My perfect job!

What every college professor’s life is like

Buzzfeed has this intriguing article where they ask women who have happy, low-stress jobs to explain what they do. It’s titled Best Low Stress, High Paying Jobs for Women. Here’s my favorite.

University professor (medieval history). I choose my schedule, the classes I teach, and my research agenda. I love what I do, so it never feels like work. I spend my summers traveling, relaxing, and enjoying my life. I don’t remember the last time I felt anything close to stress. I make a really, really good income (salary plus grant money, book royalties, and a research stipend). It is literally a dream job. It took 11 years of school (BA, MA, and a PhD), but it was worth all of it.

Oh man, if I could roll back the clock 40+ years and pick a different profession, I think I’d choose that one. “University professor.” No stress, huh? She’s got grant money and published a book and gets to spend her summers relaxing and traveling! Sign me up!

Second best option:

Self-employed housekeeper. I listen to podcasts and music, clean two or three houses a day. Rarely start before 9:30 a.m., rarely work later than 3:45 p.m. I feel productive and being of service every day. I make way more than any office job I’ve worked. Good full-time wages for way less than full-time hours.

Easy work!

Somehow, I don’t think that Buzzfeed dug very deeply into these anecdotes.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    I make a really, really good income (salary plus grant money, book royalties, and a research stipend)

    You can’t just stick that grant money in your pocket, it has to go to research, and needs to be carefully accounted. It might pay your salary during the summer when you are not getting paid for teaching, otherwise it goes towards research supplies, research assistant salaries, etc. For someone specializing in medieval history, it might involve travel for research to places one wished to go to anyway. And book royalties? I leave it to you to imagine how many copies an academic book on medieval history will sell.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Set up a nonprofit business, set the rules so it will provide grants in parameters targeted at your research.
    The alternative is to be Bruce Wayne but he probably must pay more taxes before researching Batcar technology.

  3. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    One time not too long ago, I read an article that said that being a librarian was the easiest, most stress-free job because “all you have to do is read books all day.” To which I said, “Well, SHIT, somebody shoulda told me this 20-odd years ago because I’ve been doing actual WORK this whole time!”

  4. says

    They probably just managed to find people whose mindset fit so perfectly to their respective jobs that they enjoy doing all aspects of them and (almost) never feel any stress because everything they do just feels natural to them. In other words, amazingly lucky people.

    Or, maybe, they have some reason to advertize themselves…?

  5. silvrhalide says

    Re: Medieval history professor
    And exactly how many unpaid and overworked undergrad and graduate assistants does she have who are doing all the real work?
    That is the voice of someone who is either banging the head of the department or someone in upper management. Every humanities professor I know is living in constant dread of budget cuts and they aren’t all that well paid in the first place.

    As for the self-employed housecleaner? Now I know that’s fake, because most of them, especially in the summer, want to start work as early as possible because the temperature is cooler and having a vacuum cleaner blowing hot air on your legs is just miserable. The “listen to podcasts and music” is some dudebro’s fantasy idea of what housecleaning is like, mostly because he’s never done it. Short of wearing expensive noise-canceling headphones, you can’t hear your podcast or music over the noise the vacuum cleaner or steam cleaner makes. And the ones who make any kind of real money are the ones who are out there hustling, not cleaning 2 or 3 houses a day.

  6. DanDare says

    I love working for the CEO. He hardly ever beats me and only requires sexual relations every other week. I make so much money even though is less than all the male employees.

  7. bcw bcw says

    I think the guys/gals who used to make up the fake letters to Penthouse Forum have found new jobs working for Buzzfeed.

  8. rockwhisperer says

    I had the privilege of going back to school for my MS in my late 40s and early 50s (a computer engineer who wants to become a geologist needs a lot of upper division background classes, and I was also caring for a dying parent). I say it was a privilege, though, partly because there wasn’t a huge age gap between myself and most department faculty. And so I got insight into the lives of my professors that a younger person would not, simply because they wouldn’t have had, for lack of a better analogy, the right radar frequencies. (My first job out of undergrad involved designing radar simulators for flight trainers. It sticks with me.)

    With all the garbage my professors dealt with (new stuff added by the administration every year at this public university) I was amazed at how most of them had achieved a great deal of equanimity with their work lives. Not that they didn’t love teaching–the university is teaching-focused rather than research-focused–but damn, they routinely took stuff in stride that, back when I was a lead engineer or an engineering manager, I would have fought against fiercely.

    Professors, you are all my heroes.

  9. Don F says

    I’m retired from a job that I (mostly) liked and paid pretty well, doing VLSI chip design in a lab with about ten other people who I (mostly) got along with pretty well. When the maintenance guy came through we would move out of the way so he could sweep under our desks and when he was done he would announce, “Okay, you can go back to playing with your computers.” He wasn’t too far from being wrong about that.

  10. Samuel Vimes says

    To be fair, PZ, some people like housework. She was self-employed, meaning she can pick and choose her clientele. Eventually, establishing enough regulars who want one to come in every one or two weeks for some light cleaning (“light” being relative: to someone who does that sort of thing for a living it may be light, but to the clients, it may be arduous) can lead to a nice steady income stream.

  11. Oggie: Mathom says

    One of my college professors, a PhD (schooled at Yale, Princeton, NYU, and Oxford), spent two years as a professor at Yale. And he hated it. He worked about 60 hours a week (everything gets dumped on the newbie, even in the Ivy League) and, midway through his second year, his department head asked him why he hadn’t published any original research. Apparently, Dr. Rily was spending way the hell too much time teaching and working with students. So, he said the hell with it and eventually ended up in a very small (my graduating class in 1989 was (not including the horde from the law school) only 287 students) liberal arts college where he could teach, sip sherry, and serve in the State House as a representative. He didn’t make a whole lot of money, but he was definitely happy.

    Of course, he also had the advantage of moderately wealthy parents and no student loans.

  12. Oggie: Mathom says

    Samuel Vimes:

    Wife, for about five years, ran a cleaning business. She worked 30 to 70 hours a week. She and her crew hit four to six houses each day. I did the company taxes along with our personal taxes. Even allowing for mileage on the minivan, between fuel, repairs, insurance, licensing, withholding, and paying the three employees and dealing with their withholding, she netted about $700 a month. A hard way to make an easy living.

  13. birgerjohansson says

    Oggie @ 14
    The most work for the least net profit is probably ” being a farmer”.There are small niches where a farmer can get a better work/profit payoff but mostly it is real hard. And the interest on the loans needed to buy equipment eat up your income.
    And the farmers in Britain are getting wiped out as Brexit increased the cost while ruining the European market.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    An OT but positive news item
    Artemis 1 Is to be launched today
    from launch pad 39 B
    Kennedy Space Center
    at 14.17 pm EDT, 7.17 pm British summer time, 8.17 pm central European summer time.

  15. mooskaya says

    They ALL seem to make ‘six figures’. Seems legit…

    Also, cleaners/housekeepers where I am (Spain) make 10€ an hour privately, or probably half that if employed by an agency. I’d love to know how much that housekeeper actually earns, and what office job she worked in previously that paid less than that.