How Much Do University Professors Really Make?

How Much Do University Professors Really Make?

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A lot of students say that university professors are overpaid. To confirm or infirm this claim, we have analyzed data of professor salaries from the 50 states of the U.S. Here is the main finding of our analysis:

The average salary of university professors is $101,493 per year. However, some college professors can earn up to $200,000 a year. An in-depth analysis of professors’ salaries indicates that the most critical factors include academic rank, institution, field of expertise, and location.

In this article, we have gathered data on professors’ salaries from multiple universities and colleges. We will break down the salary by the most important factors (location, institution, academic rank, and field of expertise) and analyze the average college professor salary for each category.

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Salaries by Academic Rank

Higher education is complex: many titles and ranks have a significant impact on professor pay. We have determined that academic rank is by far the most important factor.

As shown in the table below, visiting and assistant professors earn less than associate professors. The biggest faculty salaries are earned by endowed and distinguished professors. When retired, emeritus professors still earn a decent living wage.

RankAcademic RankSalary Per HourSalary Per Year
7Teaching Assistant$16$24,000 
6Visiting Professor$33$37,500 
5Assistant Professor$45$77,493
4Associate Professor$46$87,761
3Full Professor$59 $96,820
2Endowed Professor$253,755
1Distinguished Professor$226,270
RetiredProfessor Emeritus$44$46,366

Tenured professors earn significantly more than their peers. The average salary of tenured professors is $113,292, while professors who are on the tenure track earn $82,019 per year. This difference is due to age, experience and recognition by the university.

A bigger salary is not the only benefit that full professors have over associate professors. In fact, full professors got tenured which grants them total academic freedom. To learn more about the differences between each academic rank, I recommend this article about the key differences in professor ranks.

Public Institutions vs. Private Institutions

It is no secret that professors at private institutions earn way more than professors in public institutions.

The average salary of full professors at a private university is $139,620, a notable hike over the average of $110,143 at public colleges. This discrepancy can be explained by the difference in budget between public and private institutions.

For more information, feel free to read this report from the American Association of University Professors.

Salaries by Major

Some fields of study pay better than others!

However, it is difficult to do a breakdown of the salaries for each field of study. This is why we have ranked the salaries of associate professors according to the major they as undergraduate students. Here’s the table of salaries arranged from lowest to highest.

MajorSalary per hourSalary per year

Salaries by States

Another factor to take into account is the state in which the professor teaches. Our findings indicate that there is a significant discrepancy between the different states.

The state in which associate professors earn less is Alabama ($40,659). On the other hand, professors earn the most money in Pennsylvania ($166,518). This difference can be explained by a large number of public institutions in the state of Alabama and the underpay of associate professors in public institutions.

The following table provides salary estimates of associate professors by state.

State (A to K)State (L to N)State (O to Z)
California$175,811Michigan$98,257Rhode Island$103,500
Colorado$99,881Minnesota$100,500South Carolina$93,770
Connecticut$106,229Mississippi$85,500South Dakota$84,040
Idaho$92,700New Hampshire$93,530Virginia$99,580
Illinois$65,721New Jersey$54,003Washington$55,684
Indiana$96,000New Mexico$89,735West Virginia$86,986
Iowa$95,873New York$76,060Wisconsin$65,573
Kansas$95,072North Carolina$56,654Wyoming$69,925
Kentucky$92,400North Dakota$68,970Washington DC$102,817

Why Do College Professors Earn So Much Money?

The pay of professors might seem unjustified knowing that they only spend a few hours per hour teaching graduate and undergraduate courses.

However, college professors take on many responsibilities:

  • Academic research: Research money subsidizes the education of college students and not the other way around. Knowing this, it is no surprise that professors spend most of their time doing academic research such as experiments, document analysis, or critical reviews
  • Teaching: Teaching is one of the most important responsibilities of college professors. Combining work week and weekend, they spend about 40 percent of their time on teaching-related tasks or about 24.5 hours.
  • Administrative duties: These mandatory tasks include service on university committees, attending faculty meetings, undergraduate advising, interviewing job candidates, reading and evaluating graduate applications.

It is not rare for university professors to work up to 70-80 hours a week. In a previous article about U.S. education, I have argued that teachers should get paid more. Most of these arguments are still true for public and private universities: professors have a lot of responsibilities on their shoulders.