originally posted Feb 16, 2013
The overall median 9 month salary for all professors was $73,000, placing a slight majority of professors among the top 15% of earners at age 25 or older. [7: US Census Bureau, 2006] Yet, their salaries remain considerably below that of some other comparable professions (even when including summer compensation) such as lawyers (who earned a median of $110,000) and physicians (whose median earnings ranged from $137,000 to $322,000 depending on speciality). [19;20: U.S. Department of Labor, 2007] According to the U.S. Department of Labor,
[Academic year] salaries for full-time faculty averaged $73,207. By rank, the average was $98,974 for professors, $69,911 for associate professors, $58,662 for assistant professors, $42,609 for instructors, and $48,289 for lecturers. Faculty in 4-year institutions earn higher salaries, on average, than do those in 2-year schools. In 2006–07, faculty salaries averaged $84,249 in private independent institutions, $71,362 in public institutions, and $66,118 in religiously affiliated private colleges and universities. [21: U.S. Department of Labor, 2007]
Salaries varied widely by field and rank ranging from $45,927 for an assistant professor in theology to $136,634 for a full professor in “Legal Professions and Studies.” [22: HigherEdJobs.com, 2006] Another study by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources found the average salary for all faculty members, including instructors, to be $66,407, placing half of all faculty members in the top 15.3% of income earners above the age of 25. Median salaries were $54,000 for assistant professors, $64,000 for associate professors and $86,000 for full professors 2005. [23: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, 2005] During the 2005–06 year, salaries for assistant professors ranged from $45,927 in theology to $81,005 in law. For associate professors, salaries ranged from $56,943 in theology to $98,530 in law, while salaries among full professors ranged from $68,214 in theology to $136,634 in law.  During the 2010–11 year, associate professor salaries vary from $59,593 in theology to $93,767 in law.[24: “Average Faculty Salaries by Field and Rank at 4-Year Colleges and Universities, 2010–11”] Full professors at elite institutions commonly enjoy six-figure incomes, such as $123,300 at UCLA or $148,500 at Stanford. [25: 2006] The CSU system, which is the largest system in the U.S. with over 11,000 faculty members, had an average full-time faculty salary of $74,000 in 2007, which had been scheduled to increase to $91,000 by 2011. [26: “CSU Public Affairs Office, 2007] Unfortunately for these faculty, the ensuing crash of the U.S. economy resulted in temporary pay reductions and total salary stagnation at the 2007 level instead, with this same level of pay now forecast to persist through 2015 at least, in spite of ongoing inflation. Professors in teacher education sometimes earn less than they would if they were still elementary classroom teachers. … Adjunct college instructors often make $20,000–$35,000/year, even while teaching at several institutions. [clarification needed] However, adjunct college instructor salaries can range between $40,000 – $100,000/year in states with higher costs of living. Adjunct instructors generally have to teach at several institutions to earn higher salaries.
In 2003, as an adjunct at the University, I made $2000 per class and taught 2. According to The Adjunct Project, that adjunct salary is still about the same for the NO area.
Once I became full-time, my salary was $39,000 in the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 academic years, a 9-month salary paid in 12 months. I taught mostly first-year composition with the occasional creative writing class and World Lit; all of them were writing classes and in the “non-composition” World Lit and creative writing courses, the reading was heavy, near 50-100 pages a week per section, and I had to not only read but prepare and prepare for at least 3 scenarios—everyone read; half the class read; no one read. I had classes 5 days a week and worked most weekends [Saturday and/or Sunday] grading or prepping so I probably put in 60-70 hours a week Fall 2003-Spring 2005. [I didn’t teach summers. For 1 week I’d read and then spend the next month trying to write and by August 1, I stopped writing so I could start prepping for the fall semester. I’d spend about 6 weeks actually writing when I could. Once, a mother at the private school The Girl went to back then said to me she “hated” the parents who sent their kids to camps and classes all summer, and she and her 3 kids lounged around in their pajamas and slept late all summer long. I told her that summer was the only time I could do my own work so yes, The Girl was scheduled for at least half the weeks of the summer break. We never had a conversation again after that.]
For the 2005-2006 academic year, I was to make $39,585. Then Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and NO flooded. I was fired via an email that began “Dear Non Tenure Faculty.” I’d gotten about 6 checks totaling about $9846 before taxes and deductions. When I was rehired for the January 2006-June 2006 academic “year” as a non-tenured instructor, I earned $19,792.44 for 4 classes each semester [we had 2], so for that 2005-2006 academic year, I got about $29,639, about $9000 less than my tenure-track contract.
In 2006-2007 when we made it back to a campus-in-progress, I was again tenure-track and my salary went back to $39,585. The next year, I wanted to quit but took an unpaid sabbatical instead; the first contract had my salary still at $39,585 but the same day contracts were revised and I got a raise to $41,584. Let me repeat—I took an unpaid sabbatical that year. I came back for the 2008-2009 year for $43,642, revised the same day from $41,564. Then I quit. I have no idea what I would’ve been offered for the next academic year, but I could see what was coming down and left before I could be unfairly denied tenure [I had all the publications and university service I needed] because the University was trying to reduce payroll costs almost exclusively from faculty, and particularly tenure-track faculty.
Oh, and during all those years, I made more than Mister did. A good chunk more. I was, of all things, the head bread-“winner.”
When I’d tell people what my job was back then, I always got raised eyebrows and nods of Oh-wow-you-make-a-LOT-of-money! and no one believed that public school teachers made more than I did. The assumption, I guess, was [is?] that all college professors make the kinds of salaries you see at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, UCLA. Most make nowhere near that much; salary depends on your area, and English is traditionally on the lower end of the scale with the hard sciences and business closer to the top of the scale, at least in my experience. And things will not get better:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 17 percent increase in jobs for post-secondary professors in all disciplines between 2010 and 2020, a bit better than average for all professions. However, most opportunities will appear in part-time or non-tenure track jobs and at for-profit schools. At public colleges, hiring will be constrained by tight budgets. Nursing and engineering professors, for example, will fare better than English and humanities teachers.
Salaries will drop even lower but not look like they are because there will be and still are some folks at the top getting paid near or actually 6 figures. The shift to a part-time, at-will pool of instructors will have its negative effects but fits with the “new” “ideas” about education—that instructors/teachers are simply cogs that can be replaced with just about any warm body, and that collective bargaining and contracts and commitments from an employer are the reasons why the US is “behind” the rest of the world in name-that-subject. I have not been able to find the reasoning behind that anywhere, how having a contract makes someone a “worse” teacher than a temporary hire, how de-professionalizing teaching with minimally-trained warm bodies makes education, K-12 or higher education, more “efficient” and therefore “better.”