How much credit do you get for teaching lab sections?


Higher ed can be monolithic, but we have a lot of idiosyncrasies. One institution-specific practice that can really affect our daily lives is the teaching credit that faculty get for teaching lab sections. A lot of us are wondering how it works at other places.

(You might be thinking, “Faculty teaching lab sections? When does that happen?” If that’s you, please browse this site a bit more, because this is an opportunity to learn more about your colleagues in teaching-focused institutions.)

Some places give as much credit for lab sections as they do for lecture sections. Other places give only a fraction of the credit. Time for a poll! How much credit does your institution give you for teaching labs?

(Note: If you’re trying to understand how to interpret what this means about “lecture section,” or “lab section,” please try to think of this in terms of a lower division introductory course. Which for most places simply has a regular lecture section that meets about 45 hours per semester, and a regular lab section that meets once per week, for roughly the same number of hours.)

(Another note: if base teaching loads for faculty who teach labs are lower than those who don’t, please work this into your calculations.)

If this poll doesn’t make sense but you want to reply, please just explain your lab load situation in the comments.

This poll has limited utility and more institutional context would be helpful. Please feel free to list your institution name and explain your lab section teaching load situation. If you don’t want to out your institution, maybe describe the kind of place and enrollment or endowment/ranking. Also keep in mind that you can leave the boxes blank and post anonymously.

I’m really curious about what we might learn!

25 thoughts on “How much credit do you get for teaching lab sections?

  1. I work in the Cal State system. Across all campuses, lab sections count for 2/3 of a lecture.

    A typical lecture course counts as 3 “weighted teaching units” (WTUs) and typical lab sections are 2 WTUs.

    • Same here (also CSU). Each hour of lecture is 1 WTU. Each 3 hour lab is 2 WTU’s. I’m a lecturer, so 15 WTU’s is full time, but I think most lecturers here do 10-12 WTU’s. A lot of our labs are taught by lecturers.

      • And I just learned Fresno does 1 WTU for a lab! How the systemwide multipliers get implemented on campus is so, um, off?

        • Wow! I can’t believe it isn’t standard across the CSU system!!! That is very interesting intel….

  2. 3 credits for a lecture, 2 for lab. 12.0 = a full semester load. We used to get 3.0 (25%) research release, but that was taken away by admins who don’t have any idea what it takes to run a research program. Yes I have a 4/4 load and am expected to do research. Thanks for coming to my Angry TED Talk.

  3. I put down “as much as for a lecture” but it’s also a little complicated. If you’re doing the prep work and teaching the lab you get 1 credit, same as a course. If it’s a lab with multiple sections, someone else does a lot of the prep work, and you’re pulled in to teach one of them, ~0.5 credit (this has varied a lot in the past, though) Smallish PUI bio dept.

    • Mine is similar, also at a regional PUI. Additional detail is that if you’re doing the prep work and teaching 2 labs you get less credit for the second lab (although still more than if someone else is doing the prep).

  4. SLAC here – lectures are 1 unit, labs are 0.5, but for the students, lecture + lab counts as a single unit, same as a lecture-only course.

    • SLAC also. My load is calculated similarly – lectures count as 1 unit, labs as 0.5. For students, lecture + lab are separate though, usually 3 cr + 1 cr.

  5. In my department (Biology) at the University of Minnesota Duluth, we don’t give credit as implied by this ballot. For introductory freshman Biology, graduate teaching assistants teach all sections, but the faculty member meets with them every week to go over the lab exercise. For higher level courses, you are expected to teach the lab section of your course if there is only one session scheduled. If there is more than one session scheduled, you teach one of them and get teaching assistant(s) for the rest. Teaching assistants typically are assigned 2 or 3 lab sections, depending on the course.

  6. I teach at a large R1 land grant in the Midwest. In my department faculty teach most of the labs. Teaching a 3 credit all lecture (3 hours of lecture/week) class is the same teaching credits as a 3 credit lecture/lab (2 hours of lecture + 3 hours of lab) class. So I said “1/3” in the poll since 1 hour of lecture = 3 hours of lab. If you teach 2 sections of the lab (so go from 5 to 8 contact hours) there is no increase in teaching credits. This might vary across departments. Labs are usually 20-30 students/section. We rarely get more than one TA.

  7. UW Tacoma. We’re on the quarter system. Most tenure track faculty in our school (Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences) teach 6 courses per year. If you teach labs, you teach 4.5 courses per year (with the half being seminars or research courses). It’s not calculated on a one by one basis. For Teaching Professors, it’s 7 per year without labs and 6 per year with labs. No TAs.

  8. University of Louisiana Monroe – For us, they’re equivalent in principle. Our teaching assignments are done by contact hours (12/semester), and 1 contact-hour is 1 contact-hour, whether the course is lecture, lab, or other.

    But that means in practice it’s not exactly equivalent because most of our lower-division lab courses in biology meet for 2 clock hours, so we get credit for 2 contact hours, which is less than a typical lecture, which is 3 contact hours.

    But some labs – for example the Ecology course I teach every other year that’s a single 4 credit-hour course with 3 hrs lecture and a once-weekly 3 hour lab – count for more. In this example, I get credit for 6 contact hours for that one course.

    • “Edited” to add: we are a regional public university on the small side (around 8,500 undergraduate students), teaching-focused but also have active research labs in biology, atmospheric science, geosciences, and chemistry. Our Biology program has two master’s degree tracks: thesis (traditional) and non-thesis (mainly targets pre-professional students in the sense of post-bacc). No biology PhD program.

    • Same at Southeastern…it’s based on contact hours. Must be a University of Louisiana system thing, which hadn’t actually occurred to me prior to your post. Having previously been at an institution where labs one developed/taught barely counted towards faculty load, it’s definitely one of the positives of our positions.

      • Agreed! And yes, I’ve always been curious about the contact hours policy since I hadn’t heard of it before I started here, and I think I heard somewhere that it’s a UL System thing. It’s grown on me. I do appreciate how they recognize that time spent teaching is time spent teaching, regardless of the type of course.

  9. PUI: 1/2 credit towards our work load for labs. No credit for hosting research students ( which most of us do anyway given it’s essential for the development of our students hoping to go graduate or professional school)

  10. We get credit for contact hours but have 2 more contact hours than those who teach courses without labs. So a 3 hour lab is 3 contact hours, the same as a lecture. A 2 hour lab is only 2 contact hours. Our total contact hour requirement is 14 each semester

  11. Teaching credit is based on credit hours, so 3 credits for MWF lectures, and 1 credit for a 3-hour weekly lab. Itʻs actually a big disincentive to propose/teach lab courses because itʻs twice as much work for 1/3rd the credit.

  12. I teach as an adjunct at a community college. An adjunct teaching a 1 credit lab earns 2/3 the amount of an instructor teaching a 3 credit lecture. There are limits to the number of credits adjuncts can teach each semester. A handful of adjunct instructors are able to teach 9 sections of the same 1 credit lab.

  13. Community college in Illinois. We have 1:1 lecture:lab (clock hour) loading but this was a hard-won achievement that took our faculty union several contracts to achieve fully in the 2000s-2010s, lab hours had a fractional multiplier. First challenge was getting our faculty colleagues in non-lab disciplines to agree this was a fight worth undertaking. However, many faculty beyond sciences benefit including faculty teaching studio, clinical, and career-technical courses.

    • *Meant to say before that, lab hours had a factional multiplier, I think it was around 0.6 when I started in 2004.

  14. I’m FT Full Prof (no tenure at my institution). Public community college. Our teaching load for FT science faculty is 3 lectures/3 labs a semester. That is 18 contact hours, but credited at 13.5 credits. My colleagues teaching history, psychology, etc. teach 15 credits/15 contact hours a semester (5, 3-credit courses). I do not get overload pay if I pick up an additional lab (another 3 hrs) but a history faculty who picks up an extra course (18 credits) gets paid for it. If I pick up an extra lecture section, I get overload pay for 1.5 credits. It’s a mess.

  15. I was just thinking a poll like this would also be interesting to find out how different institutions compensate (or not) faculty mentored undergraduate research.

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