The stress-free professoriate

I have to drive some more traffic to this post on Forbes’ website (“The least stressful jobs of 2013”), because it has me laughing out loud. Number one on the list is “University Professor”. The comments section already has the author of the post backtracking away from what she wrote, which is ludicrous:

University professors have a lot less stress than most of us. Unless they teach summer school, they are off between May and September and they enjoy long breaks during the school year, including a month over Christmas and New Years and another chunk of time in the spring. Even when school is in session they dont spend too many hours in the classroom. For tenure-track professors, there is some pressure to publish books and articles, but deadlines are few. Working conditions tend to be cozy and civilized and there are minimal travel demands, except perhaps a non-mandatory conference or two. As for compensation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for professors is $62,000, not a huge amount of money but enough to live on, especially in a university town.
Another boon for professors: Universities are expected to add 305,700 adjunct and tenure-track professors by 2020, according to the BLS. All of those attributes land university professor in the number one slot on Careercast.coms list of the least stressful jobs of 2013.

I’m so glad I don’t deal with all the stress of being paid over the summer, and I’m now looking forward to the stress-free prospect of having my colleagues replaced by adjuncts over the next few years. Those non-mandatory conferences are so awesome I’m glad to pay my own way. Thanks, Forbes!

More seriously, it is possible to be a university professor without a lot of stress. I feel great about my work for exactly the reasons the Forbes post suggests – for me it is important to operate independently, being in control of my own work. But many other professors don’t respond to that opportunity by reducing their internal stress level, and pre-tenure is highly stressful for everyone.

And beyond research, all the other demands of the job are increasing greatly as administration grows and teaching staff shrinks. Definitely not a job that is decreasing in stress over the next year.