U.S. faculty job market tanks

Katie Langin:

The scarcity of academic jobs is a peren- nial problem for U.S. science trainees. But this year, faculty job openings at U.S. insti- tutions are down 70% compared with last year, according to an analysis of job adver- tisements on the Science Careers job board. (Science’s news team operates independently from the job board.) Only 173 U.S.-based jobs were posted from July to September, com- pared with 571 during the same period last year. Non-U.S. job postings dropped by 8%.

“It’s about double-worse than I imag- ined,” says Andrew Spaeth, an industrial chemist and co-creator of a popular online faculty job list for chemists. “I thought we’d see a hit—maybe 30%,” he says, but his site lists roughly 70% fewer openings compared with last year. An ecology and evolution job list reveals a similar drop, with 65% fewer openings this year.

The dismal numbers reflect anxiety about university finances amid the pandemic, says Robert Zemsky, a professor of educa- tion at the University of Pennsylvania who studies university finances. Big public uni- versities, in particular, are a “total mess,” he says. “They are losing enrollment, they are losing revenue, and they don’t know what to do, so they have hiring freezes every- where.” Even universities that are finan- cially stable now are concerned about the future. “Everybody is sitting on their hands and nobody wants to make bets at all right now,” he says.