Thursday, April 24, 2014

Study reveals how college professors spend their day

A professor of anthropology at Boise State conducted a study to find out how professors spend their day and the average number of hours they work each week.  His study sample consisted of only 30 (out of 550 Boise State faculty solicited) so Professor Ziker does not claim that the results can be generalized beyond these particular findings though my hunch is that data he collected reflects a reasonable estimate of the average academic's workload; some work much longer hours while others work fewer hours (Professor Ziker plans a follow up study which presumably will involve a larger sample size).  In the meantime, here are some of his key findings from this small sample study:

  • On average, faculty who participated in the study worked 61 hours per week.
  • They worked just over 10 hours a day and 10 hours on the weekend.
  • Work was heaviest Mondays through Thursday with the workload trailing off on Friday.
  • Faculty who participated in the study spent an average of 17% of their workweek in meetings.
  • Faculty spent 13% of their day dealing with email.
  • 12% of their time was spent in the classroom teaching with an equal amout of time spent preparing for class.
  • 11% of their day was spent on course administration (grading, updating course web pages, etc.).
  • Only 3% of the workweek was spent on primary research and 2% on manuscript writing.

On the weekends, the faculty members who participated in the study spent 23% of their time on class preparation, 13% on course administration, 10% of their time on email, 9% of their time at workshops/conferences, 8% of their time in professional conversations, 7% of their time on professional travel, 4% of their time on manuscript writing, and 4% of their time on what the study categorized as "housekeeping" which included cleaning up files, straightening offices and labs and updating computers, among a myriad of other activities.

Professor Ziker summed up by noting:

Combining workweek and weekend, our faculty subjects spent approximately 40 percent of their time on teaching-related activities, or about 24.5 hours. Interestingly, 24.5 hours per week is almost exactly 60 percent of a 40-hour workweek. So, what is happening? Are faculty shirking their teaching duties, or is workload policy geared for a time and place when success was defined largely by teaching? Research, it seems has to fit in outside normal working hours for our academicans. Only 17 percent of the workweek was focused on research and 27 percent of weekend time.

You can read Professor's Ziker's full summary (along with illustrative charts and graphs) here and the Business Insider blog has a more concise summary here.


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