University Professors and their Exorbitant Salaries
Recently I was surprised to read a Hub which claimed that college and university professors receive outrageously high salaries and that this is the primary cause of rising tuition. Of course there are many reasons and causes for rising tuition, just as there are many reasons for rising gas prices, medical costs, grocery prices, insurance co-pays, prescription drug costs, but information about those “costs” and “multiple causes” belongs in another Hub.
The following information (and much more useful and interesting information) can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11, published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and available on their website.
For future reference this publication will be cited as (OOH-BLS) The information in the Handbook is based upon statistical data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, before the recession and economic dislocation which has affected so many Americans.
Post-secondary Teachers - Salary Range
Professors – BA or BS and MA or Ms and/or PhD: Here is what we know about college and university professors. Median annual earnings of all post-secondary teachers in May 2008 were $58,830. The lowest 10% earned less than $28,870, and the highest 10% earned over $121,850. These are annual salaries earned by people who have completed “two to six years of graduate education” beyond their four-year Bachelor’s degree. (OOH-BLS)
Earnings for college faculty vary with their level of education–highest degree earned- MA, MS, and PhD, academic rank and title, length of service, type of institution- two year, four year, private, public, undergraduate, graduate, technical, comprehensive, large or small, geographic area, and disciplinary field [economics, mathematics,sociology, history, etc.]. (OOH-BLS)
In disciplines and fields with high-paying nonacademic alternatives—medicine, law, engineering, business, for example—salaries often substantially exceed the levels common for academic professors. Within the humanities and education, earnings are often considerably lower. (OOH-BLS)
Adjuncts, Education Levels, Salary Levels
It should also be noted that most post-secondary institutions staff 20% to 30% of their courses with part-time professors, “adjuncts.” Adjuncts are paid on a per course basis and receive no benefits package By teaching numerous course sections at two or more locations some adjuncts may make as much as $24,000.00 a year. However, the vast majority of adjuncts earn between ten and fifteen thousand dollars a year.
Let’s examine both the level of education required for certain careers and the median annual income or “starting salaries” and see how compensation for professors compares with the salaries of other professionals. NOTE: This is a random selection of careers and professions which require a BA/BS and/or an MA/MS degree, from among the multitude of occupations listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. (OOH-BLS)
Engineers, Attorneys, Physicians Assistants
Engineers – BS: Average “starting salary” offers for graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in engineering, vary from $52,000 to $83,000, based on a 2009 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Starting salaries vary widely depending on the particular field of engineering—civil, agricultural, mechanical, nuclear, chemical, petroleum. (OOH-BLS)
Attorneys – BA or BS and 3-year JD: In May 2008, the median annual wages of all wage-and-salaried lawyers were $110,590. The middle half of the occupation earned between $74,980 and $163,320. It comes as no surprise that salaries for experienced lawyers will often vary widely depending upon the type, size, and location of their employer’s firm. (OOH-BLS)
Physician Assistant – BS and 2-4 years training: The median annual wage of physician assistants was $81,230 in May 2008. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,360, and the highest 10 percent earned over $110,240. PA’s work in school and college clinics, doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics, general hospitals, and specialty surgical hospitals. And of course, income varies with respect to medical specialty, years of experience, practice setting, and region of the country. (OOH-BLS)
Computer Systems Analysts - Loan Officers - Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators Personal Financial Advisors
Computer Systems Analysts - MS and 2-3 years training: Median annual wages of wage and salary computer systems analysts were $75,500 in 2008. The middle 50% earned between $58,460 and $95,810 a year. The lowest 10% earned less than $45,390, and the highest 10% earned over $118,440.(OOH-BLS)
Loan Officers – BA or BS: Median annual wages for loan officers were $54,700 in 2008. The lowest 10% earned less than $30,850, while the top 10% made over $106,360. Compensation for loan officers is bundled differently. Some are paid on the basis of commission only, some are salary only loan officers, and others earn a salary plus commissions. Not surprisingly, given human nature, loan officers who are paid on commission only, usually earn more than those who earn only a salary; earnings often fluctuate with the number of loans generated.
Personal Financial Advisers – BA or BS and MA or certifications: Median annual wages for personal financial advisers were $69,050 in 2008. The middle 50% earned between $46,390 and $119,290. Personal financial advisers who work for financial services firms are often paid a salary plus bonus. Bonuses are not included in the wage data listed here. However, advisers generally receive commissions for financial products they sell, in addition to charging a fee. Wages of self-employed workers are not included in the earnings given here.
Chief Executive Officers and Computer Systems Analysts
Chief Executive Officers – BA or BS and MBA or training: Chief Executives are among the highest paid workers in the United States. Median annual wages for general and operations managers in 2008 were $91,570. The middle 50% earned between $62,900 and $137,020. Local Government CEO’s - $82,150, Company and Enterprise CEO’s - $ 113, 690, Scientific Consulting Services CEO’s -$ 130.390. Total compensation for corporate executives may involve stock options and performance bonuses. Other benefits commonly enjoyed by top executives in private industry are the use of executive dining rooms, company-owned aircraft and cars, access to expense allowances, and company-paid insurance premiums. (OOH-BLS)
Computer Systems Analyst – BS, Certificates: Median annual wages ofor computer systems analysts were $75,500 in 2008. The middle 50% earned between $58,460 and $95,810 a year. The lowest 10% earned less than $45,390, and the highest 10% earned over $118,440. (OOH-BLS)
Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators - Advertising Managers and Promotional Managers - Aircraft Pilots, Co-Pilots, and Flight Engineers
Claims Adjusters, Examiners and Investigators – BA or BS: Median annual wages for claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators were $55,760 in 2008. The middle 50% earned between $42,400 and $70,860. Median annual wages for auto damage insurance appraisers were $53,440 in 2008. (OOH-BLS)
Advertising & Promotions Managers – BS or BS: Median annual wages in 2008 were $80,220 for advertising managers - $108,580 for marketing managers - $97,260 for sales managers - $89,430 for public relations managers. Median annual wages for industries employing the largest numbers of sales managers can differ markedly: department store mangers - $54.560, automobile dealers - $107,000, wholesale electronics agents and brokers - $114,670.
Wages offered depend upon the employee’s level of managerial responsibility, length of service, and level and type of education; the size and location of the firm; and the industry in which the firm operates. Many managers earn bonuses equal to 10 percent or more of their salaries. (OOH-BLS)
Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers – BA or BS and Pilot’s License: Pilots who fly jet aircraft usually earn better salaries than pilots flying turboprop planes. In 2008, median annual wages of airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers were $111,680. Airline pilots usually are eligible for life and health insurance plans, and receive retirement benefits. Pilots are also given an expense allowance, or “per diem,” for every hour they are away from home. (OOH-BLS)
Are There Conclusions to be Drawn?
Most college and university professors certainly make a comfortable living and earn above the median income for American workers. This is hardly surprising or inappropriate as teaching professionals have completed considerably more than the "median number of years of education." Those additional years spent earning professional degrees were costly in terms of time and money and delayed the age at which the individual actually starting earning a full-time income.
However, most professors consider the extra time, effort, and debt a reasonable trade off as most of us really like what we do: reading, writing, lecturing, and working with young adults. The average salary, which is low in comparison to the level of education and training obtained, is not nearly as important as the fact that we like and care about the profession we chose. At any rate, "outrageous faculty salaries" are not responsible for rising tuition costs.
As I mentioned earlier there are many reasons and causes for rising tuition. I am sure there are experts who could provide "all" the reasons, but I can mention a few of which I am aware. First, except for the recent years of recession, inflation and rising costs seem to be ever with us.Very, very few things cost less today than they did twenty years ago. I mention one exception to mollify my two sons who work in computers and IT - computers have gotten more powerful and over time prices have dropped substantially. I believe this is a fairly common market phenomenon when a new product is introduced - eventually there will be great economies of scale.
Second, the fact that parents and students are demanding "fancy and expensive" buildings, dormitories, and more and more services, conveniences, and extracurricular activities and events drives prices up. Third, trying to offer too many majors and choices at each college and university had led to rising costs; economies of scale and huge savings could be achieved if each state organized its higher education system so that each institution offered a handful of well developed and staffed degrees, instead of trying to offer everything to everyone.
Fourth, and this is a crisis of learning, not just economics. Many high school graduates with reasonable GPA's, as high as 15% to 25% of entering Freshmen (depending on previous education, experience and family socio-economic status) are unprepared to do college level course work. They and their parents spend a great deal of money paying for remedial course instruction in the basics, reading, writing, and mathematics, before they are ready for college level courses.
The "Four year Bachelor's degree" which takes four and a half to five years to complete (rising costs and debt load) is an all too common phenomenon on most college and university campuses. This will continue until students leaving high school are better prepared; better preparation is possible because students used to be prepared - thirty, forty, fifty years ago, colleges did not offer remedial courses to their incoming freshmen and we shouldn't be doing it now.
By the way, No Child Left Behind was not a step in the right direction; the number of college students needing remedial instruction continued to rise. Perhaps we need to study other national school systems and learn from those that are doing an exceptional job of preparing their students for college, for their future careers, and for life.