Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

From School to Work to Working at School?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the from-corporate-to-college dept.

Businesses 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."

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I had to... (-1, Offtopic)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655520)

First post! Woo-hoo!

one word... (ok, one hyphenated word) (2, Funny)

glassesmonkey (684291) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655616)


Re:one word... (ok, one hyphenated word) (1)

Knightfall (558914) | more than 10 years ago | (#8659145)

And today is the first warm day of spring ... ahhhhhhh the lovely lovely co-eds.

I work at a university... (5, Insightful)

Jim Morash (20750) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Unless you're teaching or lab monitoring ... (0)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655664)

There shouldn't be many real differences between that kind of job and one in the real world.

Re:Unless you're teaching or lab monitoring ... (4, Insightful)

jhoffoss (73895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655829)

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.

Re:Unless you're teaching or lab monitoring ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8657498)

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 personnel end up doing more since technology is an excellent way to stretch a budget. We ended up writing a lot of systems to automate various tasks, some of which were eventually adopted by other departments.
  3. The atomosphere is fairly laid-back. I would move from desk to desk. In addition to development and administration (ostensibly my job), I would do helpdesk when it was needed. If I had an idea for making some process more efficient, I would tell my manager, present a prototype and we would have a working system with a minimum of committee meetings, vendor proposals, etc. If I needed to get a project finished quickly, I could work from home to avoid people interrupting me for help.

So you might expect a similar experience when you work for a university, but I apparently the dedication of the people you work with can vary.

Re:Unless you're teaching or lab monitoring ... (1)

fean (212516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8661125)

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 authority over...

The only reason I'm still here is that it gives me plenty of time to work on personal projects!!!

and yeah, the politics are hell... though you'll probably survive better if you aren't one of those people who like to be in politics... keep in mind they've been doing this for 10-30 years, they've grown so used to people obeying the political rules that if you try to shake stuff up, you're out of there...

Re:Unless you're teaching or lab monitoring ... (2, Insightful)

3.2.3 (541843) | more than 10 years ago | (#8663091)

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 much the same as in the corporate world, except with less money.

Everything operates pretty much in crisis mode all the time. I pull all nighters monthly and work lots of unpaid overtime. Managers are still simultaneously out to lunch and egotistical as a rule. Requirements come from ever expanding committees instead of just a team of five or six pseudo-technical project managers.

Being funded by grant money is about as stable as working in an overheated IT economy where bean counters can't offshore work fast enough. I still feel like the bottom could drop out at any moment. And just like the corporate world, there's still not enough money for that protocol analyzer that would save a couple month's worth of work. You still never get the resources up front you are promised.

However, we're not working to some imagined market demand that might evaporate if we don't get there first. We actually get projects not just done, but sometimes done right. We might be working furiously and pushed hard. But we will take the time to get it right. It's greatly satisfying knowing I am working on things that are going to be good.

We use great technology. And lots of it. I don't have to say I work in a Java shop or a C++ shop or a Microsoft shop or a Unix shop. I can concentrate on one set of skills if I want. But if they aren't working for me, I can do things some other way. Python is making me happy.

I'm working for the good of society. Work I am doing will help make the world a better place. It isn't manufacturing hype to steer demand for some product which will be here today and gone tomorrow. It isn't listening to some manager's near criminal schemes to fleece money from an unsuspecting public. It isn't a company trying to get something for nothing, either from their employees or their customers. It's saving lives and advancing science.

Science is far more interesting than markets. Making something in a lab and then going and taking it outdoors, maybe up on the roof, maybe out in the ocean, and collecting data from it that can tell you something nobody knew before... that's just cool.

I work with a distinctly better crowd of people than ever before. Are there politics? Sure. Any set of social relations evolves politics. But the overarching reach is cooperation for the good of humanity rather than competition for individual survival. People who work for less money to be in such an environment are not only just plain nicer to be with on a day to day basis, but they are generally a whole lot smarter and more interesting. We like being together after work. People are doing all kinds of different things in close proximity to each other, with lot of cross pollinating results. It's intellectually stimulating. And I just GPL'd code I got paid to write. That was a strangely exhilarating feeling.

Campuses are beautiful places. At least the one I'm on. You have to get out and walk from building to building a lot. And thereby subject yourself to the flowering of spring and be immersed in youth. This has an effect that may sound trivial from its description, but I can't put a price on it. It's like being alive instead of being a Dilbert zombie. I highly recommend this being alive stuff.

The perks are unbelievable. I traveled a lot, and to exotic places, in my corporate jobs. But traveling to academic conferences is a whole lot more enjoyable than traveling to go set up an experimental server on some unknown network with a deadline and having customers nervously monitor your every move. There's free DVD checkout in the library. Fitness facilities galore. Interesting famous people are always coming to give talks. Tickets to world class basketball games fall in my lap without my asking. People take me to lunch just so they can talk to me. I get lots of educational opportunities that I can actually take and am encouraged to take.

Maybe it's just after 24 years of slogging it out in the corporate tar pits, any change would seem welcome. But I wish I'd done this going to work at the university thing a long time ago. I would never have guessed I would be happier making less money. But it's the difference between night and day.

PS - My lab is under renovation at the moment. I walk by a couple of times every day to see the progress. And yes, the facilities folks do spend most of their time napping, reading the paper, and drinking coffee. But that's what they did in the corporate world too. And they aren't unionized here, either. I live in one of those right to layoff at will states.

PPS - The student workers here are pretty much all charity cases. They spend a whole semester doing about two weeks worth of work, need inordinate amounts of hand holding in the process, show up when they feel like it, and are far more of a burden than a help. Then they want to know if their job is going to "turn permanent" when they graduate, while you yourself are already working year to year.

PPPS - Deans make bucketloads of cash. But then, their jobs are all politics.

Re:Unless you're teaching or lab monitoring ... (1)

jhoffoss (73895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8676175)

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 stubs, and do what paperwork I had to in order to complete my degree. In short, the academic/departmental politics were outside my realm.

Campuses are indeed a beautiful place, especially when it gets warm out after very long MN winters. And the facilities are absolutely gorgeous. And the public-service/save-the-world aspect of the job has a very big appeal to me.

I someday hope to return to the academic side, be it University level, or high school. I just had to get away from the BS politics that were present in my department at the time.

fewer rules... (4, Informative)

james b (31361) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655702)

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... (2, Informative)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656065)

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 explore new technology, at least I'd have something more to do. They made it near impossible for me to use my downtime to think up better ways to do things for the department. In essence I was just sitting around waiting for things to break.

One thing that was a bummer was seeing grad students come and go so frequently. Post-Grad students had their own offices. You'd make friends with someone for a year or more, only for them to move away when their doctorate was over.

Re:fewer rules... (1)

abradsn (542213) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658715)

Sounds like Microsoft.

Rules to live by (4, Informative)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#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!

Re:Rules to live by (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 10 years ago | (#8657120)

Missed one

6) If they say it they need it tomorrow, they really need it that afternoon.

Re:Rules to live by (1, Flamebait)

Old Uncle Bill (574524) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658424)

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).

Re:Rules to live by (3, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Rules to live by (2, Interesting)

Old Uncle Bill (574524) | more than 10 years ago | (#8659348)

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 no the only issue, as I have seen many professors who grade students poorly because they disagree with perfectly valid opinions the students hold.

Re:Rules to live by (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8660311)

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 their printer isnt working. I tell them to go into the control panel to the printers applet and try and print a test page from there. That is chinese to them, though I think I am using the most basic primitive terminology there is.

Re:Rules to live by (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 10 years ago | (#8664281)

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 down what they do into small, discrete steps that lets the average student gain an understanding of what's going on and why.

Re:Rules to live by (1)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709079)

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?"

Re:Rules to live by (1)

sysadmn (29788) | more than 10 years ago | (#8670648)

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.

Re:Rules to live by (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8670864)

Don't forget:

6. Politics at a college/university are BRUTAL. You're dealing with the professional staff, not the teaching staff, usually. They're all union, and they're all heavily entrenched in their own designated turf areas. Step on someone's toes, and outwardly, they'll pretend to be very civilized in their complaints, but behind closed doors they'll be asking for your head, served raw on a bed of lettuce with Wasabi.

7. Bearing (6) in mind, do NOT underestimate ANYONE. Even the sweetest-looking secretary has the ability to gut you like a fish, especially during your probationary period. Be nice to everyone, NEVER, EVER take sides, and remain neutral.

8. Find out which turf area you belong to, and hole up there. Do ONLY the work your boss hands you, and don't stick your head out of your cubicle. If you start getting distracted by work from other groups, say, administration, your boss will get SERIOUSLY annoyed. If it doesn't come from him, don't do it, unless it's a very small favor you can do "under the table". Your boss will know about it, you can't prevent that, but if it's innocuous enough, he'll probably blow it off. Maybe.

9. Learn who the bigshots are, and AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS. If you see one coming, step aside. No joke. Eye contact = trouble. At the very least, they'll pump you for info your boss didn't want to give them. You don't know what's being hidden, and you'll spill the beans. Then your boss will spill YOUR beans.

10. Learn to be invisible. Look like a student, avoid introductions, be a mystery. It's a LOT safer.

From this side... (3, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655742)

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...

Re:From this side... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8658295)

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.

I'm in grad school now, and I have a little dance I do with the lab computers I do most of my work on (they have enough of a speed advantage over other computers that it's best to work in the lab sometimes). Most of that dance involves doing stuff to WinXP to make it useable. The other part of that dance is trying to type without being able to see what I typed because the computer is a gibbering pile of mush due to lots of for loops and floating point multiplies.

A Windows XP computer that is locked down and standardized is still a WinXP computer.

Relaxing (1)

Darth_Burrito (227272) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655743)

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 time for customer C. This isn't to say there aren't deadlines, just that you can usually see them coming from a long way away. To contrast, at an old job, our boss once came in friday afternoon and told us we needed to develop an inhouse/integrated inventory tracking system by monday. You don't get that in Academia. Another key point is that the basic job of a university/university offices is to help people, not to enrich some corrupt CEO. Overall, it's a lot less stress and a lot more rewarding.

Anyways, that's just my experience. Your mileage may vary.

my .2c (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#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 (2, Insightful)

jmlyle (512574) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656400)

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.

Re:my .2c (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 10 years ago | (#8664360)

"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.

Laid back, Quieter, Loyalty (3, Informative)

WildFire42 (262051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655768)

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.

Re:Laid back, Quieter, Loyalty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8669932)

"mass exoduses (exodi?)"

Exoduses is correct. Exodus is angliczed from greek. Ex meaning out and odus meaning a way, thus, the way out.

If you wanted the greek plural it would be exodoi in the nominative.

But this is english, we use exoduses.

Some of my observations (4, Informative)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8655797)

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.

Re:Some of my observations (1)

Moeses (19324) | more than 10 years ago | (#8657085)

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 (2, Informative)

Zach Garner (74342) | more than 10 years ago | (#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...).

Some comments from within academia... (4, Interesting)

drnlm (533500) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656049)

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.

Here's an old document I found in my humor file... (4, Funny)

rthille (8526) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656053)

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.

Re:Here's an old document I found in my humor file (3, Insightful)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 10 years ago | (#8663905)

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.

You might mistake this for humor. I used to work for a university, and this is dead on. From day 1, be extremely nice and helpful to the secretaries and other admin people; you'll be amazed how much easier it makes your work.

Re:Here's an old document I found in my humor file (1)

kruczkowski (160872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8689611)

Come to think about it, it's true in any organization. The head secritary can make an appt or not - just on her mood.

dude (-1)

u-238 (515248) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656115)

you must be SOOooooOOooo annoying in real life, i mean he gives his the biogrophy of each member in his family tree in that fucking paragraph.

the old cliche (0, Flamebait)

AgtSmith (738147) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656258)

I hate to say the old term but: "Those who can do, those who can't teach.." With that said the some of the best IT people are out of work and the is some great talent walking around with no where to go. I personally would choose the Academic world over the Professional world for the following reasons: 1. Tenure. 2. People in your department actually know what your talking about. 3. Not having to tell the VP of Accounting why you need a new system and him telling you to spend only $40 bucks. 4. super-computer (ex. Virginia Tech) 5. Development of new "toys" (Defense Contracts) So over all My choice would be higher education.

Re:the old cliche (1)

protosage (752297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8660060)

Those who can't teach manage ;)

Re:the old cliche (3, Insightful)

Trillian_1138 (221423) | more than 10 years ago | (#8660615)

Having two parents who teach, I'm gonna have to take offense at that. The cliche is, occasionally, true but is more often used to make people feel better about bad profs or to feel good about not being a teacher. Good teachers (and quite honestly I've had more good than bad) are "doing" and anyone who says otherwise obviously has never taught, or had someone close to them who is a teacher.

In addition, college and university teaching gives profs amazing opportunities to teach AND "do." My father is both a law professor and one of the highest rated defense lawyers in the City of Chicago, having been integrally involved in former Gov. Ryan's choice to put a moratorium on the death penalty. He would not have had the resources (grad students, freedom given by his university to persue his own goals, etc) to persue such lofty goals as aboloshing the death penalty and guaranteeing the rights of the accused (I'll play the Slashdot 'Civil Liberties Card' and say he's probably doing more to protect them that _you_ are) were he not at a university.

Likewise, my mother works with special ed. kids and makes each and every one of their lives better. She may not be changing the world in dramatic or historically significant ways, but I know each child and their family values her and she values them.

You go and contradict yourself, saying that those who work in universities "actually know what your talking about," implying maybe they can "do," but I still dislike your use of the (dead wrong) cliche.

To the origonal poster who is asking the question: I'm a student at an "institution of higher learning", and have no experience working in education. However, having spoken to both my parents I know they both love working in education. Specifically my dad, who works at a university teaching and also is able to practice law through the university loves being able to work with students and shape their futures, as well as actually get down and dirty and do "real" work. As many other posters have indicated, I do know he complains about the political aspects and dislikes the occasional stupidity. Specifically, he says their are profs who haven't actually practiced law in years and instead are satisfied with 'intellectually' persuing law by reading and writing about it. My understanding is there are such people in every branch of education, who find the study of their subject of choice to be more important than the actual practice. This may be where the cliche "Those who can do, those who can't teach" came from, so it may have a grain of truth in it.

But if you're interested in working in at a university, and what other posters have said sounds enjoyable (and from my limited understand, what other posters have said about lower pay but more flexible hours and nice benifits is true) then I'd say go for it. It won't be the rest of your life, and it may be something you enjoy beyond measure.

My two cents.


Re:the old cliche (1)

AgtSmith (738147) | more than 10 years ago | (#8660684)

If you would have actually read the entire post then you would have realized that I support a position in higher education. But the cliche is just that a cliche, just because it's stated it does not necessarily mean that it is true. Next time try to read the entire post before assuming anything.

Re:the old cliche (1)

Trillian_1138 (221423) | more than 10 years ago | (#8661909)

I read your entire post and, in _my_ post I said "You go and contradict yourself, saying that those who work in universities "actually know what your talking about," implying maybe they can "do," but I still dislike your use of the (dead wrong) cliche." You start off with the cliche and then attempt to nullify it by offering some points in favor of higher education. But the very first point your post offers is the cliche. While I do appologize if I missunderstood your post I did see that you were, overall, in favor of working in higher education. However, your initial use of the cliche seemed to indicate you thought it was, at least partially, true - which is what offended me. Again, I am sorry if I painted your quote in an inaccurate light, but why use the cliche to begin with, if you don't agree with it?


Death penalty = abortion (1)

leereyno (32197) | more than 10 years ago | (#8701447)

The death penalty is nothing but an abortion...applied retroactively.

several thoughts for you... (2, Interesting)

ilbrec (170056) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656474)

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 departments, then, you may have 8-5 (or 9-6) job as the rest of the world. IT people tends not to have 8-5 jobs, however.
A few years ago, I left my university job for a while working for a company for a while, then, I came back (to my original job at the same university). To me, the corporate job I had was a dreadful job. It was a 9-6 job, but there were so many restrictions and procedures that I had to follow to do anything.
Now, I work 6 AM to 6/7/9 PM almost everyday, but for the most part, I enjoy my job. I have my own private office (with a lot of space). I get to do a lot of cools things (including just playing around/experimenting with a lot of things). I can even get some research and teaching done. I have never showed up work with tie or dress shoes that I can remember. In fact, during the summer months, I usually show up work with shorts and sandals on.

It is true that in some cases, funding from grants matter, however, in many cases, it doesn't matter. For example, if your posistion does not have a lot to do with research directly, then, it probably doesn't matter. Also, as far as I can tell, in smaller institutions (like mine), it tend not to matter too much (smaller schools are more likely to be teaching institutions where less grant funding research with enough funding to hire people for the research).

Generally speaking, the benefits are good. You can often take the university classes for free (or nearly free in some places). In fact, I know a few people who have gotten their college degrees by taking classes for free a little by little (usually secretarial people with only highschool degree seeking college degree, however).

The downside of working for a college is some people do not have broad skills. My primary responsibility is a chemist/scientist, however, I end up being an IT guy (in local offices), administrator (as business administrator), etc all the time. This is partly so because people who really should be doing that jobs aren't doing it, and they need to be taken care of.

Also, depending upon the each specifics, it may be hard to get things you really need because of the funding issues. For example, it took them over 6 months to get me a reasonable computer to use for my work (although I did get exactly what I wanted in the end). I often have to improvise what I need with what I can get hold of.

There is one thing you should know if you work for a college settings (particularly at a small teaching institution). The college/university is there to teach students. That is the primary function of the institution. That is why all the profs were hired (so that they can teach students). If you are a staff member, then, your job is assists the profs and students to help the students learn better. Even those non-academic departments are there for that purpose. That is a very important concept (unfortunately, many people do not understand that at all).

Who is your boss? (1)

Red_Winestain (243346) | more than 10 years ago | (#8656572)

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 you can do about it.

Having said that, there is far less regimentation, and far more trusting in the academic world than in the corporate world. (There's also less money, but studies repeatedly show that income level is not correlated with happiness or job satisfaction.)

Another advantage of working at a university is that most offer free or reduced tuition. You can get the opportunity to take classes in any area you like: you can expand your skills, or just satisfy your curiosity.

benefits (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8657112)

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.

university life (1)

esme (17526) | more than 10 years ago | (#8657340)

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 time (2 yrs) in a very small company, and then working at the IT department of the library at a public univ.

the biggest difference for me was that the library where i work has hundreds of staff, and dozens of IT staff. so there were a lot more opportunities for promotions -- which i was able to take good advantage of. the other major difference, as many others have pointed out, is that the pace is much slower (and supervision can be nonexistant, even for entry-level people). you can do with this what you want: good off, read slashdot :^), gossip and politick, learn new stuff, run a business on the side, it's up to you.

the politics is probably the biggest drawback, if that sort of thing bothers you. universities don't usually have as much funding as private companies do, and state budget cuts (for publics) and research funding cuts can make things pretty bad. things are pretty bad now (at least in calif), but the worst looks to be over.

though in my experience, if you're not interested in getting a different job, and you're not a manager who has to fight for funding, you don't really have to care about politics. i know several people who either completely ignore the whole business, or actively provoke the higher-ups without many ramifications.


ugh. I did this once. (2, Insightful)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 10 years ago | (#8657496)

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.

Re:ugh. I did this once. (1)

Pfhreakaz0id (82141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658804)

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.

Re:ugh. I did this once. (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 10 years ago | (#8660614)

99%? In my research it's pretty much 100%. And the .000001% that are not end up as "Position eliminated due to budget cuts"

The perks make it worth it... (2, Informative)

InfiniterX (12749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658015)

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.

Obligatory Ghostbusters quote (1)

b-baggins (610215) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658026)

You've never worked in the private sector. I have. They expect results.

Re: Obligatory Ghostbusters quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8686067)

You may not believe this, but they don't expect results at the hospital IT department where I work. I'm not making this up. People can turn a simple 1 week project into a 3 to 6 month full-time project, and management doesn't care or even blink an eye.

The senior programmer is a former dietary worker turned programmer 20 years ago. An old bitter divorced fat autistic mentally-ill dude who never studied computer science, has a phobia about learning anything non-Microsoft, and even to this day writes buggy Visual Basic applications that periodically crash.

The junior programmer is a slender busty girl who dropped out of high school to drive semi trucks for 10 years, before she decided to get one of those 2 year technical degrees from a diploma mill . She flirted to get her job but after 4 years still can't develop anything beyond the most trivial of applications.

I can do the work output of either of these two people in about 5-10% of the time they take. For $63k a year, I literally do work about 1-2 hours of each work day, and the rest is free time to teach myself new skills and track my stock investments. It's the strangest place I've ever worked.

Low pay, high job-security, pleasurable work (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658672)

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.

Pay? (1)

alexjohns (53323) | more than 10 years ago | (#8658796)

"...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. ;}

Community college IT (2, Insightful)

DuckDuckBOOM! (535473) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Leaving my university position (2, Informative)

Knightfall (558914) | more than 10 years ago | (#8659077)

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.

2. Hours suck. You basically can not take a system down anytime there MIGHT be a class or students in the labs. For us that means that during the week reboots/service packs/anything minor has to been done remotely at 3:00AM. That's the only time we have gotten approved to boot everyone off the systems. Scheduling major upgrades always turns into a Saturday/Sunday/come in at 10:00PM ordeal.

3. Pay is below the industry average in the area. Whatever this position is making in the corporate arena in your area, subtract 20% to get what the university will pay.

4. Benefits - most universities have great benefits. Mine is an EXTREME exception. Most have good health, vision, dental, and education reibursement. A lot of schools let your children go there for free after you have worked there X number of years.

5. Autonomy - most schools let you do your work at your own pace. Unless your boss is a militant ex-marine who's boss is a militant ex-army officer. Not that I'm bitter about that or anything.

Those are just a few of my major findings. It has not been an enjoyable experience for me and I am looking forward to getting back to the corporate world. Oh, and to the guy that mentioned no dress code ... count yourself lucky ... I work in the basement of a 100 year old building and I have to come in dressed in shirt and tie. (For 1 1/2 more weeks anyway)


Extra benefits (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 10 years ago | (#8659093)

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).

Working at a University (2, Interesting)

deanj (519759) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Working at a University (1)

InfiniterX (12749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8667172)

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.

Re:Working at a University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8674863)

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.

Political bigotry goes both ways. It depends on what kind of school and what part of the world it's in. The college I used to work for had a small but assertive cadre of liberals (mostly profs hired back in the 60's-70's, with tenure), but everyone else was a church-going Republican. I got canned for embarassing the college by being openly gay. And the halls of the IT dept where my partner works (a different college in the area) have been decorated with "Bush/Cheney" signs for a couple months now.

Go for it (2, Interesting)

octalgirl (580949) | more than 10 years ago | (#8659759)

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.

Yeah, what they said (2, Informative)

lfm_the_couch (663351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8659811)

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 anything ahead of time. I have had people ask me, in all innocence, to reserve rooms in, say, the faculty center on four hours' notice on a Friday (when no one teaches and everyone does lunch at the faculty center). I have had people ask me, in all innocence, to proofread and LaTeX typeset a 45-page mechanical engineering treatise "by next week, because it was due last month."

4. Long-term staff (id est, "lifers", people who are not just "working here while getting an advanced degree in something else" like I am) can be the most political, gossipy, backstabbing people I have ever encountered.

5. Union rules are so strict that most people can't just change jobs or start doing new duties without six reams of filled-out forms being vetted by the union. You also usually can't be slotted into a new job that has opened up in your department, rather, an entire hiring process, however illusory (i.e., they interview ten people and hire you anyway) must be undertaken.

6. Similarly, accountng rules are a bitch. Never mind that some people find ways to embezzle tens of thousands of dollars once in a while. You had better be able to explain to Accounts Payable why you're reimbursing a visitor from fucking Washington DC fifty cents for a can of Coke---food and drink are not authorized on that grant account, buster!

That said ....

7. It is God damned impossible to be fired. You basically have to rape a small child in front of the Dean in order to get fired around here. Simple bone laziness, egregious stupidity or generally being a complete jerk won't do it.

8. In the engineering departments, at least, you can dress any way you please. No dress code. Jeans day every day, baby. In other depts., it may not be so.

Re:Yeah, what they said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8674892)

You basically have to rape a small child in front of the Dean in order to get fired around here.

The spooky thing is that this is not all the far removed from how my predecessor in this job got fired.

Go for it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8660276)

Corporations are doing more with less all the time, what's going to be left work-wise? But universities have become cult-like and are not getting smaller. It's the best place to be.

I've just done this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8662074)

My first job after my degree was at my home town's university. After a year and a bit, I left to find my fortune in the private sector. After bailing out of my first new employer because they were going bankrupt and paying late, striking it rich with share options (then losing most of it in the crash) at the next, taking voluntary redundancy, then trying my hand at being a freelancer, I find myself coming full circle; back working at the same university, in the same team, for the same boss (but with much better conditions!)

I work for a central computing service and have a good deal of responsibility for PC security (Linux PCs are included in this, and UNIX-based solutions may well be necessary to protect Windows PCs, so it's not as bad as it sounds!)

Since I was last there, the university seems to have had a massive epiphany with respect to FOSS, so my proposals are now viewed as safe, rather than scarily radical, which is a good start in the job satisfaction stakes. My pay is slightly more than my last full-time private sector job - probably by enough to cover inflation in the intervening years.

The motivators for me in rejoining the University staff were: relative job security, good pension (generously contributed to by the university, and one of the few remaining final salary schemes), reasonable pay, more focus on "doing things right" and "doing things with more time, rather than more money" (which is a good thing if you're into FOSS-based solutions) rather than "doing things in x days", holiday (I get about 40 days per year, all in), and working with a pretty keen and knowledgable bunch of colleagues. So far, I haven't been disappointed on any of those points.

My employer is also amenable in principle to employees taking unpaid leave to perform external consultancy work, so if I get a particularly slack spot or stuck in a rut, I can consider that an option, too.

I consider myself very lucky to be back.

try to take some classes (1)

1iar_parad0x (676662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8663313)

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 school. I used to work for my school's IT department and I have friends who still work in academia (staff and professors). Many of them will even admit to being lazy. So, you've got that stigma should you decide to return to the workforce. Degrees help combat this. If you're earning a degree while you are on staff, it isn't viewed the same.

It varies (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8674689)

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 rules and restrictions. Not at all what I expected from my first time in academia.

The pattern here (from this sample size of 4) seems to be that the size and "culture" of the place matter more than the category. The first college was fairly small (and small-town) and the second business was quite small, to the point that I got to do lots of different things on a day to day basis, and I had some real control over my own job and the tech I used. The first business and the second college are (at least by my standards) huge places where you could never get to know everyone* by name, which means that bureaucracy and politics have to step in to manage relationships rather than personal trust and respect.

Size and such being equal, I do think working for academia beats working for business. It may not be pervasive, but there's a respect for thought and exploration in colleges that businesses don't have much use for. And the intangible of knowing that you're helping to educate people (rather than helping to sell insurance or make kitchen appliances) is nice as well. Just don't expect it to be paradise only because it's an ivory tower.

* I'm not even counting students... one thing you may be surprised by is just how little student contact a typical non-faculty college employee has. I can go days without even speaking to a student here, which is disappointing. (At least in my first college job I had a window overlooking one of the main walkways, so I at least got to enjoy the scenery.) So it's really not much different from being a commuter student in that respect.

Well.... (1)

thempstead (30898) | more than 10 years ago | (#8679684)

...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 (1)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 10 years ago | (#8680772)

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 here, but medical doctors, especially those with doctorates too, are next in line to god. Flexibility kicks butt. Work hour boundaries are fuzzy at best and barring the occassional week I am on call, work stays at work. Purchasing stuff is very budget cycle dependent but with proper justification I can usually get what I need. A bonus is that researchers are always writing grants and most of the work they do tpyically requires some hardware investment or augmentation. I have an office with a lockable door. No windows but I have an office. I never had one at Sprint so my work quarters are cool. My parking is free, although offsite. The hospital has regular shuttle bus service that runs every 10 or 15 minutes. I can occassionally park in the onsight garage as well. Benefits are better than most. I earn a month of PTO and about the same in sick days; both can carry over. No holidays though - the downside of a hospital, but the upside is that say I don't celebrate normal christian holidays, then I can use PTO for the ones I do want off. A wash either way. Education/tuition reimbursment, while not as good as a university, is still pretty good and even required somewhat. Okay, that's my experience. I wouldn't go back to profit driven america unless I had to. And in that case, I'd seriously consider changing careers. Now my wife on the other hand, she teaches at a college. Her experience, in summary is, enjoys what she does, is totally underappreciated by tenured staff, and you have to take the good students with the relatively abundant bad students. FWIW, she's heading back to grad school so she's leaving that job because the negatives outweighed the positives.

Benefits are very good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8695624)

In case anyone is still reading this thread...

I work at a state-supported higher ed joint (means I'm a state government employee). Benefits tend to be better than corporate world. I get 4 weeks vacation a year, two weeks off at Christmas (well, usually not since there is some sort of project going on then). Medical benefits are very good, and last but not least, stability and retirement opportunities.

I've worked my way up to a $55k salary over my 22 years here. It's laughable in the corporate world, but I never had to worry about being laid off or my employer being bought out, outsourced, etc. In three years I can retire and collect 50% of my pay for doing nothing. Now get this, I'm currently 44 so by 47 I can retire, go get another job, and already be $23K/year ahead of the game. Plus my medical benefits continue during retirement, so I can do higher paying contract or temp work, have a steady base pay from retirement, and earn extra and not have to kill myself.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?