I recently came across this “infographic” – it was featured on the generally interesting website, Sociological Images. It immediately infuriated me:


(pictured: rage)

I have no idea how these data were gathered, thus I have no idea how accurate these representations are; however, I do understand what this infographic is attempting to do…

The infographic is attempting to debunk several commonly held beliefs about scholars and researchers, namely that it’s endless summer in their world and all they do is play around after teaching two (or no) classes per semester. Also, that once people get tenure, they stop doing any work at all.

These things are not true, not at any rank level. Academics do a lot of work. Even on the weekends. But they also do a lot of playing around and have quite a bit of autonomy, even at the crappiest schools. It’s pretty sweet deal if you can swing it.

But consider the classes of academics represented here:

Assistant Professor – your rank once you have a tenure track job at a university

Associate Professor – what you are once you get tenure

Full Professor – what you are after you’ve continued to make progress post-tenure

(Department) Chair – what you do if you want to be the front-facing leader of a department AND you’re supported by the majority of your colleagues. You usually get a teaching break here, but you have to deal with ALL the drama in exchange.

These are all difficult-but-extremely-privleged jobs and everyone who has them 99.9% of the time has an advanced degree, but they are in no way representative of every class of academic working in the university system. In fact, I would maintain that there are other classes of university-affiliated academic jobs that work FAR more hours than an Associate Professor et al could ever imagine, with only a fraction of the pay and none – absolutely none – of the prestige.


Lecturer – generally a full-time professor (at least three classes per semester), with no possibility of tenure. Has an advanced degree, paid less, usually shares an office (this is a big deal).

Adjunct or “part-timer” – person who teaches no more than two courses at a given campus or within a given university system per semester, generally has an advanced degree (MA or Ph.D.) and no office. (a room filled with four to five desks with no space to personalize or store materials does not count as an office)

Adjuncts are paid one fraction of what even Lecturers make, with no benefits and no contract or promise of a job for subsequent semesters. Consequently, adjuncts generally teach multiple courses at 2 – 3 campuses (though I’ve heard up to 5 before) and are constantly on the hustle for the next semester… which takes more hours than you can imagine a human having in their life.

Visiting Professor – similar to a Lecturer, but on a limited contract (generally one academic year)

Sadly, as the university system continues to crumble and as ambitious students fall for the *promise* of a prospective academic life, the adjunct experience is becoming more and more common. And in so many instances, we pay top dollar university tuition simply to have professors with no longevity in an institution teach our classes (vs that *famous* full professor that was on the brochure).

Ironically, most of the time part-timers are far better teachers than their full-time peers – this is at least partially due to the fact that adjuncts have no guarantee their jobs will be around next semester. They thus hustle for good marks from their students, which they hope that can parlay into future class assignments. But what they don’t realize is that student evaluations mean little to nothing.

The graphic intended to showcase professors’ overworked status, but it leaves off the most overworked and exploited class of all – academics working as “part-timers”/adjuncts. This omission speaks volumes about the social class of folks working these jobs within the context of the university system.

I’d like to see this same comparison rendered with “part-timers'” et al hours included. I’d also like to see these numbers relative to everyone’s average income… then maybe we can talk about overwork.

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