Real Pay Increases for Professors

Salary gains outpace inflation after 2 years of declines, AAUP finds. But survey also notes growing gaps among disciplines.
April 12, 2007

The average full-time faculty salary for 2006-7 climbed 3.8 percent, outpacing the inflation rate of 2.5 percent during 2006 and giving professors a "real" raise, according to a study released today by the American Association of University Professors. The previous two years saw inflation outpace salary increases.

John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy for the association, characterized the increase as largely one in which colleges "are trying to compensate for salaries that have been stagnant."

While the AAUP was delighted to see faculty members able to improve their standard of living, a theme of this year's annual report is the growing levels of inequality within academe. Full professors at top research universities are now earning three times what their counterparts at some less wealthy institutions earn. And as the association has been doing in recent years, the AAUP compared faculty raises (unfavorably) with those received by presidents and football coaches.

In a new emphasis, the AAUP is drawing attention to the growing gaps between professors in different disciplines. While the trend of paying business and law professors more than those who teach literature and philosophy is nothing new, data released by the association indicate a significant growth in the gaps over the last 20 years. And association leaders want to focus more attention.

At the top salary levels, the AAUP found very little turnover. The 10 institutions that paid full professors the most in the previous year are the same for 2006-7, with only the No. 3 and No. 4 slots flopping (Stanford University topping Princeton University). Rockefeller University remained the top university in the country in pay for full professors, with an average of $186,400 -- up 8 percent from a year ago. Stanford had the highest average pay for associate professors, while the California Institute of Technology was tops for the average pay for assistant professors.

Among community colleges, Westchester Community College held on to the top spot, and moved into a six-figure average for full professors -- with the average going to $105,300 from $95,100.

Following are data on the overall averages, analysis and data on the disciplinary gaps, and lists of the institutions paying the highest salaries in various categories -- and the 10 institutions with the lowest salaries for full professors.

Average Salaries of Full-Time Professors, by Rank and Sector, 2006-7

Sector/Rank Average Salary 1-Year % Change
Doctoral -- public    
--Professor $106,495 +4.8%
--Associate professor $74,075 +4.3%
--Assistant professor $63,131 +4.5%
Doctoral -- private, independent    
--Professor $136,689 +4.2%
--Associate professor $87,512 +3.8%
--Assistant professor $75,155 +4.4%
Doctoral -- private, church-related    
--Professor $118,590 +4.3%
--Associate professor $80,617 +4.1%
--Assistant professor $68,145 +4.4%
Master's -- public    
--Professor $81,855 +3.4%
--Associate professor $65,059 +3.5%
--Assistant professor $55,085 +4.0%
Master's -- private, independent    
--Professor $91,197 +3.2%
--Associate professor $69,363 +3.5%
--Assistant professor $56,313 +3.1%
Master's -- private, church-related    
--Professor $82,802 +3.3%
--Associate professor $65,101 +3.4%
--Assistant professor $53,722 +3.6%
Baccalaureate -- public    
--Professor $76,745 +4.3%
--Associate professor $62,716 +4.2%
--Assistant professor $51,854 +4.5%
Baccalaureate -- private, independent    
--Professor $90,353 +3.8%
--Associate professor $66,874 +3.5%
--Assistant professor $54,592 +3.8%
Baccalaureate -- private, church-related    
--Professor $68,908 +3.3%
--Associate professor $56,142 +3.4%
--Assistant professor $47,454 +3.1%
Community colleges -- public, with ranks    
--Professor $68,424 +4.1%
--Associate professor $55,429 +4.1%
--Assistant professor $48,923 +4.7%

To examine the issue of salary gaps by discipline, the association shared data gathered by the Office of Institutional Research at Oklahoma State University about faculty salaries by disciplines. The data collected are largely from members of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, so gaps may be different for other sectors. Curtis said that he believed the gaps would be smaller among liberal arts colleges, which tend not to have the engineering or professional schools responsible for much of the gap. However, the gap has become visible at many community colleges and other sectors not necessarily present in the Oklahoma State figures.

The disciplinary gaps are most evident comparing average salaries for assistant professors. The following table uses English language and literature professors as the base and expresses other disciplines' salaries in comparison. Only other arts and humanities professors earn less, and a few disciplines saw smaller gains -- while business professors are now earning twice as much. (The growth in the gaps is also evident among full professors, but to a lesser degree.)

Assistant Professors' Average Salaries by Discipline, as Percentage of English Assistant Professors' Salaries

Discipline 1985-6 2005-6
Business administration and management 148.5% 201.9%
Communications 109.0% 104.8%
Computer and information sciences 149.8% 159.5%
Economics 124.8% 151.4%
Education 105.3% 104.3%
Engineering 144.0% 144.2%
Fine arts 98.9% 96.4%
Foreign language and literature 101.3% 98.5%
Health professions and related sciences 133.5% 139.4%
Law 164.6% 165.9%
Library science 108.9% 109.1%
Mathematics 113.0% 116.2%
Philosophy 98.7% 97.7%
Physical sciences 116.6% 118.4%
Psychology 103.5% 110.0%
Social sciences 108.2% 118.0%
All 119.8% 125.5%

Curtis of the AAUP said that the aim in providing this data was not to set some kind of acceptable or unacceptable salary gap among disciplines, but to promote a more open and full discussion of the topic. "The nature of higher education is changing, and has changed -- and it's not the product of any one decision, but the outcome of trends that have been ongoing for decades and that are beginning to show some stark inequalities," he said.

The large gaps between some fields "raise questions of whether you can speak of faculty members who have a common perspective and a common situation," he said. Curtis said he worried that those on the high end may be "more concerned about their own careers than the profession." And while AAUP doesn't rule out salary differentials by discipline, Curtis said that the association believes that these policies should be set by the faculty -- something he does not think is always happening.

Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, said she wasn't surprised by the pay gap, but was worried by it. "I'm someone who thinks the value of a society -- and the well-being of its citizenry -- is reflected in the value we collectively place on arts and letters. Language and literature study offers students skills that they need to imagine and build a better world, and I think that's something we should all care about and want to reward and support." She noted that plenty of English majors end up in medicine or law or business, so those who think they can spend less on such departments may be having an impact on the professions they worry about.

"We ought to be rewarding those who help us learn the lessons of Shakespeare's plays just as we reward those who can teach us the lessons of Enron," she said.

And salaries do send messages, Feal said. "The gap in pay worries me because it might discourage those who want to teach language and literature," she said. "I see some evidence that those who love language and literature and aspire to be college professors are questioning the viability of their vocation. Narrowing the pay gap is a way for colleges and universities to say 'we value the humanities.' Market forces are one factor in determining pay, but the value we place on humanistic learning in institutions of higher education should never be subordinated to that factor."

Arthur Kraft, dean of the business school at Chapman University and chair of the board of AACSB International, the association of business schools, said that business schools must pay more, in some cases much more, than other divisions of the academy. "It's simply supply and demand," he said.

Kraft said business schools compete for a limited supply of Ph.D.'s in their fields, see competition from more business programs in the United States and abroad, and also face competition from the business world. "When you have a limited supply, the market price of individuals is going to go up," he said.

In contrast to a humanities faculty search that might attract hundreds of inquiries, Kraft said that a typical business school faculty search at his institution might have 15-20 applications -- and only 10 from viable candidates. The pools are so small that salaries are key, he said.

Still, Kraft said he understood the morale issues faced by humanities professors. Within business schools, he said, there is a separate salary hierarchy, again based on supply and demand. His new accounting and finance professors are paid 20-25 percent more than new professors in economics, organizational behavior and human resources. Marketing is somewhere in the middle. When professors ask about the gaps, Kraft said he cites supply and demand.

Top 10 Lists

So which institutions are on top of the salary list this year? The following is the list for research universities, always the most highly compensated category. Columbia University, which has appeared on the list some years, did not respond to the AAUP this year. A key caveat for all of the top 10 lists is that they do not reflect cost of living. Institutions on the top 10 lists tend to come from expensive areas to live, and the buying power of some salaries at institutions in rural areas may be higher.

Top 10 Private Research Universities in Average Salary for Full Professor

University Average Salary
1. Rockefeller University $186,400
2. Harvard University $177,400
3. Stanford University $164,300
4. Princeton University $163,700
5. University of Chicago $162,500
6. Yale University $157,600
7. University of Pennsylvania $156,500
8. California Institute of Technology $155,800
9. Yeshiva University $150,500
10. New York University $149,500

In the public university category, New Jersey Institute of Technology moved up to the top spot, bumping the University of California at Los Angeles down a notch from last year. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which did not make the top 10 last year, was up to No. 8.

Top 10 Public Research Universities in Average Salary for Full Professor

University Average Salary
1. New Jersey Institute of Technology $134,800
2. University of California at Los Angeles $133,200
3. University of California at Berkeley $131,300
4. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor $130,400
5. University of Maryland at Baltimore $130,300
6. Georgia Institute of Technology $129,500
7. University of Virginia $128,000
8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $126,800
9. Rutgers University at Newark $124,500
10. University of California at San Diego $124,400

For liberal arts colleges, the same institutions make the top 10,  and Wellesley and Pomona Colleges held on to the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, while many of the other colleges moved up or down a notch or two.

Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in Average Salary for Full Professor

College Average Salary
1. Wellesley College $130,800
2. Pomona College $127,200
3. Amherst College $125,900
4. Barnard College $125,500
5. Williams College $122,300
6. Middlebury College $122,000
7. Swarthmore College $121,100
8. Wesleyan University $120,300
9. Harvey Mudd College $119,900
10. Claremont McKenna College $119,500

In the community college category, the list does not reflect some institutions that do not participate in the AAUP survey or that don't rank faculty. All six of the City University of New York's community colleges made the list.

Top 10 Community Colleges in Average Salary for Full Professor

College Average Salary
1. Westchester Community College $105,300
2. Queensborough Community College $97,400
3. Suffolk County Community College $96,800
4. Hostos Community College $95,200
5. Miami University at Hamilton $94,200
6. LaGuardia Community College $94,100
7. Borough of Manhattan Community College $92,600
8. Union County College $92,300
9. Bronx Community College $91,200
10. Kingsborough Community College $90,400

At seven institutions, up from five last year, the average salary for associate professors is in the six figures. The New Jersey Institute of Technology and Harvard join the list this year, with Harvard just making it over the line.

Six-Figure Average Salaries for Associate Professors

Institution Average Salary
1. Stanford University $114,700
2. California Institute of Technology $111,300
3. (tie) Babson College $106,400
3. (tie) University of Pennsylvania $106,400
5. Thomas M. Cooley Law School $102,800
6. New Jersey Institute of Technology $102,700
7. Harvard University $100,000

The top averages for assistant professors are nearing six figures, but not quite there. CalTech held on to the top spot.

Top 10 Institutions in Average Salary for Assistant Professor

Institution Average Salary
1. California Institute of Technology $98,800
2. University of Pennsylvania $91,800
3. Harvard University $91,300
4. Stanford University $91,000
5. Babson College $89,600
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $89,000
7. University of Texas at Dallas $86,300
8. Cornell University (endowed colleges) $85,900
9. University of Chicago $85,300
10. (tie) Northwestern University $83,500
10. (tie) Yeshiva University $83,500

Many of the colleges at the low end of the salary scale are small, religious institutions.

Bottom 10 Institutions in Average Salary for Full Professor

College Average Salary
1. Naropa University $27,500
2. Union College (Ky.) $36,400
3. St. Paul's College (Va.) $38,300
4. Crichton College $39,900
5. Lackawanna College $40,200
6. Walla Walla College $40,600
7. Tabor College $40,700
8. Tennessee Wesleyan College $41,500
9. College of the Southwest $43,100
10. Kentucky Christian University $43,200


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