Professor Work-Life Balance?: You’ll Never Believe It!

Many people want to understand how long do professors actually work in an average day. This answer is geared towards graduate students or undergraduate students that are thinking of becoming a professor,  and thus the answer will be pretty frank and straightforward. I want to make sure that you have full information before you start your journey as an academic. You should never ask a PhD these questions – so frustrating!

Answering how many hours that professors work in a week is a bit of a tricky question as there are many components to the average workday of a professor. This is based on my own experience, and what other people that I know who are professors at comparable stages of their life. The average number of hours that professors work in a week is anywhere from 35-75 hours per week. Yes, that is a large variance, and you will get different answers by looking at different blog post or studies, and there are many reasons why  there is this variance, and here are some answers to these questions about how many hours professors actually work.

This is part of my r3ciprocity project,  which is kind of like an experiment, to see what happens to my life and others around me if I give back as much as I possibly can. The R3ciprocity Project started out as a side-project, where I (David Maslach) created an App to help others get feedback on their work ( – it is seriously inexpensive and easy to use. You have to try it!), but it is beginning to grow into a real movement. Check out the YouTube channel. I am an Associate Professor of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategy. I’m doing this for three reasons.

First, there were so many people that helped me out to get through graduate school that I decided to pay the favor forward and help you out.  I come from a rural town in Ontario Canada (Dryden) and I didn’t know anybody that had a PhD, let alone anybody that went to graduate school.

Second,  there is a considerable amount of research in the social sciences about the benefits of reciprocity, in being a person that values research, I wanted to see what would happen if I lived by the rules of reciprocity in my own life.

Third, I wanted to create a online platform where people would proofread other people’s work, to both allow researchers to get access to these individuals (in an ethical way), But also to solve my own problem by improving my academic writing with a tool that did not exist.

I provide great detail about NOT hacking your way to become a professor, but to do it properly in this blog post.

By the way, instead of reading this blog post, you can also watch the video here (available after August 2019):

How many hours do professors teach?

Most professors teach anywhere from 3-10 hours per week, depending on the role of the professor. If you are a more research professor with a large lab, or if you work with doctoral students, or primarily do your own research, you are looking at teaching 3 hours per week. However, if you are more teaching faculty at a university, you are going to teach about 15-20 hours per week. You are also likely to teach 3-6 courses per semester.

You can also watch my YouTube video on a professor’s schedule, which might be very helpful for you:

Do professors work full time?

Yes, professors generally work full-time. Our work is spread out among many different activities, and that is why it is difficult to answer how many hours you work for week. For example, you might do research, teach, or do you service activities, and each one is important. Most professors have their favorites at what they like to do, unless they might give you one as work in the other one is not work. For me, I like to do research and write,  but it is difficult for me to do, so I view this aspect of my career as working. It also depends on the overall objective of your career. For example, those activities that don’t advance your career, such as emailing people unless it is related to research, don’t really count towards work as a professor in my eyes.

What are assistant professor work hours?

The amount and time that you work changes as you progress through the career. Also, what you work on changes as you continue to work in the career. Early in your career, assistant professors are going to working on writing papers and researching, however as you become a Full Professor, you are going to be doing more service and out-reach work.

Some people think that you might work less as a full professor than an assistant professor. This might be true for some people, but you have to think about the people that become full professors are there because they enjoy doing research (there is a strong selection effect in this career), unless their schedule is unlikely to change. Indeed, you get tenure and you become a Full Professor because other people believe that you will continue on researching in your area.

Is an assistant professor full time?

Yes, it is full-time, and it simply means that you did not get tenure yet. It does not mean that you are an assistant to the professor, which is sometimes confusing. 🙂 Once you get tenure you become an associate professor.

The main job of an assistant professor is to do research, rather than teach or do service. These other jobs are for when you get tenure.

If you want to read how to write a research paper, or what it takes to write a research journal article, I created a guide to write a journal article here.

How much free time do professors have?

Professors have as much free time as you a lot yourself for.  The best possible way to think about being a professor has to think of being a freelancer or entrepreneur. You build your career as you continue with the profession, in the things you do now have an impact on the things that you get back in 10 years. Thus, if attending Sunday service is particularly important to you, you will make time to attend that service. You build  what you want to do and how you want to do it, just so as long as you continue to do research and interact with other academics.

If you want to stay at the top of the game, you have to make your free time research-oriented. In other words, you try to do tasks that are fun but also help you become more research productive in your free-time. For example, if you have kids or a spouse, and you know you’re not going to have time to spend with them during the week because you are writing a paper, you spend some time with your kids on the weekend or the evening so they will understand when you devote time to your research.

How many days do professors work?

Most professors work 5-7 days a week depending on your work schedule and what you are doing at the time. Don’t get this mistaken that professors work 7 days a week. Most professors tell you that they work 7 days a week, but they don’t necessarily count all of the things that you do that are ‘life activities’ which they perform intermittently. This competitive nature of telling people how much you work generally stresses me out. In other words, telling people how much you work is a bit of a game or demonstration of excellence in academia.

People have different work schedules as academics.  This largely depends on what is occurring in your life, and how you best work. Sometimes you work more, and sometimes you work less depending on what is happening in your life. Some people work well by getting up early in writing for a few hours,  some people spend 7 days a week at the office, other people write in the evening, and others try to perform a nine-to-five schedule. It all just depends on who you are, what commitments you have, and how you best manage your time.

How many hours do professors work on the weekend?

I polled the R3ciprocity YouTube community to get the answer to how many hours do professors and researchers work on the weekend in February, 2021. 109 people responded. I am aware that this audience on YouTube does skew younger career academics, so this is likely to be a bit different between more senior and junior academics. Here are the results:

According to this poll, the average number of hours that professors work on the weekends is 5.9 hours, however the median & mode is around 5 hours. The mode is likely more representative of the true value because there are likely response bias as respondents are likely to over inflate the amount that they work in the career.

Based on face validity, this is probably about right. You need time on the weekends to do your laundry, get groceries, and relax with your family.

How many hours do Professors sleep?

I conducted a poll on the R3ciprocity YouTube community in March, 2021, and we found out that the average PhD, researcher, and professor sleeps about 6.9 hours of sleep per night. However, most (the mode) of these individuals sleep less than 6 hours per night. For me, sleeping less than 6 hours a night leaves me a hot mess. Make sure that you are trying to get as much sleep as possible.

When does the average workday start for a professor?

I conducted a polled on the R3ciprocity YouTube community with the question, “When does your average work start for a researcher, grad student, or professor?” 108 people responded. The modal response was 9 am, but the range is significant, with 16% starting before 6 am and 25% starting later than 10 am. This is reflected in many researchers schedules that go late into the night.

average start time of work for a phd professor

When do researchers stop working at night?

I conducted a poll on the R3ciprocity YouTube community, and asked “when does your average work day finish (n=114) for PhD, professor, or researcher? This distribution is bimodal, where some PhDs (including myself) tend to stop work at about 6 pm, and others work past 8 pm at night. Most PhDs work later than 8 pm. However, the R3ciprocity community does skew younger, and there are fewer older professors in the community. I believe that older professors and researchers my stop working earlier, rather than working past 8 pm.

end of workday for professors and phds

Do these professor work-hours create burnout?

Professors do you get burn out,  but from what I know from burnout research is that burnout is more of a symptom of not feeling like you’re getting traction and not feeling like you are part of a community, rather than the work hours that you keep. This is why it is so incredibly important to ensure that you make time for yourself and to ensure that you have a life.  The amount of traction you get cannot be manipulated very quickly, as it depends on the domain and task environment that you are in as a professor.

However, each and every time that I start feeling burnout or stress is because I start feeling disconnected from The Real World. Doing things like this r3ciprocity project,  hanging out with friends and family, and exercising keeps me going as a professor. As long as I’m participating in real life, I tend not to feel burnout. You should aim to try to stay connected and to keep  track of the progress you’re making.

In summary, I hope I answered as many questions about the schedule of a professor and how many hours you actually work as a professor. I know that this answer is a little bit squishy, but the career is squishy as you yourself are creating what you want to do for the rest of your life.

If want to learn more about what it is like to be a professor or if you are thinking of getting your PhD, you should read these blog posts that I wrote:

  1. How do you actually become a Business Professor?
  2. Excellent tips for writing a PhD applying to a PhD Program that you really need to read.
  3. Here are some pros and cons of getting your Executive Doctorate as opposed to your PhD in Business.
  4. How long does it actually take to get your Doctorate in Business to become a professor?
  5. Did you benefit from this post? Do you know of anyone at all that could use feedback on their writing or editing of their documents? I would be so grateful if you read this post on how to get feedback on your writing using or let others know about the R3ciprocity Project. THANK YOU in advance! You are the bees knees.

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