55% of University and College Faculty Considering Career Change Due to Pandemic

55% of University and College Faculty Considering Career Change Due to Pandemic

Despite job stability, 35% of tenured faculty contemplated leaving their line of work
A computer science professor

The landscape of learning has transformed dramatically amid the coronavirus pandemic, with many institutions and educators struggling to keep up with the changes.

As a result, 55% of faculty members in higher education have thought about changing their careers or retiring early. A survey conducted by Fidelity Investments and The Chronicle of Higher Education found that this decision was driven in part due to low career satisfaction and the added stress brought on by the pandemic.

In addition to looking at how this crisis has impacted college and university faculty over the past year, the survey prompted faculty members to compare their current state of mind with their mindset in 2019.

Many faculty members feel unsatisfied

Twice as many faculty members reported feeling stressed, angry and fatigued in 2020 compared to the year before. Because of that, 55% of survey respondents — 35% of them being tenured faculty — have had serious thoughts about retiring early or making a career change.

The Fidelity Investments survey also found that the pandemic has had a greater impact on female faculty members compared to their male counterparts:

  • 75% of women faculty members felt stressed in 2020 versus 59% of men who reported the same
  • 82% of female faculty and 70% of male faculty experienced an increase in their workload
  • 74% of female educators experienced a breakdown in their work-life balance compared to 63% of their male colleagues

This supports another study showing that 61% of women experienced setbacks in their career as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, possibly due to reports that women take up more responsibilities at home and with children.

Educators benefit from additional support resources

Responses from the Fidelity survey showed that 53% of faculty members felt that their safety was a priority in their work environment. Another 50% believed that they felt supported by their institution’s efforts to maintain their work and well-being during the pandemic.

A diverse and accomplished workforce is crucial for the success and quality of education at these places of learning. However, in order to retain the educators that these institutions have dedicated substantial resources to acquire, colleges and universities must take up a comprehensive workplace benefits program to support their needs.

This is especially important now, as one study shows that many high school students are considering alternatives to a traditional college education, in part due to the crisis and an aversion to taking on student loan debt.

As the Fidelity survey indicates, higher education institutions will have to reevaluate their current resources and support system if they want to retain their faculty during the pandemic.

Methodology: Findings from this report came from 1,122 online survey responses gathered between Oct. 13-29, 2020. Responses came from faculty at American two- and four-year colleges:

  • 48% of participants were tenured
  • 11% were tenure-track
  • 16% were not tenured
  • 25% were part-time or adjunct