Advice about Working at UC Berkeley

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  • Working for UC Berkeley

    (2 replies)


    I am interviewing for a job at the Tang center. I'd love to hear people experience of working for UCB as staff ( benefits, pension, red tape...) and also experince's of working at Tang. Thanks!

    I've worked at UC Berkeley since 2005. It hasn't been perfect, but overall, I've been very pleased with my experience. I've been particularly happy these last 5 years, working for central IT. Salaries aren't as great as the private industry, but benefits are excellent -- my husband is on my benefits plan because it's so affordable. The red tape is real, however. There are times when the bureaucracy can be frustrating. I would say that if you like the people that you'll be working with, especially the manager you'll be reporting to, then that will make all the difference. Hope this helps!

    Every job at Cal depends on your immediate supervisor. It's a crapshoot. Someone in the next office from you at Tang might have the best work-life ever, and you might be miserable because your boss is a nightmare. Honestly, there is no way to guess how it will go. Overall, the benefits are great and (especially medical) and if you DO find yourself in a bad situation, the place is big enough to move around. Tang is on the lower end of the pay scale, so depending on what your position is, don't expect to make a market-rate salary. 

Parent Reviews

I wanted to add that by law, no one is required to answer that question, so as anonymous mentioned, it's for data collection. So I'm sure many people decline to state because it's not required, regardless of whether they identify as having a disability or not. UC Berkeley tends to be a pretty inclusive employer. I've worked there for awhile now and I've interacted with several employees with disabilities over the years. Hope this helps. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Do you enjoy working at UC Berkeley?

April 2013

I am thinking of applying for a staff (non-academic) position at UC Berkeley in the communications department and I've seen the info online about their generous benefits and insurance package. If you work at Cal, how do you like it? Thanks PR mama

I have found working at Berkeley to be miserable. It is very broken, getting anything done is hard, I often just give up. Nothing works properly and you can wipe yourself out trying to fix any one of them. People either become very selfish and dodge any responsibility, or wipe themselves out trying to help (and get everything dumped on them). When something goes wrong the main interest seems to be to dodge or assign blame, not fix it. It is the most broken organization I have ever worked in. tired

A. Apply for the job. B. Figure out whether you want it later. C. When I worked for UC many years ago, I mostly enjoyed it. It all depends, of course. I did find their benefits to be generous back then. But do remember it is a big beaurocracy. And if you're in PR, find out what kind of freedom you'll have to make decisions, what kind of budget, etc. Who ultimately makes the decisions. If you already like what they do, then you'll probably be ok. If you have better ideas, you may be ok if they comport with what the current adminsitration has in mind. At least you'll likely be working for intelligent people. But do remember it's academia, and there are serious egos to massage. And the annual self-evaluation process often talks about how many papers you produced and how many symposia you hosted, and all that nonsense. That part was a little hard on me. Maybe your position will be different.

I worked at Cal for 3 years in a non-academic position and was a victim of the HUGE layoffs a few years ago. HR then ran classes and seminars for everyone to help them look for new jobs. Many people thought they were set until retirement, having worked there for a decade or more. Many stories emerged of bad management, too much red tape, backstabbing, complacency. Of the people I know who survived the layoffs (in several different areas across the campus), they spoke of all the aforementioned PLUS increased workload, frozen salaries, and a feeling of dread that they might be next. Jaded and Disappointed

As a working mother, I cannot imagine working anywhere else, to be honest. I've worked at another UC as well, and there is just a different mindset in how the workday is accomplished in the UC system than in the corporate world that makes it so much more possible to have a real work-life balance. There are a lot of family friendly policies. Every supervisor I've ever had has been supportive of flexible work schedules. The benefits are fantastic. It's not just that there is a pension program (note that you have to be working at the university for long enough to ''vest'' in the program to get that benefit), but that they have many retirement programs: we have a compulsory defined contribution plan and the option to invest in both a 403b and 457b plan. Plus, the plans are managed well. The expense ratio is the lowest I've ever heard of, and the returns are excellent. Even in the recession, my retirement savings did well. Sure, it's not a perfect place, but it's the perfect place for me to have both a work life and a family life.

I enjoy working at UC Berkeley. I've worked there for 15 years. I'm in kind of an unusual situation though. I do software development for scientific research projects. This means that when the research grant runs out, I better have a new job lined up. I am a regular UC employee, though, with all the benefits, but I am paid out of research grant ''soft money'', not by the state. This has its upside - during state budget cuts, I am not affected.

Working on soft money isn't for everybody, but for me it's the perfect job. I work with smart people who are doing interesting research that they are excited about. My job is to create software that helps them do their research more efficiently, so they appreciate me. It's fun to have a job like that. The best part is that I have almost complete control over how I schedule my work. As long as I deliver what they want, I can do it how, when, and where I choose. This is the perfect situation for a mom. I do most of my work at home, going in to campus for meetings. I traded the higher salary I could make in the corporate world for this flexibility, but it has been very worth it to me. Plus, I have better vacation and medical benefits than many of my hacker friends who make a lot more than me in the tech world.

I'm not sure if I would work for the university if I were not working in research. Having a professor for a boss means I am not part of the administrative hierarchy, so I don't have to deal with the bureaucracy very much at all. Professors tend to have a very low regard for filling out forms, writing memos, going to content-free meetings, and managing employees. This suits me. I do not have the patience to be in a work environment where these kinds of things are important, and on the few occasions when I've found myself in a situation like that at UCB, I've been very unhappy. On the other hand, I've worked with many managers and administrative people at UCB who were smart, kind, and efficient, and who were able to rise above the cruft and get stuff done. So I would say that how happy you are really depends on who you are working for (and who they are working for.)

I am actually very proud to be part of such a renowned university where so many brilliant people teach and do research. I also love walking across the beautiful campus especially this time of year! local mom

I didn't see the original question, but thought I would throw my experience working at UC Berkeley into the discussion. I worked at UCB several years ago as a writer editor--I won't say which department. I came from a fast paced industry and had a lot of energy. Granted I was young and eager to take on projects, but in pretty short order I got taken advantage of by co-workers and my manager. I found myself miserably overworked in less than a year. Getting a raise to an accurate pay grade was virtually impossible. I was working in a ''creative'' job, yet the atmosphere was quasi-governmental. I also had a tyrant of a director, which was the final straw. Be careful.

I have a love-hate relationship with UCB. I love the teaching and research mission, love working with graduate students, my fellow staff, most faculty. But over the years it has become more and more frustrating to work here. Our pay doesn't remotely keep up with our expenses, there is a constant whittling away of benefits and I am left feeling extremely insecure about what they might be able to take away once I retire. After 25 years here I can barely afford to retire, but I really can no longer afford to stay. I have been furloughed, have watched people in SOME offices avoid the effects of the furlough by being reclassified the year before, have watched faculty continue in most cases to be paid full salary throughout the furlough, have watched people with business degrees and high salaries start to influence academic decisions to a greater and greater degree, have suffered through an increasing avalanche of blandly positive phrases involving ''excellence'' and ''service culture'' while the university continues to neglect the systems that need fixing. Over the past 20 years more and more duties have been foisted off on academic staff; now they want to take those duties away and turn them over to staff working off campus, but they plan on reducing the remaining staff as well. Work never feels ''done'' and there are staff on campus who work on into the evening without earning a penny more due to the fact that they are considered salaried employees.

Where's the love after this list of unhappy things? Again, the teaching and research, working with people who are passionate about what they do, even after years of research in the same field, watching graduate students come into the department feeling insecure and often leaving with job offers that will allow them to continue working in the field that they prefer.

Would I recommend working here? Yes, if a short term job is your goal. As long as you have somewhere you can move up to and your pay keeps increasing, you might well be happy. Also if you can find a job that is relatively isolated from the business-speak BS. And some departments are quite family friendly, so if you have young children this is a significant bonus. Just think twice before you make working at UCB a lifetime habit. anonstaff

Weighing in a bit late, but here's another thought. I've been at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for 16 years and it's a great place to work. We are on the hills above campus and are UC employees, so we enjoy the same benefits. On the plus side, pay is typically higher at the lab than campus(we get our funds from Washington, not Sacramento) and we get free parking. There's also a free shuttle from BART. The atmosphere is similar to campus in that we are focused on research and people are passionate about what they do. My wife worked on campus for 10 years and when comparing notes, the lab seems a far better environment with less internal politicking and BS, though that could have been her school. What I do know is that in my time here, I have seen many more people make the move from campus up the hill rather than leaving the lab to work at Cal. If you're interested, check out Happy on the Hill