A staff writer for Forbes magazine really stepped in it on Thursday when she passed along a claim, made by CareerCast, that professors have the least stressful job of the 200 occupations they surveyed. Yes, Susan Adams blithely wrote, "they are off between May and September and they enjoy long breaks during the school year, including a month over Christmas and New Year's and another chunk of time in the spring.1 Even when school is in session they don't spend too many hours in the classroom.2 For tenure-track professors, there is some pressure to publish books and articles, but deadlines are few.3 Working conditions tend to be cozy and civilized and there are minimal travel demands, except perhaps a non-mandatory conference or two.4" The response was a flood of articulate, dare I say professorial comments pointing out that (1) there is no time off whatsoever, (2) teaching requires extensive preparation and grading that multiplies classroom time fourfold, (3) pressure to publish papers and win grant funding is relentless and growing, and (4) are you kidding?
Adams admitted that she could have dug deeper, and she posted an addendum. The least the rest of us can do, especially those who share her notions that being a professor of any rank is a cakewalk, is to study those comments. (I think the winner was, "I graded exams in the hospital the day after giving birth to my son.") If you're on Twitter, the hashtag #RealForbesProfessors will get you your fill of sardonic for the day. ("Forbes said what? Oh who cares. Just woke up from bon-bon induced nap, off for massage. Like always.")
If you're a student, the best things you can do are to be an A student, meet your deadlines, practice good email etiquette, and make the best use of your professors' time.