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College Professor Salaries: How Much Do They Earn?

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Teacher salaries are controversial in some states because educators are expected to shape the minds of young people and help prepare them for the world. The rising cost of earning a degree is also consistently making headlines, but college professor salaries aren’t on most people’s minds. Even so, you might be curious by now—just how much do they earn?

College Professor Salary Data

During a January town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, Vice President Joe Biden cited escalating college professor salary numbers as one reason why college costs keep rising. “They should be good, but they have escalated significantly,” he said, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In reality, full-time faculty salaries went up by an average of 1.8 percent for the 2011-12 academic year. When adjusted for a three percent inflation rate, college professor salaries actually dropped 1.2 percent on average.

Salary data collected annually by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was the basis of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent 2011-12 Faculty Salary Survey. The survey presents average faculty salaries for 1,251 colleges using employment status data of faculty members from the fall of 2010. Employment statuses used are full professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors. The Chronicle’s explanation of data states that each institution reports tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty as having faculty status.

The top ten average salaries for full professors are as follows:

1. Harvard University $198,400

2. Columbia University $197,800

3. University of Chicago $197,800

4. Stanford University $195,400

5. Princeton University $193,800

6. New York University $182,400

7. University of Pennsylvania $181,600

8. Yale University $180,400

9. Duke University $175,300

10. California Institute of Technology $172,800

It is easy to be impressed by the above-listed figures, but faculty salaries are complex. They depend on a variety of factors including education level, years of experience, research and tenure. The college or university itself is also important—community college professors are not earning as much as those at Ivy League institutions.

In fact, CNN Money ranked college professors as third in a list of 2009’s 50 Best Jobs in America despite “low staring pay and a 50% salary gap between faculty at universities and community colleges.” Data taken from PayScale.com estimated median salary of experienced college professors in the U.S. at $70,400 with average top pay of $115,000. Not too bad during a recession, especially when you consider perks like free or reduced tuition for children and family members and lengthy summer and holiday breaks.

You can view The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Average Faculty Salaries here. 2011-12 You can also learn more about colleges or universities on the list with StateUniversity.com’s school profiles.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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