Faculty Mobility

Estimates of faculty attrition are hard to come by. Most available attrition data are on retirements, not on mobility between universities or other nonretirement attrition. There is very little information available on where faculty go who leave academe. In 1999, about 7.7% of full-time faculty left their positions, 2.2% for retirement and 5.5% for a variety of other reasons.69 The few sources of data for this type of analysis are the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Faculty Roster, which collects and reports data on medical college faculty; the American Chemical Society Directory of Graduate Research; and the American Institute of Physics Academic Workforce Survey (Box 3-4).

To better understand faculty turnover and mobility, we used the NSF Survey of Doctoral Recipients (SDR), a longitudinal survey of a sample of people who earned doctorates in the United States. We examined the sample of full-time, untenured but tenure-track science, engineering, and social science faculty in 1995 who were also part of the survey 6 years later, in 2001. We found that men and women faculty exhibit different mobility: more men receive tenure or seek positions outside of academe, and more women move to non-tenure-track positions within academe.

  • A slightly greater percentage of men than women moved from academe to other sectors of employment in 2001 (8.6% of women and 11.1% of men).

  • A greater percentage of women faculty than men were unemployed in 2001 (3.4% of women and 0.8% of men).

  • Men and women faculty had a similar likelihood of being employed at the same type of institution in 1995 and 2001 (68.5% of women and 70.1% of men).

  • Men and women faculty had a similar likelihood of moving to a different type of institution between 1995 and 2001 (18.7% of women and 17.5% of men).

  • Women faculty were significantly more likely than men to change jobs only in the social sciences.

  • Of tenure-track faculty in 1995 who were employed in the same type of institution in 2001, more men than women faculty had received tenure (54.5% of women and 59.2% of men).


Y Zhou and JF Volkwein (2004). Examining the influences on faculty departure intentions: A comparison of tenured versus nontenured faculty at research universities using NSOPF-99. Research in Higher Education 45(2):139-176.

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