How many N. American TT ecology asst. profs leave for another TT job within their first two years? (includes poll) (UPDATED)

About 1%. For the details (and a one-question poll at the end), read on.

I went back to my nearly-comprehensive list of every N. American TT asst. professor in ecology or an allied field hired during the 2016-17 job season (or in a very few cases in 2015-16), and looked up how many still held the position into which they were hired in 2016-17. These folks have been asst profs for ~2 years now, long enough that you might expect at least a few of them to have switched positions.

Turns out only a few have switched positions: just 2 out of 178 definitely switched, and there’s a third about whom I’m unsure (she may have switched, remained in the same position, or left academia). The rest definitely still hold the positions into which they were hired in 2016-17.

This is further proof, if further proof were needed*, that the TT ecology faculty job market is not dominated by TT asst. profs playing musical chairs. Contrary to speculation I’ve seen on and heard from other sources.

As I hope is obvious, these data tell you nothing about what fraction have tried to switch positions (well, except that it’s at least 1%), or about your own personal odds of success if you are a TT asst. prof who wants to move to another institution. UPDATE: And in case it wasn’t clear, these data also don’t tell you what fraction will have moved to another position within (say) five years of being hired (save that it will be at least 1%). Like Brian in the comments, I suspect that more people move 3-5 years after being hired than move within the first 2 years. I’ll check back in a few years and find out.

I’m guessing these results won’t surprise too many people, but let’s find out. Take the poll below!

*which it wasn’t

7 thoughts on “How many N. American TT ecology asst. profs leave for another TT job within their first two years? (includes poll) (UPDATED)

  1. Early days for the poll, but so far 31% of respondents are surprised by these results and another 17% are maybe a little surprised. I’m surprised those numbers are that high! (and perhaps they’ll come down as we get more respondents) I thought most everybody knew that it’s pretty rare for profs to change jobs within their first couple of years.

    On another note, will be curious to check back in 4 years or so and see how many of these profs have changed jobs.

    • And now with an additional 30 respondents (so now up to 58 total), 26% are still surprised and another 24% are a little surprised.

      Things could still change further, of course. But based on past experience, our poll results usually don’t change *that* much after the first 50 or so respondents. So it seems safe to conclude that about 1/4 of our readers are quite surprised by this result and another 1/4 are a bit surprised. Which is either typical or a bit higher than usual for our polls on various aspects of the ecology faculty job market. Most false claims about the ecology faculty job market that I’ve looked into are believed by an appreciable minority of respondents to our polls.

  2. I was surprised. I am no job market conspiracy theorist who thinks the market is rigged or impossible to get a job in. And I don’t think its 20% or anything. But I don’t really think it is 1% either. I think the key is that most people that move pre-tenure do it in years 3-5 so they’re not showing up in your data. You’d have to be an amazing glutton for punishment to apply for jobs in October after arriving in July of that year. Similar argument for October 15 months after arriving.

    Anyway, my money is on a much larger fraction than 1% (like 5%) by 4 years.

    • “I think the key is that most people that move pre-tenure do it in years 3-5 so they’re not showing up in your data. ”

      Sure. I might even expect more than 5% to have moved by the end of year 5, though that’s just a wild guess based on nothing much.

  3. I would have guessed some people may have applied for multiple jobs, took the first one that came along (beggars can’t be choosers) and then got a ‘better’ offer, so moved. I also know couples that have shifted around a bit to try and find the best compromise for jobs for both, sometimes a tricky thing when both are academics.

    • Hmm. I’m not sure it’s possible that, someone would accept one offer, show up on campus, and then get a better offer or a another position for which they’d already applied before accepting the first offer. It’s just really hard for the timing to work. I think it’s much more likely for someone to accept an offer, showed up on campus, and then almost immediately start applying elsewhere.

      Quibbles about timing aside, I’m sure your broader point is correct: some people take jobs that they don’t consider to be ideal for them, so they go back out on the market. We have an old post on that:

  4. Pingback: Useful links related to tenure track job searches in ecology (last update Apr. 2019) | Dynamic Ecology

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