According to new data on professor salaries released today by The Chronicle of Higher Education, pay for English professors and history professors is among the lowest across all disciplines.
The Chronicle‘s new data table on average salaries of tenured and tenure-track professors at 4-year colleges and universities reveals median incomes of professors across all disciplines and career levels. The salary data is the most current available on professor pay, reflecting information for the current 2013-14 academic year.
According to the chart, the discipline with the lowest-paid professors is visual and performing arts. New assistant professors in that field earn an average of $54,671.
Professors of History, theology, and English earn just a notch above the lowest pay at $55,691, $55,876, and $55,987, respectively. Basically the entire group of humanities-based disciplines fared pretty poorly in this salary cross-section.
The highest-paying discipline for new assistant professors is, not surprisingly, business, with an average salary of $107,066. Double the pay for the same rank and title in humanities departments.
Professors in these same departments who are late in their careers, having earned tenure and received the highest promotion level of “full professor,” earn salaries that are similarly disparate. In other words, the trend continues as professors develop in their careers.
Full professors in English, for example, earn an average of $85,404, while full professors in business earn $123,233 on average. So the disparity does not actually increase exponentially, but the business professors of course start far ahead of their humanities-based colleagues.
The highest-paying of all professor jobs in 4-year colleges are found in the legal and professional studies departments. These professors, who are presumably practicing or former attorneys, earn an average of $143,757.
Average Professor Salaries Determined by Private Sector
As these trends reveal, professors who have higher-paying alternatives in the private sector command higher salaries in the university. Makes sense. In order to compete with the private sector, schools have to offer better packages to prospective employees.
Currently, humanities professors have fewer non-university options and therefore, have less negotiating leverage for academic jobs. They have to take what they can get.
This presents all the more reason why alternate academic jobs would benefit Ph.D. holding job seekers. By creating government and private sector positions for humanities Ph.D.s, we would be generating market competition for those degrees.
This market competition would give humanities people more options, thereby creating leverage in negotiations for academic jobs.
Professor salaries for humanities fields like English, history, and religion are notoriously low when compared to industry standards. That contrast becomes even more glaring when factoring in the value conferred upon terminal degrees in other fields that operate more fluidly in the private sector outside of the academy.
Creating alternate non-professorial paths for humanities professionals would also make life better for those within the academy by facilitating leverage in salary negotiations.