Yes, professors *DO* make more than $100,000/year! Here are some recent salaries …

Throughout the last several years, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate students who participate in PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP have given various reasons for and against planning to choose careers in the academy.  Among reasons against becoming a faculty member, students have told us that “professors don’t make any money” or that “professors are poor.”  Students may be surprised to learn that they are often making assumptions without any data.  We’ve found it interesting that students who really wanted to teach and have a research program were considering going to industry because they thought that they wouldn’t make a decent living as a professor.  To combat this notion, over the years, PROMISE has been giving students opportunities to hear from, and talk with, STEM faculty  from around the country during our PROMISE Summer Success Institutes (SSI).  The students learned that not only were many of the professors making a very comfortable salary, but that many were, by their own admission, “living large!”  Students were not aware that many faculty salaries are based on a 9 month scale, which means that faculty can do something else for 3 months in the summer, including taking advantage of other opportunities to make even more money.  Some faculty choose to supplement incomes through grant funding, teaching a summer class, or working on a project in another university/industry/government lab.  Some faculty choose to take the summer off to travel, spend time with family, or as PROMISE  faculty “Mentor-in-Residence”  put it, “go fishing.”

The following table presents a sample of faculty salaries from a few STEM fields at different ranks:  Assistant Professor (entry-level, immediately following completion of a PhD or postdoctoral appointment), Associate Professor (after tenure, which generally requires 7 years of experience and a strong record of research and publications, teaching, and service), and Full Professor (promotion after having the qualifications of Associate Professor, achieving national/international reputation for scholarship, continued service to the university.) For more information on faculty rankings, see the 2011 “Promotion and Tenure” policies for UMBC as an example:  The numbers in the table showcase a range of salaries based on faculty rank for a few STEM fields. Some of the ranges represent high end or top levels of salaries, and others are medians. The time frame also varies as some numbers represent salary paid out over 9 months, while others represent an annual 12 month salary.

Department Assistant  Associate Full Time frame
Biomedical Engineering $83,508 $98,328 $138,162  9 month (As of 2011)
Electrical and Computer Eng. $84,582 $96,183 $123,568  9 month (As of 2011)
All, Community College $86,501 $95,431 $105,300 12 month (As of 2010)
Chemistry $74,000 $91,000  $142,550 11-12 month (As of 2009)
Physics $76,000 $102,000  $174,000 11-12 month (As of 2006)

NOTES.  Information has been compiled from the following sources:

The Chronicle of Higher Education has additional data that breaks out median, 9 month salaries based on type of institution.  These data are based on information from more than 1,000 colleges and universities  The Chronicle also has an American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Faculty Salary Survey that will allow readers to look at 2010-2011 salary data by state, name of institution, year, or category of institution.  To learn more about categories or classifications of institutions, see the Carnegie Foundation’s classification descriptions:
PROMISE is Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), and as one of the more than 20 AGEPs across the country that serve graduate students, we present students with options related to careers in the academy.  PROMISE is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, therefore the information provided here has primarily focused on STEM fields, although data from the Chronicle and CCBC charts do not specify disciplines.  As we conclude, we return to the initial question: “Can you earn a comfortable living as a professor?” The answer is, “Yes, indeed you can.”
[Note (Added 4/6/12, 12:57 PM): The salaries listed in the table have different time frames; the 5th column on the far right of the table indicates these time periods and specifies whether the salaries are based on a 9 month scale or an annual 12 month scale.  For example, according to the table, an assistant professor in biomedical engineering has a median salary of $83,508 on a 9 month scale.  This corresponds to an annual salary of $111,344. Similarly, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering has a median salary of $96,183 over 9 months, which corresponds to a 12 month salary of $128,244.  The salaries posted for the community college are on a 12 month scale as indicated by the far right column.  In this case, the community college salary posted represents a median for all disciplines.  This grouping of all disciplines differs from the posted salary for the engineers which only includes a median among engineering faculty salaries.  Salaries for faculty STEM fields are higher than those for many other disciplines. Salaries for medical school faculty, not included here and excluded from the AAUP’s survey posted by The Chronicle, are much higher than those in other fields.  Faculty often receive 9 months of salary from their academic departments, and they supplement three additional months of “summer salary” with grants funding or other activities. ]


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Published by Renetta Garrison Tull

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of California Davis. She previously served as Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at The Graduate School at UMBC, and was Professor of the Practice in the College of Engineering & IT. She was Special Assistant to the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Director of Graduate and Professional Pipeline Development for the University System of Maryland (12 institutions). She is the Founding Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) –, and Co-PI for the USM LSAMP. Her research on global diversity in STEM continues, and she is an international speaker, covering nearly all continents, for groups and conferences such as the World Engineering Education Forum, the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, and the Pacific Sciences Congress. Her personal website is: Connect with her on Twitter: @Renetta_Tull;

10 thoughts on “Yes, professors *DO* make more than $100,000/year! Here are some recent salaries …

  1. Hi,
    I’m not sure this article is making as strong a statement for the professoriate as could be made.

    The allure of being a professor is in my opinion the creativity and freedom of direction, the interaction with students, the teaching, and then at the end of that totem pole salary. The total “community impact” you can have in the research world and in your own local area is very appealing.

    However, This article says a ECE PhD will get 84k starting as an assistant professor. On the market today, if you go to industry, starting with a PhD just get you 100-110k *starting*. (Try or…type in “Computer Engineer III or IV”). Of course these number are averages, but this is a stark difference. From my experience on the job market just 1 month ago, I found that 100-110k number to be generally true (this is going through many websites, polling many students in my field, and trying to negotiate myself).

    After 7 years of experience, this article says 96k is what you would expect for an Associate Professor. If that’s true, you still wouldn’t make what you are starting at if you went to industry. And as this article says above, there is a lot of perception/stereotypes about a host of other factors determining promotion at particular institutions.

    I’m not saying this to be a “downer”, but just to point out that this article may make a point that is unintended if things are how I see them.

    Personally, I’m going to industry right away but I’d love to come back to academia at some point in the future. The 5-7 years to finish this PhD is already enough time I consider “underpaid and overworked” considering the postdoctoral work that I would potentially need to do to make my CV “sparkling” enough to command the necessary salary.

    With that said, I still believe a job in academia is highly desirable with the right situation. But I don’t think “Salary” is a particularly good factor to sell for students considering professorship.

    Just my 2 cents!


    1. I taught math for 13 years for CCBC and left at a salary of about $63000. I believe CCBC had the highest or second highest salaries among Maryland community colleges.


  2. Dear Korey,

    Thank you for writing! I’d like to offer a correction in your calculations above. The numbers for the ECE faculty were based on a 9 month scale. Translating this to a 12 month/annual scale, similar to industry, the assistant professor would earn approximately $112,000/year, and the associate professor’s salary would be in the range of $128,000.

    You are absolutely correct regarding the fact that salary alone should not be a reason for choosing an academic career. The article was written primarily to combat the myth that STEM professors are “poor”, with 12 month salaries in the range of $30,000 to $50,000. Many students don’t have any data regarding salaries in their field at the doctoral level. Being very aware of websites such as, for this particular article, we chose to cite sources from media related to the academic disciplines. Certainly, there are opportunities to make more money in industry, depending on the position. However, it has shocked students to learn that there are faculty members who are making well above $175,000, and some who even have salaries in the $300,000 range (full professor, biomedical).

    Please note that this article supplements a series of workshops in Maryland that are related to choosing the professoriate. We’ve found that students are often interested in having faculty careers, but may choose otherwise for a variety of reasons; a misunderstanding about salaries has been a major deterrent.

    Thank you for reading the article, and thank you for your comments.

    Kind regards,
    RG Tull


  3. Great…Thanks for the clarification! It was a snafu on my part to not recognize the “9 month” part on the table.

    I definitely agree “poor” and “STEM faculty” don’t really mix. Anybody making close to 90-100k is in a extremely beneficial situation in the first place.

    Of course, If your primary motivation is to purely financial, then even a 9-month assistant professor salary is still going to have to figure out how to make an extra 30k over 3 months to match the entry-level industry position especially considering the opportunities you mention above that companies have that a university wouldn’t (e.g. bonuses, stock, etc. etc.). However, I’d assume that’s through grants, consulting and other activities that some if not all of that 30k can be bridged. And lots of faculty have great relationships with companies and I’m sure those have some financial windfalls.

    Additionally, The common thought pattern of most of the people who I entered school with was 1st “hey it would be great to be a professor!” and by the end it’s been “have you seen how these entry-level professors work! It’s like grad-school all over again! I need to be paid!”. Now some of that is exasperation from many many (did I say many!) nights of hard work, but I think an important point of producing diverse STEM faculty is continuing to stimulate the pipeline while even in the programs. Recruitment is important as well as retention!

    With all that said, I would still eye a position in academia at some point. I’ll say that in undergrad one of my key thoughts was “Hey, there are literally 0 CS professors who look like me, it would be great to change that!”. One day, I will.

    Thanks for listening and I appreciate your work in this area. It’s important!


    1. Thank you for the discourse Korey. I’m sure that your *many* nights of hard work will pay off. Even though you’re planning to go to industry, please consider opportunities to mentor new generations of computer scientists who are coming behind you. We appreciate your very thoughtful comments and wish you well in your career!


  4. While these data are useful, there’s a question of how they look in comparison to other professions.

    This week, we had a physician speaking to one of our student groups. At one point, she talked about salaries for physicians in the region. The salaries for people at the low of the scale were about double what I make as a tenure professor. And many physician in the region make over a million dollars a year.

    If money was all a person was interested in, he or she would not be a professor.


    1. Dr. Zen! It’s good to hear from you. You are correct. There is an old article from the Journal of the American Medical Association that talked about trends in the salaries of medical faculty in the 1990’s. The article mentioned that clinical faculty were making $150,000 in 1998! I remember meeting a colleague in Pharmacology who had ties to a university’s medical school and was shocked to learn that he was making nearly $400,000.

      As an engineer, I clearly remember turning down 7 B.S. entry-level engineering jobs to go to graduate school and being told (by one company in particular) that I was making a mistake by not becoming an engineering consultant. I may have been able to make 2 or 3 times my Wisconsin faculty salary if I had taken the consultant position, or one of the other jobs, but I didn’t suffer. Some of the engineering students who participated in PROMISE decided to go to industry after finishing the M.S. They are doing well, with salaries of $70,000/year and above. Similarly, students in computer science know that they will probably be able to start an industry job at $90,000 with a PhD and superior programming skills.

      You are right when you imply that money should not be a determining factor for becoming a professor. However, I wrote the article to hopefully encourage great burgeoning researchers to keep their dreams of entering the academy rather than abandoning them because they think that they won’t be able to make a fair wage.

      Rumors persist that professors *only* make $30,000 or $40,000, regardless of the discipline. Many companies are telling STEM students that they should consider industry because they will not make any money if they go to graduate school, and that they will be a “poor” professor. It’s a compelling argument for a person may be the first in a family to go to college, not to mention graduate school, and when they find themselves responsible for supporting their families. As an example, I’ve met many first generation college students who are now in graduate school who, in their 20’s or 30’s, are responsible for housing family members and taking care of educational pursuits of siblings, all while contemplating options for having families of their own.

      I hope that students who want to be professors will pursue their passions in spite of the money. I certainly don’t want anyone to take faculty positions off of the table because of misunderstandings regarding salaries. I know that many students in engineering and computer science think that they should work in industry or research lab and become an adjunct professor, thus, they can have the best of both worlds — research and teaching, and a comfortable lifestyle. They might be surprised to know that the Computing Research Association’s (CRA) Taulbee survey reported 2009-2010 data where *Assistant Professors* (entry-level, tenure-track) at some schools have a median salary of $96,121 over 9 months, which translates to a 12 month salary of $128,161.

      Thanks for reading and writing!

      RG Tull


  5. Dr. Shondelle Frederick from Johns Hopkins sent the following article to me via email this morning from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

    This article was posted on April 8, 2012, a few days after we posted the article above for PROMISE. This article has an interactive tool that allows you to look at salaries from different schools. Please take some time to go through some of this data.


  6. But your data just supports the idea: professors are poor. Who can live today on 120K? That’s, adjusted, what high school teachers made in the 80s.


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