|Academic Discipline||Average FAculty Salaries (All Ranks) at uS Public Universities, 2012-2013|
|Business and Management||$104,141|
|Health and Medical Administration Services||$79,292|
|Natural Resources and Conservation||$78,711|
|Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender and Group Studies||$75,919|
|Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Services||$64,736|
|Communication and Media Studies||$59,244|
|Fine and Studio Art||$56,526|
In a post last Friday, I linked to a WSJ blog post “Should colleges charge engineering students more?” which summarized the results of a recent working paper titled “Differential Pricing in Undergraduate Education: Effects on Degree Production by Field.” The author of the paper, Kevin M. Stange from Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy investigated 50 large public universities that adopted higher tuition for their engineering, business, or nursing programs between 1990 and 2010, partly to align tuition with the higher instructional costs of those programs.
In a comment on the CD post, Morganovich asks another interesting question: should universities pay their engineering professors more than English professors? Based on the concept of opportunity cost (non-academic career alternatives available to professors with doctoral degrees), the answer would be clearly yes, and the data do confirm that reality.
To investigate further the issue of faculty salary differentials by academic discipline, the table above shows average faculty salaries for 26 academic disciplines, based on data reported by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) for the 2012-2013 academic year. Faculty salaries are the average for all ranks (full, associate, and assistant professors) as reported to CUPA-HR by 407 public, 4-year institutions for almost 47,000 professors. Here are some observations:
1. Engineering professors do make 16% (and almost $11,000) more than English professor, on average.
2. Engineering professors only make 2.6% more than professors of political science, and only 3.2% more than professors of “Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies.”
3. It’s interesting that English professors make 2.65% more on average than chemistry professors and 3.80% more than biology professors. It’s also interesting that biology and chemistry professors make about $8,000 to $9,000 less than average.
4. It’s also interesting that nursing professors make 3.2% less than average, suggesting that instructional costs for a nursing program would be less than average, although some professors may be part of the higher-paid faculty category “Health and Medical Administration Services.”
5. It’s interesting that there’s almost a 2:1 ratio between the average salaries for the highest paid professors (business) and the lowest paid professors (fine and studio art) by academic discipline.
Bottom Line: In general, full-time tenured or tenure-track college professors have terminal/doctoral degrees and therefore have academic credentials that are roughly equivalent. But because the non-academic career options for professors vary greatly by academic discipline, the faculty salary differentials in the table above generally reflect the opportunity costs of those alternative career opportunities “outside of the academy.” Professors with degrees in business, economics, and computer science have the highest-valued non-academic career opportunities and command faculty salaries far above average. Professors with degrees in theater arts, music, and fine arts must have very few non-teaching career opportunities, and therefore have salaries far below average. Faculty salary differentials by academic discipline is a good example of opportunity cost in action.