Negotiating Your Contract: Do's and Don'ts

So you've gotten an offer from an institution to become an adjunct professor: now what? For many professors, the answer is negotiating your contract. Negotiating your contract is critical for ensuring you are compensated fairly, and many professors find great success in negotiating their contracts. Here are some do's and don't's for negotiating your adjunct teaching contract.


Pick a number at the top of your salary range. After doing research about typical compensation of an adjunct professor at your institution, you will likely develop a range of salary that might be appropriate for you. The Chronicle of Higher Education annually posts adjunct salaries for U.S. institutions, which can be a helpful tool for finding a range of salaries. Pick a number at the top of this range, as your negotiating partner will almost certainly negotiate downwards, leaving you somewhere near the middle of this range. If you're having difficulty identifying a range of salaries for professors at your institution (or even type of institution), some experts recommend asking for a 10% increase as a basic rule of thumb.

Pick a precise number. Research indicates that when you pick a precise number for your salary (for example, $44,650 instead of $45,000), your negotiating partner is more likely to think you've done extensive research into the market value of your position. This often results in a negotiating outcome that is closer to the employee's initial offer than the employer's.

Ask questions. You should begin a negotiation by probing your negotiating partner to clarify his/her desires, priorities, and needs. Asking these "diagnostic questions" can significantly improve the outcome of negotiations, since it enables you to offer solutions that will resonate with your employer, making them more likely to get behind your offers.


Get pushy. Always keep the conversation on a positive note. Frame the discussion as a way you and your institution are working together to arrive at an outcome beneficial to both of you. Even if negotiation may be intimidating, emphasize how much you are looking forward to working for your college or university, and use this positivity to explain why you are seeking a higher offer.

Focus on your personal difficulties. Don't focus on how your childcare costs or rent are through the roof, since it's likely your fellow applicants or professors are facing similar difficulties. This will not arouse sympathy in your potential employer. Instead, you can make a better case to your institution when you focus on your performance, abilities, and suitability to the position.

Beat around the bush. Be wary of providing a range of possible salaries or using the word "between" - your institution will hear only the lowest number, making it difficult for you to negotiate. Similarly, be specific about what you want and don't want, and don't negotiate yourself down (both in your head and during the negotiation)!