What You Teach Is What You Earn

Survey finds 2.2 percent median salary increase for tenure-track faculty members at four-year colleges and universities in 2015-16, but wide variation by discipline.

March 28, 2016
 

A new assistant professor of computer science at a public four-year college or university in 2015-16 earns, on average, a little more than $85,000. A full professor of history -- likely with 20-plus more years of teaching experience -- earns on average a little less than $90,000, and will likely have her salary passed by the new computer science professor in a few years.

That sort of disciplinary gap is highlighted each year in the annual faculty salary report by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. This year's was released today.

The study by CUPA-HR found an overall median salary increase across disciplines of 2.2 percent for tenure track or tenured faculty members.

CUPA-HR also releases data on some non-tenure-track faculty members, finding they are paid -- across the board -- less than those on the tenure track. An important caveat to those data is that only non-tenure-track faculty members who work full-time at an institution are counted, and many part-timers are likely paid much less (even if adding up their various commitments at various colleges).

The CUPA-HR study is one of two annual reviews on the state of faculty salaries. A larger study by the American Association of University Professors, which also includes data from community colleges, will be released in April. While that study is not yet available in full, the AAUP projects it will show larger gains than found in the CUPA-HR study -- 3.4 percent (or 2.7 percent adjusted for inflation). While the CUPA-HR study focuses on disciplines, the AAUP study includes institution-by-institution figures. Last year's data from the AAUP, which will be updated next month, may be found here.

What most stands out in the CUPA-HR data are the disciplinary gaps. The best paying fields for full professors (public and private combined) are legal ($145,732), business ($129,904) and engineering ($129,012). Theology is the only field where the average for full professor is less than $80,000 ($79,838).

Business is the only field in the study where new assistant professors average a six-figure salary ($113,924). New assistant professors in key humanities fields earn just over half that total. The average for new assistant professors of English is $57,592 and for history the figure is $58,412.

The large salary gaps for new professors may understate the financial impact of these differences. Generally, those in the higher-paying disciplines are also in fields where time to degree for Ph.D.s is considerably shorter than those in the low-paying fields. So those being paid the least have taken the longest to be able to apply for full-time jobs, and on average have more debt.

A full report with more data than are found below may purchased from CUPA-HR here.

The following table shows averages by discipline and rank, for public and private four-year institutions.

Average Faculty Salaries, 2015-16 by Sector, Discipline and Rank

Discipline/Rank All Public Private
Agriculture      
--Professor 102,328 102,691 96,185
--Associate professor 79,433 79,822 73,870
--Assistant professor 70,273 71,230 59,673
--New assistant professor 72,135 72,581 n/a
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Architecture      
--Professor 108,653 110,056 102,031
--Associate professor 83,470 82,532 87,671
--Assistant professor 67,821 67,626 68,668
--New assistant professor 68,848 68,532 70,680
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Area, ethnic, cultural and gender studies      
--Professor 107,572 107,836 106,779
--Associate professor 79,123 77,193 83,554
--Assistant professor 65,560 64,404 68,755
--New assistant professor 66,895 65,799 69,574
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Biological and biomedical sciences      
--Professor 103,879 109,228 94,492
--Associate professor 76,932 79,559 72,928
--Assistant professor 66,524 69,120 62,571
--New assistant professor 64,922 66,375 61,797
--Instructor 53,923 52,750 55,169
Business      
--Professor 129,904 131,720 127,104
--Associate professor 110,031 113,193 105,215
--Assistant professor 105,958 109,128 101,076
--New assistant professor 113,924 115,807 109,612
--Instructor 72,307 76,446 62,787
Communication and journalism      
--Professor 92,241 93,285 90,946
--Associate professor 70,967 70,994 70,935
--Assistant professor 59,924 59,090 60,993
--New assistant professor 59,842 58,781 61,910
--Instructor 49,087 48,679 50,164
Communication technologies      
--Professor 94,089 95,487 91,572
--Associate professor 74,291 74,081 74,652
--Assistant professor 61,691 61,313 62,182
--New assistant professor 56,864 60,665 n/a
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Computer and information sciences      
--Professor 113,646 115,757 109,876
--Associate professor 92,906 94,362 90,456
--Assistant professor 81,810 82,719 79,753
--New assistant professor 84,821 85,094 83,749
--Instructor 62,225 64,150 58,616
Education      
--Professor 92,764 92,870 92,517
--Associate professor 71,722 71,465 72,263
--Assistant professor 61,253 61,358 61,013
--New assistant professor 60,526 60,592 60,306
--Instructor 53,502 54,191 51,746
Engineering      
--Professor 129,012 129,700 127,138
--Associate professor 97,023 96,720 97,873
--Assistant professor 84,197 83,825 85,194
--New assistant professor 83,419 83,798 82,234
--Instructor 66,499 64,668 n/a
Engineering technologies      
--Professor 97,103 96,276 105,237
--Associate professor 78,894 78,061 91,235
--Assistant professor 69,892 68,873 79,279
--New assistant professor 69,665 68,735 n/a
--Instructor 52,747 52,747 n/a
English      
--Professor 87,735 86,961 88,545
--Associate professor 68,015 67,092 69,008
--Assistant professor 58,242 57,576 58,976
--New assistant professor 57,592 57,113 58,359
--Instructor 46,893 45,712 49,648
Family and consumer sciences      
--Professor 99,572 99,014 102,487
--Associate professor 75,529 75,032 78,491
--Assistant professor 64,453 64,435 64,562
--New assistant professor 64,777 64,769 n/a
--Instructor 48,556 n/a n/a
Foreign languages and literatures      
--Professor 94,698 92,710 96,910
--Associate professor 71,466 69,276 73,867
--Assistant professor 59,838 58,937 60,861
--New assistant professor 59,402 59,113 59,979
--Instructor 52,427 48,592 56,902
Health professions      
--Professor 108,064 110,346 102,914
--Associate professor 83,630 84,221 82,476
--Assistant professor 70,512 70,688 70,181
--New assistant professor 71,605 71,910 70,981
--Instructor 62,751 64,080 60,775
History      
--Professor 89,536 89,663 89,416
--Associate professor 68,593 67,677 69,542
--Assistant professor 59,141 58,425 59,977
--New assistant professor 58,412 57,348 60,625
--Instructor 45,449 43,704 48,066
Homeland security and law enforcement      
--Professor 91,192 93,325 86,426
--Associate professor 72,036 72,125 71,851
--Assistant professor 59,818 60,029 59,378
--New assistant professor 59,742 59,363 60,841
--Instructor 54,395 46,679 60,998
Legal professions and studies      
--Professor 145,732 141,284 150,114
--Associate professor 109,109 104,828 113,742
--Assistant professor 95,606 89,861 104,044
--New assistant professor 90,429 86,429 97,106
--Instructor 83,255 n/a 85,645
Liberal arts/general humanities      
--Professor 91,954 92,577 90,991
--Associate professor 71,290 72,267 69,826
--Assistant professor 59,798 60,360 59,001
--New assistant professor 59,427 60,348 57,278
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Library science      
--Professor 88,531 87,805 91,074
--Associate professor 72,513 71,422 76,375
--Assistant professor 61,037 61,978 58,147
--New assistant professor 63,432 62,104 n/a
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Mathematics and statistics      
--Professor 94,710 95,593 93,558
--Associate professor 72,777 73,392 72,021
--Assistant professor 64,411 65,690 62,681
--New assistant professor 66,062 67,981 62,690
--Instructor 49,571 48,789 51,032
Multi-interdisciplinary studies      
--Professor 105,855 111,614 96,907
--Associate professor 79,387 81,362 77,121
--Assistant professor 65,466 65,423 65,514
--New assistant professor 61,493 61,661 61,289
--Instructor 49,855 n/a n/a
Natural resources      
--Professor 100,200 100,512 98,627
--Associate professor 77,234 76,847 78,718
--Assistant professor 66,397 66,806 64,390
--New assistant professor 70,753 70,924 n/a
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Parks and recreation      
--Professor 89,281 91,035 85,096
--Associate professor 70,977 71,834 69,411
--Assistant professor 60,302 60,984 59,006
--New assistant professor 61,159 62,255 57,752
--Instructor 51,841 53,285 49,273
Philosophy and religious studies      
--Professor 92,741 93,625 92,205
--Associate professor 70,937 70,635 71,136
--Assistant professor 59,808 59,786 59,824
--New assistant professor 60,738 59,813 61,537
--Instructor 53,166 49,580 55,318
Physical sciences      
--Professor 97,733 99,180 95,655
--Associate professor 74,574 75,632 73,135
--Assistant professor 64,685 66,099 62,630
--New assistant professor 66,108 67,593 63,500
--Instructor 54,080 53,524 55,807
Psychology      
--Professor 94,218 96,201 92,174
--Associate professor 71,872 72,262 71,493
--Assistant professor 61,542 61,832 61,219
--New assistant professor 61,695 62,470 61,044
--Instructor 52,924 52,688 53,367
Public administration and social service professions      
--Professor 99,243 100,438 96,289
--Associate professor 75,713 76,216 74,644
--Assistant professor 64,266 65,199 62,166
--New assistant professor 64,477 66,061 59,921
--Instructor 51,079 48,772 n/a
Social sciences      
--Professor 99,219 98,367 100,935
--Associate professor 76,367 75,408 77,702
--Assistant professor 66,446 64,806 66,416
--New assistant professor 67,376 66,686 68,825
--Instructor 51,788 48,925 59,077
Theology and religious vocations      
--Professor 79,838 n/a 79,838
--Associate professor 65,783 n/a 65,757
--Assistant professor 56,590 n/a 56,590
--New assistant professor 57,794 n/a 57,794
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Transportation and material services      
--Professor 92,888 91,288 n/a
--Associate professor 79,678 80,977 n/a
--Assistant professor 66,272 67,541 n/a
--New assistant professor n/a n/a n/a
--Instructor n/a n/a n/a
Visual and performing arts      
--Professor 87,065 85,962 88,422
--Associate professor 68,320 67,057 69,889
--Assistant professor 57,800 56,579 59,424
--New assistant professor 57,367 56,074 60,560
--Instructor 49,569 49,272 49,975

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