Entering academia for the first time can be an exciting time in your life. Once you have an academic job offer in hand, you'll want to be sure that you have the best possible contract. Although there are several negotiable items in an academic job offer--up to 36 items, according to Carleton College--you'll want to focus on negotiating the most important items to you.
Write down a list of non-negotiable items. These are items that are extremely important to you and will be worth negotiating. Some less important items, such as office size, for example, may not be worth negotiating. The most common items to negotiate include salary, teaching load and start-up expenses.
Research the job salary ranges for peers in your field of study. Make sure to compare professors of similar rank and experience. This data is public and can be accessed at the Chronicle of Higher Education Web site (see Resource 1).
Negotiate salary carefully. Once you've received an offer, you don't want to step on any toes during the negotiation. Furthermore, you have to trust that the University has presented a fair offer in the first place. Therefore, if you want to negotiate a higher salary, make sure you don't ask for an unprecedented amount based on your prior research.
Ask for start-up money or moving expenses if you don't feel comfortable asking for a higher salary. Think about start-up money as part of the salary when negotiating. It is much easier to ask for some start-up money than it is to ask for a higher salary.
Negotiate teaching load, specifically in your first year and in one or two years before your tenure review. You'll want a course reduction to complete your tenure portfolio.
Remain positive and not controlling when negotiating. You don't want to come off as manipulative when negotiating a job offer, as the offer can be easily rescinded at any time.
Be realistic when negotiating any items on your offer. Regardless of whether you are negotiating salary or lab space, it is important that you understand where the University is coming from. You may even want to tactfully ask other professors in the department or peers from graduate school for their opinion.