Faculty members seek employment in an environment that offers good fit and work satisfaction. As in other countries, higher education institutions in the USA vary by size, disciplinary focus, and emphasis on research. This study examined faculty satisfaction by institution type (baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, and research) for recent full-time faculty members in 100 US 4-year institutions. Findings showed that, overall, satisfaction was highest for respondents in baccalaureate colleges. Subsequent analyses to examine strength of difference across institutional type confirmed initial differences for some facets of satisfaction, but not for others. Although differences that contributed to satisfaction by type were limited, results showed that faculty perceptions of the institutional environment firmly contribute to their satisfaction. Additional findings as well as policy and program implications are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Although it is debated in the literature, some scholars (e.g., Jackson and Corr 2002; Scarpello and Campbell 1983) assert that a single-item global measure of satisfaction has greater content validity and temporal reliability than a composite measure. For example, Jackson and Corr (2002) found that measures of individual facets of satisfaction did not predict overall satisfaction well; they propose that individuals do not consider each facet and its level of importance as a moderator, but instead use cognitive heuristics to achieve a global measure. Thus, when faculty members are ask to respond to “overall” satisfaction, it seems plausible that faculty members can consider multiple facets and then in a balanced way, respond to a global value.
The item wording If I had it to do all over, I would again choose to work at this institution positions satisfaction as a broad construct, prompting the respondent to consider the variety of roles and responsibilities each faculty member addresses in daily work. Similarly, the second dependent variable also seeks global satisfaction with one’s department, All things considered, your department is a good place to work.
It is possible that a faculty member moved to a different institution in a subsequent year that also administered the COACHE survey, but it is highly unlikely.
Aarrevaara, T., & Dobson, I. (2013). Finland: Satisfaction guaranteed! The tale of two systems. In P. Bentley, H. Coates, I. Dobson, L. Goedegebuure, & L. Meek (Eds.), Job satisfaction around the academic world (pp. 103–124). Dordrecht: Springer.
AAUP (2018). Annual report of the economic status of the profession 2017–18. Retrieved at: https://www.aaup.org/report/annual-report-economic-status-profession-2017-18. Accessed 27 March 2018.
Andreoni, J., & Vesterlund, L. (2001). Which is the fair sex? Gender differences in altruism. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(1), 293–312.
Arshadi, N. (2011). The relationships of perceived organizational support (POS) with organizational commitment, in-role performance, and turnover intention: Mediating role of felt obligation. Journal of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 1103–1108.
Austin, A. E., & Gamson, Z. F. (1983). Academic workplace: New demands, heightened tensions. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Research Report No. 10, Washington, DC: Association for the Study of Higher Education.
Bachman, J. G. (1968). Faculty satisfaction and the dean’s influence: An organizational study of twelve liberal arts colleges. Journal of Applied Psychology, 52(1), 55–61.
Benson, R. T., Mathews, K. R., & Trower, C. A. (2014). The collaborative on academic careers in higher education: Faculty job satisfaction survey, 2011–14 (research version) [data file and codebook]. Cambridge: Harvard University.
Bentley, P., Coates, H., Dobson, I., Geodegebuure, L., & Meek, L. (2013). Introduction: Satisfaction around the world. In P. Bentley, H. Coates, I. Dobson, L. Goedegebuure, & L. Meek (Eds.), Job satisfaction around the academic world. Dordrecht: Springer.
Bexley, E., Arkoudis, S., & James, R. (2013). The motivations, value, and future plans of Australian academics. Higher Education, 65, 385–400.
Birnbaum, R. (1983). Maintaining diversity of higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Bowling, N. A. (2007). Is the job satisfaction-job performance relationship spurious? A meta-analytic examination. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 71, 167–185.
Bretz, R. D., Jr., & Judge, T. A. (1994). Person-organization fit and the theory of work adjustment: Implications for satisfaction, tenure, and career success. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 44(1), 32–54.
Brockner, J., & Adsit, L. (1986). The moderating impact of sex on the equity–satisfaction relationship: A field study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71(4), 585.
Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education. (2010). The experience of tenure-track faculty at research universities: Analysis of COACHE survey results by academic area and gender. Selected Results Report. Cambridge: COACHE, President & Fellows of Harvard College.
Cooper, C. L., & Payne, R. (1978). Stress at work. New York: Wiley and Sons.
Dickens, C. S., & Sagaria, M. D. (1997). Feminist at work: Collaborative relationships among women. Review of Higher Education, 21(1), 79–101.
DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (2000). The iron cage revisited institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. In J. Baum & F. Dobbin (Eds.), Economics Meets Sociology in Strategic Management (pp. 143–166). Bingley, West Yorkshire: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Eagen, K., Stolzenberg, B., Lozano, J., Aragon, M., Suchard, M., & Hurtado, S. (2014). Undergraduate teaching faculty: The 2013–14 HERI Faculty Survey. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute.
Eisenberger, R., Huntington, R., Hutchison, S., & Sowa, D. (1986). Perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71(3), 500–507.
Eisenberger, R., Karagonlar, G., Stinglhamber, F., Neves, P., Becker, T. E., Gonzalez-Morales, M. G., & Steiger-Mueller, M. (2010). Leader-member exchange and affective organizational commitment: The contribution of supervisor’s organizational embodiment. Journal of Applied Psychology.
Galaz-Fontes, J. F. (2002). Job satisfaction of Mexican faculty in a public state university: Institutional reality through the lens of the professoriate. Doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA.
Gormley, D. K. (2003). Factors affecting job satisfaction in nurse faculty: A meta-analysis. Journal of Nursing Education, 42(4), 174–178.
Griffeth, R. W., Hom, P. W., & Gaertner, S. (2000). A meta-analysis of absenteeism and correlates of employee turnover: Update, moderator tests, and research implications for the next millennium. Journal of Management, 26(3), 463–479.
Griffin, K. A., Bennett, J. C., & Harris, J. (2011). Analyzing gender differences in black faculty marginalization through a sequential mixed-methods design. New Directions for Institutional Research, 151, 45–61.
Hackett, R. D., & Guion, R. M. (1985). A re-evaluation of the absenteeism-job satisfaction relationship. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35(3), 340–381.
Hagedorn, L. S. (1996). Wage equity and female faculty job satisfaction: The role of wage differentials in a job satisfaction causal model. Research in Higher Education, 37(5), 569–598.
Hagedorn, L. S. (2000). Conceptualizing faculty job satisfaction: Components, theories and outcomes. New Directions for Institutional Research (Vol. 105). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Hazelkorn, E. (2015). Rankings and the reshaping of higher education. London: Palgrave.
Hermanowicz, J. C. (Ed.). (2011). The American academic profession: Transformation in contemporary higher education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland: World Publishing Co..
Herzberg, R., Mausner, B., Peterson, R. O., & Capwell, D. R. (1957). Job attitudes: Review of research and opinion. Pittsburgh: Psychological Services of Pittsburgh.
Herzberg, R., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd rev ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Höhle, E. A., & Teichler, U. (2013). Determinants of academic job satisfaction in Germany. In P. Bentley, H. Coates, I. Dobson, L. Goedegebuure, & L. Meek (Eds.), Job satisfaction around the academic world. Dordrecht: Springer.
Howell, L. P., Joad, J. P., Callahan, E., Servis, G., & Bonham, A. C. (2009). Generational forecasting in academic medicine: A unique method of planning for success in the next two decades. Academic Medicine, 84, 985–993.
Iaffaldano, S., & Muchinsky, P. (1985). Job satisfaction and job performance. A metaanalysis. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 251–273.
Jackson, C. J., & Corr, P. J. (2002). Global job satisfaction and facet description: The moderating role of facet importance. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 18(1), 1–8.
Judge, T., Piccolo, R., Podsakoff, N., Shaw, J., & Rich, B. (2010). The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77(2), 157–167.
Keith, K., & McWilliams, A. (1995). The wage effects of cumulative job mobility. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 49(1), 121–137.
Kelly, B. T., & McCann, K. I. (2014). Women faculty of color: Stories behind the statistics. The Urban Review, 46(4), 681–702.
Kennerly, S. M. (1989). Leadership behavior and organizational characteristics: Implications for faculty satisfaction. Journal of Nursing Education, 28(5), 198–202.
Kessler, S., Spector, P., & Gavin, M. B. (2014). A critical look at ourselves: Do male and female professors respond the same to environment characteristics? Research in Higher Education, 55, 351–369.
Kuhn, P., & Villeval, M. C. (2013). Are women more attracted to co-operation than men? The Economic Journal, 135, 115–140.
Kulis, S., Sicotte, D., & Collins, S. (2002). More than a pipeline problem: Labor supply constraints and gender stratification across academic science disciplines. Research in Higher Education, 43(6), 657–691.
Kusku, F. (2003). Employee satisfaction in higher education: The case of academic and administrative staff in Turkey. Career Development International, 8(7), 347–356.
Lawrence, J., Celis, S., & Ott, M. (2014). Is the tenure process fair? What faculty think. Journal of Higher Education, 85(2), 155–192.
Lindholm, J. A., & Szelényi, K. (2008). Faculty time stress: Correlates within and across academic disciplines. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 17(1–2), 19–40.
Marginson, S. (2007). Global university rankings: Implications in general and for Australia. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29(2), 131–142.
Mason, M. A., & Goulden, M. (2002). Do babies matter? The effect of family formation on the lifelong careers of academic men and women. Academe, 88(6), 21–27.
Mohrman, K., Gong, Y., & Wang, Y. (2011). Faculty life in China. The NEA 2011 Almanac of higher education. Retrieved at: http://beta.nsea-nv.org/assets/docs/HE/H-Mohrman_28Feb11_p83-100.pdf. Accessed 16 December 2017
Morphew, C. (2009). Conceptualizing change in the institutional diversity of US colleges and universities. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(3), 243–269.
Musselin, C. (2005). European academic labor markets in transition. Higher Education, 49(1/2), 135–154.
National Center for Education Statistics (2013). Digest of education statistics, 2013. Retrieved at: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/. Accessed 29 July 2017
Olsen, D., Maple, S. A., & Stage, F. K. (1995). Women and minority faculty job satisfaction: Professional role, interests, professional satisfactions, and institutional fit. Journal of Higher Education, 1995, 66(3), 267–293.
Opbrisko, R., Dobbs, K., & DiGrazia, J. (2013). Pushing up ivies: Institutional prestige and the academic caste system. In Georgetown public policy review, august 21. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Retrieved at: http://gppreview.com/2013/08/21/pushing-up-ivies-institutional-prestige-and-the-academic-caste-system/. Accessed 2 December 2017
Organ, D. W., & Ryan, K. (1995). A meta-analytic review of attitudinal dispositional predictors of organizational citizenship behavior. Personnel Psychology, 48, 775–803.
Oshagbemi, T. (1997). Job satisfaction profiles of university teachers. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 12(1), 27–39.
Ostroff, C. (1992). The relationship between satisfaction, attitudes, and performance: An organizational level analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology., 77, 963–974.
Pfeffer, J., & Langton, N. (1993). The effect of wage dispersion on satisfaction, productivity, and working collaboratively: Evidence from college and university faculty. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 382–407.
Pollicino, E.A. (1996). Faculty satisfaction with institutional support as a complex concept: Collegiality, workload, autonomy. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY.
Rhoades, L., & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: A review of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 898–712.
Rhoades, L., Eisenberger, R., & Armeli, S. (2001). Affective commitment to the organization: The contribution of perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(5), 825–836.
Rice, R. E., & Austin, A. E. (1988). High faculty morale: What exemplary colleges do right. Change, 20(2), 50–58.
Rice, R. E., & Austin, A. E. (1990). Organizational impacts on faculty morale and motivation to teach. In P. Seldin et al. (Eds.), How administrators can improve teaching: moving from talk to action in higher education (pp. 23–44). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Rice, R. E., Sorcinelli, M. D., & Austin, A. E. (2000). Heeding new voices: Academic careers for a new generation. Forum on Faculty Roles & Rewards, American Association for Higher Education.
Ropers-Huilman, B. (2000). Aren’t you satisfied yet? Women faculty members’ interpretations of their academic work. In L. S. Hagedorn (Ed.), What contributes to job satisfaction among faculty and staff. New directions for institutional research (Vol. 105, pp. 21–32). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Rosser, V. (2004). Faculty members’ intentions to leave: A national study on their worklife and satisfaction. Research in Higher Education, 45(7), 285–309.
Rumbley, L. E., Pacheco, I. F., & Altbach, P. G. (2008). International comparison of academic salaries. Boston: CIHE, Boston College.
Ryan, J. F., Healy, R., & Sullivan, J. (2012). Oh, won’t you stay? Predictors of faculty intent to leave a public research university. Higher Education, 63, 421–437.
Sabharwal, M., & Corley, E. A. (2009). Faculty job satisfaction across gender and discipline. The Social Science Journal, 46539–46556.
Sanchez, J. I., & Brock, P. (1996). Outcomes of perceived discrimination among Hispanic employees: Is diversity management a luxury or a necessity? Academy of Management Journal, 39(3), 704–719.
Scarpello, V., & Campbell, J. P. (1983). Job satisfaction: Are all the parts there? Personnel Psychology, 36, 577–600.
Seifert, T., & Umbach, P. (2008). The effects of faculty demographic characteristics and disciplinary context on dimensions of job satisfaction. Research in Higher Education, 49, 357–381.
Shin, J. C., & Jung, J. (2014). Academics job satisfaction and job stress across countries in the changing academic environments. Higher Education, 67, 603–620.
Shinn, D.H. (2002). Reversing the brain drain in Ethiopia. Paper delivered to the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association, Alexandria, VA.
Smart, J. C. (1991). Gender equity in academic rank and salary. Review of Higher Education, 14(4), 511–526.
Spector, P. E. (1997). Job satisfaction: Application, assessment, causes and consequences. London: Sage.
Ssesanga, K., & Garrett, R. (2005). Job satisfaction of university academics: Perspectives from Uganda. Higher Education, 50(1), 33–56.
Stadtman, V. A. (1980). Academic adaptations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Teichler, U., Arimoto, A., & Cummings, W. (2013). The changing academic profession: Major findings of a comparative survey. Dordrecht: Springer.
Terpstra, D. E., & Honoree, A. L. (2004). Job satisfaction and pay satisfaction levels of university faculty by discipline type and by geographic region. Education, 124(3), 528.
Toutkoushian, R., & Martin Conley, V. (2005). Progress for women in academe, yet inequities persist: Evidence from NSOPF:99. Research in Higher Education, 46(1), 1–28.
Trower, C., & Bleak, J. (2004). The study of new scholars. Gender: Statistical report. The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education. Cambridge: COACHE, President & Fellows of Harvard College.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018). Labor Force Statistics. Retrieved from: https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNU04000000?periods=Annual+Data&periods_option=specific_periods&years_option=all_years. Accessed 2 January 2018
Van Anders, S. M. (2004). Why the academic pipeline leaks: Fewer men than women perceive barriers to becoming professors. Sex Roles, 51(9/10), 511–521.
Ward, M. E., & Sloane, P. J. (2000). Non-pecuniary advantages versus pecuniary disadvantages: Job satisfaction among male and female academics in Scottish universities. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 47(3), 273–303.
Ward, K., & Wolf Wendel, L. (2012). Academic motherhood. Rutgers: Rutgers Univ. Press.
Webber, K.L. (2018). The working environment matters: Faculty member job satisfaction. In Research Report Submitted to TIAA Research Institute. TIAA.org Report found at: https://www.tiaainstitute.org/sites/default/files/presentations/2018-03/Faculty%20Job%20Satisfaction_Webber_rd142_March%202018.pdf
Webber, K. L., & González Canché, M. (2015). Not equal for all: Gender and race differences in salary for doctoral degree recipients. Research in Higher Education, 56(7), 645–672.
Webber, K. L., & Rogers, S. (2018). Gender differences in faculty member job satisfaction: Equity forestalled? Research in Higher Education, 59, 1105-1132. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-018-9494-2.
Wilks, D., & Neto, F. (2013). Workplace well-being, gender and age: Examining the ‘double jeopardy’ effect. Social Indicators Research, 114(3), 875–890.
Witt, L. A., & Nye, L. G. (1992). Gender and the relationship between perceived fairness of pay or promotion and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(6), 910–917.
Wolf-Wendel, L., & Ward, K. (2006). Academic life and motherhood: Variations by institutional type. Higher Education, 52, 487–521.
Xie, L., & Shauman, K. (2003). Women in science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
This study was partially funded from the TIAA Institute. Findings and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent official views of the TIAA Institute or TIAA.
About this article
Cite this article
Webber, K.L. Does the environment matter? Faculty satisfaction at 4-year colleges and universities in the USA. High Educ 78, 323–343 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0345-z
- Faculty satisfaction
- Organizational satisfaction
- Faculty engagement
- US faculty satisfaction