Chad Evans

Graduate Student  -  Sociology and Statistics  -  University of Pennsylvania

email echad@sas.upenn.edu  -  office 280 McNeil Building -  phone 215.584.6986




STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Examining STEM adjuncts is best accomplished using the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR).  This survey is a probability sample from all individuals receiving a doctorate in a STEM field in the United States.  Sampled individuals were subsequently re-sampled every two or three years, making this a longitudinal instrument.  For the subsequent analysis, I examine only those who were employed in 2013 and whose principal employer was a postsecondary institution.  

We can learn a great deal about STEM adjuncts simply by tabulating their demographic features and family circumstances.  The first thing to point out is that this sample is mostly tenured or tenure-track faculty (60%).  Already, this sample deviates from what other instruments suggest about the non-tenure track population as a whole.  Other instruments have suggested that tenured faculty represent a mere 25% of all faculty.  Clearly, STEM faculty are situated differently within the institution of higher education.

Comparing the Demographic Characteristics of TT and NTT STEM Faculty

The SDR instrument also allows us to understand differences in the job circumstances and experiences of TT and NTT faculty.  In this case, we examine only faculty who claim their principal employer is a postsecondary instition (thereby excluding professers of practice whose main employment is outside of higher educaiton).  One distinction between TT and NTT faculty is the prevalene of full-time status (here, full-time is considered to be 35 hours or more per week).  TT faculty in this sample were almost certainly full-time employees of a single educational insttitions.  NTT faculty also tended to work full-time, but about 20% were working only part-time for their employer.  This stands in contrast to what has been reported for NTT outside of STEM.  In those studies, the majority of faculty only work part-time.

With regard to their particular field of employment, NTT faculty disproportionatly tend to work in the biological, agricultural or life Sciences.  In fact, almost one in three NTT STEM faculty work in the biological and life sciences.  Tenured faculty, by contrast, were often tenured faculty in the social sciences like sociology, economics and political science.

Another important distinction between Tenure/Track and NTT faculty relates to their principal job activities.  When asked what a faculty member most spends his or her time on, NTT faculty tended to report that they were spending most of their working hours on research--not teaching.  It was tenured faculty, instead, who were the teachers.  This does not mean that NTT faculty are not prevalent teachers in higher education: indeed, we know they are important instructors in general.  However, this highlights how different the job experiences are within STEM.  

We also see distinctions with how closely graduate training is related to actual job dudies. TT faculty tend to report that their graduate training is tightly linked to the tasks of their profession.  NTT faculty, by contrast, report that this linkage is more tenuous.  This may relate to the fact that these faculty feel they were trained to take on traditional academic positions, but are working somewhat outside the domain they anticipated.

Both groups, tenured and non-tenured, tend to be quite satisfied with their jobs.  TT, it is true, are more likley to report they are highly satisfied.  But it is noteworthy how few of these faculty express dissatisfaction, especially among NTT faculty who many believe to be frustrated with their job security.  It is also interesting to see that job benefits, like retirement, sick/personal days or health insurance coverage are widespread among both classes of faculty.  With regards to salary, it is claer that TT are earning more.  But it cannot be denied that NTT faculty in the STEM are quite comfortable as well.  The average salary among NTT faculty in this sample was approximately $70,000-a level far above what many would expect.

Differences in the Jobs of TT and NTT STEM Faculty

Differences in the Institutions Employing TT and NTT Faculty in STEM

Using the sample from the SDR, once again, we can evaluate the differences between TT and NTT with respect to their institutions of employment.  Among this group of faculty, we see that NTT faculty are actually more prevalent in Research 1 (R1) universities.  Over half, in fact, work in such institutions.  Tenure/Track faculty, on the other hand, work commonly in non-research institutions.  These are community colleges, theological schools and liberal arts institutions.  Tenure/track faculty, of course, are common in R1 universities as well, but they are clearly distributed more heavily in other kinds of colleges and universites.

Tenure/track faculty are also more common to be found in public institutions, particularly the largest of institions.  X-large was defined as an instutions employing more than 25,000 employees.  Indeed these were extremely large schools.  NTT faculty, no surprsingly, were also prevalent in large schools.  Their numbers were slighly more likely to be found in schools with between 5,000 and 25,000 employees.

By instition type, Tenure/Track faculty were mainstays in 4-year colleges and universities.  This was also the modal employer of NTT faculty, however, NTT faculty were disproportionately more common in medical schools and research institutions.

One of the central distinctions between TT and NTT faculty relates to gender.  Men are largely overrepresented as tenured faculty in the STEM fields.  In fact, about 2/3rds of all tenured faculty are men.  When we look at NTT faculty, on the other hand, the gender ratio is about 1:1.  The auxiliary workforce, it seems, is not disproportionately divided between men and women.

We also find that there are no substantial age differences between these two faculty types.  The mean facuty age is late forties in both cases.  However, some may argue that it is the variance in age that is most important.  NTT faculty, it is commonly believed, are either just beginning their careers (younger) or just finishing it (transition to retirement).  This would suggest a bimodal distribution.  The data do not bear this out.  The standard deviations are comparabout (about 12 years) and these distributions look to be about the same.

Immigrants, importantly, make up sizeable proportions of both groups.  Particularly among NTT faculty, approximately 1/5th of adjuncts immigrated to the United States, living today as a citizen or with a permanant residence visa.

The family composition of these two classes of faculty are similar, but not without some important aspects to point out.  Rates of marriage (or marriage-like relationships) are similar among all facutly, but in both cases well above the typical marriage rate in the general popuations (50%).  4/5 of TT and NTT facutlty have exchanged vows.  Economically, however, we see that the spouses of NTT faculty are more likely to work full-time.  In fact, 2/3 of these spouses hold full-time work.  TT spouses are more likely than NTT spouses to work part-time, in part because the TT spouse earns a higher salary on average.  Closely related to work patterns, these households probably work more extensively outside the home because they are, in general, raising fewer children.  TT and NTT faculty have only one child in the house, on average.

In terms of academic positions, there is more evidence of resaerch in the work-lives of NTT facutly.  Nearly 28% of NTT faculty called themselves research faculty. A slighly larger number called themlselves "teaching faculty," which seems to be in contradiction to earlier findings which found them to spend most of their time researching.  Nonetheless, a sizeable segment of NTT faculty in the STEM disciplines have promenent research responsibilites.  Tenure/track faculty, on the other hand, are clearly STEM teachers.  When asked for their academic position, approximately 85% said that they were "teaching faculty."  Nearly 100% of Tenure/Track faculty held the title of professor.  Only a third of the non-tenure track faculty could make such a claim.