex time, lots of vac time, you'll prob get every holiday listed on the calendar - I get Good Friday - who gets that? Of course there are office style politics, but I don't think they are as bad as the commercial world. Look at the other perks - most universities let you take courses for free - that's how a lot PhD types are born. You will be surrounded by smart, creative, academically like minded ppl - most will love their craft. Some private universities and K-12 private schools include free housing - another major perk if you don't own your own home - no rent, no mortage! There is a private school in my area that offers housing to every employee, whether prof or janitor! Also, most universities allow your children to go there for free, for as long as you are employed! Now that is worth the lower pay right there.
  • Most of these posts seem right on. I've worked at a university (deskmonkey, not IT) for two and a half years now and these are my rules:

    1. Most tenured professors have inflated egos. This inflation varies from mild to delusional, and usually varies positively with seniority.

    2. Non-tenured new hires usually haven't yet forgotten that they're not grad students, and are much humbler and easier to work with.

    3. Most professors have no idea how much work goes into your job, and no idea how to plan anythi
  • Most of what everyone said is dead on.

    I'd like to add one little detail. If you get to take classes for free, do it. Don't pass it up.

    Your skills will get stale. It's not that you can't do good work at a school. It's that people don't respect university IT. Of course, I've always said most of college IT can be lumped into to categories -- students and the worthless. This is not to say that there aren't some lazy students or some really good staff. However, I usually see really lazy IT people for a
  • I've gone back and forth between business and academic employment a couple times, and I don't think you can necessarily generalise between the two worlds. My first corporate job was dull and stifling, wearing a tie everyday, etc. My first academic job was a much more relaxed and enjoyable place. The second corporate job was pretty similar to that, though. Now I'm back working for academia, and while it's officially a very casual work environment, there's a hidden framework of structured job duties, and
  • ...i work in the corperate arena whilst my best friend works at a university and we tend to compare notes alot.

    He wants to stop working for the university, (hes a proper employee doing IT support for one of the departments, not a student doing part time work for them), due to the low wages and the large amount of politics that go on.

    Where I work is bad for politics, but where he is is so much worse ...


  • I work at a hospital, not for profit though, and more specifically, I provide I.T. support for the research labs at the hospital. We are affiliated with two large state institutions as well. Previously I worked at a LARGE telco named Sprint. My experience has been that: Pay cut was 20k per year but I'm still well within national average for what I do Politics didn't go up in level but the quality of the politics changed. Definitely see Ph.Ds and postdoc students being on or near the top of the food chain

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll