By popular demand, my probably-not-very-useful further thoughts on the issue of needing two academic positions at the same or neighboring institutions; i.e., the infamous twobodyproblem:
As I have written before, although I have experience with the twobodyproblem, this is an issue about which I do not have a strong opinion in terms of What You Should Do if you are in this situation. Everyone’s situation is different – every couple is different, every career path is different. There’s no one useful set of rules to follow to make sure that the problem is solved for everyone.
In addition, my own experiences may not be very relevant because every institution deals with this situation differently. I think that many institutions are becoming more proactive about finding solutions, including having specific protocols for how the cost of an 'extra' faculty position would be distributed among the department, college, and university (in the case of a large institution that has this type of administrative structure).
To answer some specific questions I have been asked about this topic:
If one of you already has a tenure-track position, should you look for a different position pre-tenure?
Yes. One of the most efficient ways to solve the twobodyproblem is to get an offer from another place. I was told by my first university that there was absolutely no way they could hire my husband.. until I got another offer, at which time a tenure-track position for my husband magically appeared.
Is it better to wait for tenure?
No, don't wait. You are more portable as an Assistant Professor. You may have more opportunities to move at the junior level.
How do you approach other universities? Do you explain your situation?
You can if you want, but you don't have to, even if your situation is widely known in your field. I applied for other tenure-track positions when I already had one, and I did not mention my husband in my application. Most people in my field knew about my situation anyway, and I got asked about it at every interview, as did my husband at his interviews.
When asked, I first made it clear that I was sincerely interested in the position for which I was being interviewed, and then said that I wanted to be considered based on my own merits, despite my twobodyproblem. We didn't try to negotiate two positions until we had offers, and this worked well for us, but again, other scenarios might work just as well.
You are not being dishonest if you don't mention your personal situation when applying for a job.
Do we have a better chance of getting two jobs if we live apart for a while?
I don't know. Again, every situation is so different, I can't answer this question for anyone but myself. If living apart is feasible, albeit difficult, perhaps try it for a while but agree on some sort of plan/time-frame for living in the same place at some specified time in the future, or at least agree to reevaluate the situation at some specific time.
In my case, I am convinced that my husband and I would not have ended up with two tenure-track positions in the same place if we had not lived apart for a few years. It was easier for University #2 to hire us both because we both had good records of being independent scientists with publications, grants, and (in my case) teaching experience, but we were still fairly junior. We were both hired as Assistant Professors, although I got some years of credit for my first job and came up for tenure soon after arriving at University #2.
Some couples end up living apart until they retire. I would not have done this, but fortunately we never had to face the choice of being a professor or living together.
Will I have a better chance of having an academic job and a family if I marry another scientist or should I marry someone in the art history department?
Some people think that the biggest challenge is if both members of the couple are in the same or similar fields. Different-field couples have the advantage of there being a chance that a large university will have two openings that might fit each person’s expertise, but academic couples in different fields also have serious challenges. In the case of same-field couples, university administrative structures can more easily handle the situation; e.g., if a single Dean is responsible for making decisions about faculty lines and budgets, it might be easier to make a second hire than in the case of different-field couples. That is, a science department will likely have no influence whatsoever on the hiring situation in the English department, and vice versa.
I am just musing. I don't think the level of difficulty in getting two academic jobs in the same vs. different fields would or should affect someone's decision about whether to marry a physicist or an art historian, although physicists are cuter.
8 months ago