Public Beats Private Colleges in Professor Pay Increases
Life + Money

Public Beats Private Colleges in Professor Pay Increases

Wanted: full time professors who can teach a trade

iStockPhoto/The Fiscal Times

Private colleges may cost more than public institutions, but they’re not boosting their professors’ pay more than their state counterparts.

A report released from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources shows that public universities in 2013 outpaced private institutions – 2.2 percent to 2 percent – in terms of median base salaries for tenured and tenure-track faculty members. That’s the first time in four years that public schools have come out on top.

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The Knoxville, Tennessee-based group collected data from 178,717 full-time faculty members at 792 U.S. institutions. That also allowed them to rank the highest- and lowest-paid disciplines, and the results very much reflect the job prospects for recent graduates in each field.

Some of the cellar dwellers include theology, history and English. At the top of the spectrum were engineering, legal studies and business management.

Julia Young, a tenure-track professor of history at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said job options in her field are very limited compared with other areas of expertise.

“For a history PhD, there isn’t a competing outside market,” she said, noting that many professors with doctorates in engineering or computer programming can use private-sector job offers as leverage. “There are other opportunities for them, and they also pay better.”

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At best, history majors could become public historians or work for the government. “But none of those industries actually pay much better,” Young said.

The average salary of a tenured engineering professor last year was $123,103, compared with $86,636 for history professors, according to the survey. Across all disciplines, the average salary for a professor last year was $97,784.

In 2012, the Obama administration said its goal is to increase by one million the number of college graduates who receive degrees in science, technology, engineering and math over the next 10 years. The Commerce Department estimated that jobs in those fields will grow 1.7 faster than other occupations by 2018.

Overall, most teachers in higher education saw their salaries increase for a third straight year following back-to-back academic years of stagnant wages, starting in 2009.

The median salary for all groups – tenured, associate and assistant professors – rose at a 2.1 percent annual pace, matching the previous year’s gains. Last year, salaries for professors exceeded the nationwide 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase last year, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The top five average salaries for professors at both public and private institutions are:

  1. Legal studies -- $143,757
  2. Business management -- $123,233
  3. Engineering -- $123,103
  4. Computer and information sciences -- $108,679
  5. Architecture -- $107,143

The bottom five are:

  1. Theology -- $79,612
  2. Visual and performing arts -- $84,349
  3. Parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies -- $85,246
  4. English language and literature -- $85,404
  5. Communication technologies and support services -- $86,128

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