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College Professor Salary, Career Forecast, Trends, and Training

There are few positions that are as highly respected, rewarding, and financially attractive as teaching at the college level. The vast majority of college professors truly feel that teaching is a vocation, not merely a job, and excel at motivating students. Higher education faces significant challenges, such as lack in funding, which can result in heavier workloads, fewer resources and lack of administrative support for professors. However, those who have been granted tenure by their institution--usually following a lengthy process that lasts up to seven years--can enjoy secure employment.

Skills and Work Hours for College Professors

Teaching in higher education is ideal for those of who have outstanding analytical skills, are highly organized, enjoy doing academic research, communicate exceptionally well, and are willing to stay abreast of new developments in their areas of expertise. While professors have flexible schedules, those seeking tenure traditionally teach a full class schedule (12-16 hours a week), conduct research, publish papers in academic journals and perform administrative work. Younger faculty on the tenure track often work significantly more than 40 hours a week. Many universities offer paid sabbaticals to their tenured professors after a specific amount of years.

College Professor Salary: 2009 Statistics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean college professor salary in 2009 was $64,680, and the highest-paid professors earn more than $128,330. Earning potential tends to be higher in the sciences, engineering, and business fields, while professors in liberal arts, fine arts, and English typically earn less.

The latest data available breaks down earnings by teaching area such as engineering, business, foreign language, history, etc. Professors of economics earn the most in New Hampshire ($130,410), Rhode Island ($127,060), and Arizona ($117,260), while salaries for psychology professors are highest in Delaware ($87,660), New York ($86,120), and California ($85,510).

In general, the states of New York, Vermont and Idaho have the highest concentration of college professors, while the highest salaries overall for college professors can be earned in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. The top-paying industries are colleges and universities, junior colleges, and technical and trade schools.

The following metropolitan areas offer the highest mean college professor salary:

  • Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts ($145,260)
  • Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, California ($113,770)
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida ($105,590)

Salary.com also breaks down earnings for college professors based on the subjects that they teach. Accordingly, the median salary for a tenured professor of business administration is $100,397 (90% percentile salary: $238,639), while the salary for a tenured professor of communication studies is $80,686 (90% percentile: $126,175), and tenured psychology professors earned $85,654 (90% percentile: $233,339).

College Professor Training: Online and Campus-Based Options

A PhD (or other terminal degree) in the field of instruction is required to teach at a four-year college, while a master's degree is usually sufficient to teach at a two-year college. College professor training online may allow you to finish your PhD coursework or to take specialized classes in pedagogy and teaching methodologies that prepare you for the post-secondary classroom. The projected growth in employment for college professors between 2008 and 2018 is 15 percent.

Higher education is here to stay--and so are college professors. If you are willing to put in the hard work to obtain a PhD and truly enjoy teaching, then there is no better career choice than teaching at the college level.