How Professors Spend Their Time

An oldie but goodie from PhD comics is making the rounds.

From PhD comics:


The strip originally ran in 2008 and is based on a survey from 1999 but the gist is above right and the punch line, naturally, is spot on.

The “How departments expect them to spend their time” breakdown, aside from the joke about spending more time than available, depends substantially by instutiton. While the research component is up everywhere, most schools still expect professors spending most of their time teaching—including non-classroom activities like advising, maintaining office hours, grading, course preparation, and the like—and doing instutitonal service.

My own institution decidedly focuses on student teaching—again, writ large–and has us not only spending large numbers of contact hours in the classroom but doing extremely detailed mini-syllabi for each seminar (mostly a function of one or two professors designing the lesson, which is then taught by all fourteen professors in the department). Additionally, thanks to the vagaries of military IT, we spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to work around the limits of our technology.

FILED UNDER: Education, Humor
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    I got my M.Arch from UCLA.
    One summer I was in the woodshop doing something and I overheard some staff joking that “…it’d be a great job if it wasn’t for the students…”.

  2. John D'Geek says:

    I’m reasonably sure that “Military IT” is an oxymoron …

  3. John Burgess says:

    @John D’Geek: You might want to tell that to the folks at DARPA. I’m sure they’d like to know.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    Especially considering it was a bunch of geeks at DARPA who came up with this thingie called the Internet….

  5. DrDaveT says:

    My academic days were in an engineering department in a state-supported school in the rust belt in the early ’90s. My department’s expectations were reasonably clear: I was supposed to spend half my time on teaching(*), 30% on research, and 20% on service — but nevertheless produce papers and grants as if I were spending 174% on research.

    No, I did not get tenure, which in hindsight has been an enormous blessing. Didn’t seem that way at the time, though.

    (*) In the 5 years I was there, I was required to teach 10 different courses, nearly all of which I either developed myself or radically modified from what I had inherited. Some of that is my own damn fault.

  6. John D'Geek says:

    @John Burgess: @grumpy realist: Evolution of technology in the Military:

    Stage 0: Research. AKA “Really cool stuff!”. This is where DARPANET falls on the ladder.
    Stage 1: Useful
    Stage 2: Regulated
    Stage 3: Bureaucratic
    Stage 4: Politicized
    Stage 5: Prevented from doing practically everything with it in the name of security. AKA “IT”.

    In my job, I literally had to beg to be able to install software that is not on their pre-approved list on my computer. My title:

    Software Engineer.

    That’s right — they didn’t want me to test or use the software I was developing at government expense.

    “IT’s job is to make mine impossible.”