College Professors Spread the Word Across the Web: ‘We’re Stressed!’

Story idea alert: Since the start of the year, an online battle has been brewing focused on just how stressful it is to be a college or university professor.

A recent article for Forbes by writer Susan Adams landed the opening punch, detailing why professors apparently enjoy the “least stressful job of 2013.”

“University professors have a lot less stress than most of us,” Adams writes. “Unless they teach summer school, they are off between May and September and they enjoy long breaks during the school year, including a month over Christmas and New Year’s and another chunk of time in the spring.  Even when school is in session they don’t spend too many hours in the classroom.  For tenure-track professors, there is some pressure to publish books and articles, but deadlines are few.”

Adams based her views mainly on a study conducted by job search site CareerCast, which similarly ranked professor as the least stressful line of work.  Other more relaxing professional options, at least according to CareerCast: jeweler, seamstress, dietician, hair stylist, librarian, and drill press operator.


The responses to Adams’ assessment and the study’s results have been raucous and continue to boil over across the web.  Professors worldwide are chiming in, explaining in detail, and at times with great indignation, about the constant demands, long hours, and intense pressures associated with their chosen profession.  The bottom-line message they have been attempting to spread to counter the claims of CareerCast and Adams: “We’re stressed!”

As the headline of a Gawker post about the feud notes, “The Forbes-College Professor War Is So On.


As one professor writes in a Chronicle of Higher Education forum, “I’m tenured, I have my dream job and my stress level is through the roof. Don’t get me wrong– I love this position and wouldn’t trade it for the world.  But there are a lot of evenings that I wonder why I’m not working retail so that just *once* I could put my kids in bed and do something other than prep and grade for another several hours.  It would be great to not worry about whether I’ll be bouncing checks again this summer since I get no summer support (unless I write successful grants in this unbelievably difficult funding climate).  If this is low stress I’ll eat my hat.”

It even spawned a Twitter hashtag– #RealForbesProfessors— linked to tweets noting the high level of stress being experienced by various academics.

As professors tweeted, ironically: “Hrm, I’m alone in a new city, underpaid, have no life, can’t remember when I last had a date.  Nope, no stress here.”; “I work.  A lot.  Ask my ‘PhD widow’ wife what life’s been like lately.”; “Completing graduation clearance & answering student emails.  On Saturday night.  Three weeks before the semester starts.”; and “Spending my luxurious winter break working 14-hr nights at telescope, writing a proposal & a talk, running models . . . I mean, vacationing on a secluded mountain in AZ, sleeping all day, and wasting time on the Internet!”



Amid the overwhelming response, even Adams has backtracked a bit.  As she wrote in an amendment posted beneath her original article, “Since writing the above piece I have received more than 150 comments, many of them outraged, from professors who say their jobs are terribly stressful.  While I characterize their lives as full of unrestricted time, few deadlines and frequent, extended breaks, the commenters insist that most professors work upwards of 60 hours a week preparing lectures, correcting papers and doing research for required publications in journals and books.  Most everyone says they never take the summer off, barely get a single day’s break for Christmas or New Year’s and work almost every night into the wee hours.”

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