The role of a professor has far more rewards than the salary. But, one challenging point is the pay structure.
The average professor's salary differs according to various factors. Sometimes, the pay can be rewarding but in most cases, it isn't, let's take a look.
Full college professors in the states make about an average of $140,543. Senior-level professors at private colleges receive the highest annual earnings. Adjunct and other non-tenured faculty staff accumulate much less per year. Even though student costs are on the rise and there's executive compensation, professors' remuneration stays the same.
There are usually three ranks for college professors: assistant, associate, and full. At the beginning of their careers, assistant professors work on a full-time basis and are introductory professors who hold a terminal degree. Associate professors are mid-weight, tenured professors, while full professors are at the senior level.
Besides these ranks, there are adjunct faculty and full-time, non-tenured faculty with titles like lecturer or instructor. After ranks, the type of institution they teach at is also considered. Public, private or independent, or religiously affiliated. Additionally, education level is also important because it may affect the annual salary.
All institution types - $140,543
Public - $132,199
Private/Independent - $175,943
Religiously Affiliated - $121,895
All institution types - $95,828
Public - $93,991
Private/Independent - $108,195
Religiously Affiliated - $88,460
All institution types - $83,362
Public - $82,136
Private/Independent - $93,999
Religiously Affiliated - $75,500
All institution types - $62,926
Public - $57,812
Private/Independent - $77,417
Religiously Affiliated - $67,385
All institution types - $66,669
Public - $63,624
Private/Independent - $80,190
Religiously Affiliated - $63,263
All institution types - $73,625
Public - $68,368
Private/Independent - $73,164
Religiously Affiliated - $99,801
All institution types - $101,810
Public - $97,141
Private/Independent - $124,683
Religiously Affiliated - $92,179
If we're talking about the average salary for a full professor at private, doctoral institutions is the highest of all of them at around $202,199. Instructors at religiously affiliated universities have the lowest average salary at $51,444.
At baccalaureate institutions, a full professor is an average of $99,616 at public universities and $125,420 at private institutions. This 23% difference shows how much more professors get paid in the private sector.
Over the past 10 years, changes in the average college professor salary in the U.S. haven't really made a dent. Between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years, the increase in average professor salaries was only 1% for all professor ranks, including all institution types.
When you take a look at this increase against inflation, you realize there's actually been a decrease in professor salaries. Before the pandemic, salaries had increased in the 3% range every year for the past decade.
This stagnation is surprising when you compare it with the rising tuition fees and increased salaries for top executives in the universities. College tuition has risen by 46%, while the presidential salaries have gone up so much that experts are unable to track by how much.
Most university professors make less than $250,000 per year. However, there are a few professors who earn a $1 million annual salary. This is probably because they have other roles within the university. For example, in 2018, Zev Rosenwaks of Cornell University made $8.22 million as a tenured clinical professor, according to his tax filings. That's eight times the salary of the average professor.
Rosenwaks is one of a few Cornell professors who made millions in 2018. Associate clinical professors Hey-Joo Kang, Pak H. Chung, and Steven Spandorfer, as well as assistant clinical professor Rony Elias, each went home with over $3 million that year.
Besides Cornell, there are other universities that pay top dollars. David N. Silvers who works for Columbia University reportedly earns over $4 million per year as a professor of dermatology and the director of the university's dermatopathology laboratory. William E. Fruhan Jr., professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, was reported to have made $1.19 million in 2018.
It all begins with a bachelor's degree. Besides being the prerequisite for entering grad school, you first have to gain the initial knowledge of your chosen career field before you specialize. You may know what you want from day one but you may also discover it along the way.
If you want to be a professor, you have to choose an area of specialization. Then you start building your expertise. On top of taking on coursework, you should participate in an internship during your undergraduate years as it can help you develop your skills and experience.
Students who aspire to be professors study for many years and must obtain a graduate degree. If you want to work at a community college, you should have a Master's degree, and if you dream of working at four-year colleges and universities should earn a doctorate. But, if there's a lot of job candidates, community colleges may choose those that hold doctoral degrees.
During graduate years, you should participate in an assistantship program at your college. It's a financial aid that gives students the chance to get full or partial tuition remission and a stipend while they get work experience under the tutelage of a professor. You may also receive graduate credit hours that contribute towards your degree.
There are different types of assistantships, depending on your academic department. Some tasks include collecting, documenting, and analyzing research data. Teaching assistantships may participate in grading tests and assignments, meeting with students during office hours, and conducting class lectures. Administrative assistantships mean that you'll be providing academic advising and career counseling to students, performing presentations, and evaluating programs in the department.
In order to qualify for a professor position, you should have post-doctoral experience. Those who've completed their Ph.D. then have the opportunity to conduct original research and create a catalog of studies published in academic journals. Postdoctoral jobs are usually available in colleges and universities and they last two to three years. If you want to teach in the science field, you'll have to have the relevant experience to become a professor in that field.
In 2017, the average professor's salary was $76,000 a year. Those in the bottom 10 percent earned $39,000 and the top 10 percent earned $170,160.
Becoming a college professor takes an incredible amount of time and effort. But once you make it, the rewards are far more than the salary you earn. While not every professor gets to make millions, it's possible to reach that milestone if you add more expertise to your resume.