Do you have high aspirations to teach as a professor at college? Professors perform a number of duties including producing scholarly articles, conducting research, and teaching courses to college or university-level students. Moreover, a good professor also loves interacting with people, has excellent verbal and communication skills, and is organized enough to create an engaging course curriculum and syllabus.
Even though many professorial roles have the same underlying requirements, not all of these positions are paid the same. Many professorial salaries vary by subject matter (department) and the reputation of the professor in question.
Here are 25 professorial jobs, ranked by salary. We've included the average entry-level salaries and ranges based on Salary.com data.
Salary Range: $115,475-$227,830
What you’ll do: Law professors teach a wide variety of topics from social justice to real estate law. They require a Juris Doctorate degree from a law school, and must have passed the bar examination. They typically have excellent grades, or have established themselves as an authority in the field through their outstanding and successful legal practice. Success at a big-name law school and undergraduate school can be very helpful in finding a position, since the competition for law professor positions is fierce. Participation in law review and publication in legal journals post-graduation can also be helpful.
Salary Range: $134,275-$210,573
What you’ll do: Medical professors teach courses in the discipline area of medicine. This profession requires a medical degree (MD, MBBS, BMBS, MBChB, MBBCh, DO) and a resume of skills and experience focused on the area of medical instruction. It is preferred for medial professors to have significant experience in their fields with related published works.
Salary Range: $106,008-$169,039
What you’ll do: Dentistry professors provide the tools and hands-on experience to undergraduates hoping to enter the field of dentistry. They are expected to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree, related published works, and considerable experience in the field.
Salary Range: $97,072-$159,844
What you’ll do: Civil engineering professors help students enter the field of civil engineering, where they design and supervise the construction of infrastructure such as roads, buildings, tunnels, airports, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems. A PhD is required for those hoping to enter this profession.
Salary Range: $98,440-$168,619
What you’ll do: Mechanical engineering professors teach practices related to mechanical and thermal devices including tools, engines, and machines. This profession requires a higher education degree like a PhD and teaching skills that combine math, physics, and science. In some classes, mechanical engineering professors may ask their students to work with computer programs or build machines from parts that the college provides.
Salary Range: $91,537-$195,749
What you’ll do: Accounting professors teach accounting skills and theories to undergraduates. Most colleges and universities require a doctoral degree in accounting or a relevant field, and aspiring accounting professors should obtain their CPA licensure for advanced placement. Accounting professors often obtain a director of business administration (DBA) certification and/or a Ph.D. Requirements for employment vary according to the college or hiring institution, however CPA status is not required for a teaching position in this field.
Salary Range: $90,551-$202,691
What you’ll do: Business professors teach finance, accounting, marketing, management, and general topics related to business. They require doctorates in two primary degree designations: PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration). Most university business professors have completed graduate coursework in a specific area of specialization, such as management or international business; have taken related field exams; and have written and defended a dissertation. Full-time university business professors are expected to teach and mentor students; research and publish papers in academic journals; and present their research at academic conferences and related public events.
Salary Range: $91,987-$198,663
What you’ll do: Economics professors typically teach courses like macro or microeconomics. In the majority of university settings, an economics professor is required to hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in economics in order to teach. A PhD often leads to the most and highest-paying job opportunities for economics educators. Economics professors are also expected to have published extensively in the field of economics in recognized journals.
Salary Range: $87,867-$155,612
What you’ll do: Computer science professors teach undergraduates how to write software, make computers do new things, and/or accomplish tasks more efficiently. These positions require a PhD in Computer Science, or a related field like computer engineering or information technology. This role also requires years of teaching experience and recognition in the field as an expert in the computer science community.
Salary Range: $83,268-$146,240
What you’ll do: An architecture professor teaches courses in the discipline area of architecture. This role requires a PhD or terminal degree appropriate to the field. Typically this individual is a leader in the field and has been published.
Salary Range: $77,680-$168,477
What you’ll do: Physics professors typically teach subjects like thermodynamics and quantum, nuclear, and astro physics (and many more). To become a professor of Physics, a PhD and a research degree is must. You will need strong research skills and will be expected to publish your scientific findings on a regular basis.
Salary Range: $79,850-$153,046
What you’ll do: A geoscience professor teaches courses in the discipline area of geology and earth sciences. This role requires a PhD or terminal degree appropriate to the field; many colleges expect these professors to publish their findings in trade journals or textbooks. Some geoscience professors may find their courses based in outdoor field work to study natural geologic phenomenons.
Salary Range: $78,213-$168,789
What you’ll do: Chemistry professors typically cover chemistry subject areas like stereochemistry, carbon groups, biopolymers and macromolecules. You'll need a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) to become a chemistry professor at a college or university. Most chemistry professors are expected to be committed to publishing their work in a scientific journal on an ongoing basis, contributing to the most recent research developments.
Salary Range: $75,863-$150,330
What you’ll do: A PhD in mathematics may include expertise ranging from algebraic topology, hyperbolic geometry, automorphic forms, or game theory. A PhD is required to teach math at a four-year college or university. In addition, candidates must have already made a significant contribution to the field, or hold the potential to do so.
Salary Range: $76,873-$182,566
What you’ll do: Psychology professors either have a focus in research (running their own research lab) or acting as a more traditional professor in an academic/teaching setting. Most colleges and universities prefer to hire PhD graduates to fill out the professorial psychology positions. Once psychology professors are hired, particularly for tenure-track positions, they are expected to run studies and publish on a regular basis.
Salary Range: $75,866-$153,280
What you’ll do: Philosophy professors typically create lectures related to micro and macroeconomics, philosophy, and business ethics, facilitate discussions and develop assessments in metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and ethics. They will also likely be expected to have a PhD and publish their own theories within their area of concentration.
Salary Range: $74,607-$150,292
What you’ll do: History professors are often PhD graduates and typically work in history departments of colleges and universities, although employment may be available with museums or historical societies. They can specialize in the history of an area or time period and often publish articles or books associated with their specialty.
Salary Range: $78,268-$145,829
What you’ll do: Sociology professors teach courses, conduct research, and publish academic papers and books in the discipline area of sociology. They may find themselves doing fieldwork, possibly in remote or economically underdeveloped areas. Most sociology professors have earned a PhD in their area of study and have experience working in the field.
Salary Range: $70,878-$153,510
What you’ll do: Biology professors teach courses in specific areas of specialization from zoology to microbiology. Following graduation, biology PhDs usually complete one or more postdoctoral positions before finding full-time professorial work. University biology professors are expected to teach courses in their area of specialization, contribute to the governance of their department, recruit, train and supervisor graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and carry out original research.
Salary Range: $78,656-$163,075
What you’ll do: Faculties of education usually offer courses related to an entire range of education degrees, including a bachelor of education for students wishing to become teachers, as well as a master of education, MA in teaching, MA in education, and doctorate of education and/or doctorate of philosophy in education degrees. Some college or universities may even have a daycare where students can get hands-on experience working with younger children.
Salary Range: $74,700-$145,082
What you’ll do: A communications professor’s primary duties involve teaching courses in media and public relations, journalism, broadcasting, or organizational communications. Communications professor positions typically require a PhD.
Salary Range: $74,591-$135,891
What you’ll do: Nursing professors teach nursing skills to undergraduate students. They are required to become, at minimum, a registered nurse (RN) with a valid license and several years of work experience before entering the higher education field. Most nurse professors complete a doctorate to teach at most universities. Much of a nurse professor's day is spent in an office or a classroom, preparing for classes, giving lectures, advising students, grading papers, attending faculty meetings, handling administrative work and keeping up with current nursing knowledge.
Salary Range: $71,087-$135,011
What you’ll do: Drama professors are hired to educate students on different acting styles, methods and techniques, from learning how to project their voices across a stage to conveying emotion on cue. In addition to planning lessons and assessing the performance of their classes, drama professors also teach theatre history, assist students in writing their own dramatic pieces, as well as organize and direct performance rehearsals and plays. Typically, drama professors earn at least a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre or Theatre Education.
Salary Range: $71,896-$143,099
What you’ll do: English professors teach courses in the areas of critical theory, linguistics, literature, mythology, and creative writing. English professors require a master's and, in most cases, a doctoral degree. English professors are often expected to continue publishing written works throughout their careers -- writing poetry books, novels, theoretical articles, or whatever relates best to their practice.
Salary Range: $71,641-$137,712
What you’ll do: A music professor teaches courses in the discipline area of music. Most music professors earn PhDs and have made significant contributions to the field (perhaps premiering their own musical pieces, or publishing a music theory study). They also may play an active role in campus life by organizing performances and supporting music-related activities.
*Our salary data is constantly updated. Please use of Salary Wizard for the most recent salary projections.
Why the Pay Differentials?
Based on these numbers, it's clear that the humanities are among the lowest paying professorial roles, particularly when compared to the STEM disciplines. Naturally, these disparities aren't because of the overall quality of individual departments, but are instead a reflection of the job market. There are three key reasons for this. First, oftentimes professorial salaries are a matter of supply and demand at the university. For example, if a professor can teach a particular course that is highly sought after by applicants and students, they may be perceived as more valuable to the institution. Second, many universities face the additional challenge of matching salaries offered by the government or private sector. If a doctor with a medical degree has the potential to earn $300,000, he/she may be less inclined to take a $100,000 pay cut in order to teach at college. Finally, any given department will receive a budget based on the tuition revenue it generates. Oftentimes, that means that professorial salaries correlate with the income their students make after graduation. A music major may not donate as much money to the college after graduation as a law student, simply based on the vast differences between their annual salaries.
More Professorial Perks
Aside from a fairly sizable salary, there are a number of perks that professors receive that pad the professorial compensation package.
1. Tenure: For many decades, tenure was a big perk for professors. But, now, many anticipate this year to be one of the very last generations of tenured faculty. In higher education, tenure is granted after a probationary period of about six years. The professors that achieve tenure have great job security in the form of a permanent job contract. While tenure seems to be bulletproof, professors are not immune from dismissal if they violate a state or Federal law or policy. And, many tenured professors retire around age 70, but there is no age "deadline" to retire.
2. Sabbatical: Some colleges grant professors a year of sabbatical where they can conduct their own research or publish their own findings. The object of these leaves is to enable faculty to conduct research and publish their findings, thereby adding value to the university by proxy. At many schools, sabbatical is not automatic but must be applied for and is granted at the provost's discretion. The professor in question also typically must complete a number of semesters teaching at the college in order to earn their leave. At the end of a sabbatical, the professor will submit a report on their research, which is then use in his/her performance evaluation.
3. Childcare: Many colleges have daycares where education majors work and earn credits. Many professors choose to take advantage of these facilities, dropping their kids off right before work.
4. Housing Benefits: Some colleges have faculty housing programs that allow for faculty and their families to stay at a college-owned residence, either on- or off-campus.
5. Tuition: If a professor's child is interested in attending their parent's college, many colleges provide a tuition waver, or a substantial scholarship for that student.
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