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Survey: Careers in academia less lucrative than recent years

professor salary

PayScale, Inc. (www.payscale.com, 2012) recently released its 2011-2012 College Salary Report, ranking both degrees and schools by post-graduation salary potential.

This year, for the first time, Princeton University tops the list with a median mid-career salary of more than $125,000 per year.

In 2008, the first year of PayScale's College Salary Report, five schools had a mid-career median of more than $125,000: Dartmouth, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and Yale.

"The financial collapse and jobless recovery continues to affect pay, even at mid-career--there is even some evidence of accelerating wage decreases for the top schools," Dr. Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at PayScale, said in a statement. "As in years past, it is very much about the degree: engineering- and healthcare-focused schools top the list."

Other key findings are as follows:

  • The best-ranked public university is SUNY Maritime College (#12)--the school's first time on the list, and the only state university in the top 20.
  • Average mid-career pay for the top 20 schools is $112,200. This is down 2.8 percent from 2010 and 5.3 percent from 2008.
  • Average mid-career pay of all 1,004 schools in the report for 2011 is $73,100, down 0.7 percent from 2010.
  • California and the northeast schools dominate the top 20: only Colorado School of Mines (#6), Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (#9), Missouri University of Science and Technology (#15) and Georgia Institute of Technology (#18) are outside California and the northeast.
  • Healthcare schools represent four of the top 20: Loma Linda (#3), Molloy (#5), Thomas Jefferson (#11), Felician (#14).

"The downward effect on starting pay for college grads of the jobless recovery is clear in the data," Lee said. "For example, the average starting pay for graduates of the top 10 schools is $63,900. Good pay, but down 1.5 percent from a year earlier. In 2008, before the financial collapse, four schools had median starting pay above $70,000/year: Cal Tech, MIT, Harvey Mudd and Stanford--in the 2011 list, no school does."

All data used to produce the report were collected from employees who completed the company's employee survey--self-employed, project-based, and contract employees are not included. More information on methodology is available here.