College Professor Salary

College professors are entrusted with preparing their students for their future. The classroom environment and atmosphere are distinctly different; it is intellectually enthusiastic and stimulating. This is significantly different from the secondary or public classroom. Students are in class because they are legally mandated to attend classes until the age of majority. The college professor’s students have paid a premium or tuition for the privilege of attending classes. They are in class because they made a conscious decision to learn what the instructor is attempting to impart and instill. These students attend classes by choice, often to advance within the corporate hierarchy, become established in a career, earn a degree, or for personal enrichment.

Salary Overview

The median salary for college professors overall in 2008 was $58,800; postsecondary teachers filled over 1.7 million positions. Earning levels vary based on geographic location, the institution type and rating, and the college professor’s educational level and status. For example, the average salary for tenured full-time college professors ranged from $76,147 to over $122,000; for full-time associate professors the average salary was $76,247, and for adjunct professors, $63,827. However, in a private university the median salary for a tenured, full-time college professor was $92,257. Furthermore, the average salary for college professors specializing in law, medicine, and economics was appreciably higher, $128,369 annually. In humanities and education, the salaries were somewhat lower. Salaries vary because of the academic field, educational level, and academic credentials held by the instructor.*

*According to the BLS,

College professors can significantly increase their earnings by accepting positions in their chosen field as a consultants, teaching additional classes, lecturing at conferences and seminars, and writing articles for academic journals and other publications, especially if they are well known and established in their fields. There are research grant opportunities that also will provide supplementary income.

College Professor-Job description

The college professor’s job description is very diverse, but most critical aspect is to effectively teach students. Unequivocally, the first responsibility is to formulate a lesson plan for each day. This is a strategic plan of implementation that will fulfill the daily learning objectives. Simply stated, a lesson plan is how to get the student from Point A, which is limited or no knowledge of the subject, to Point B, which is fluency and competency in the subject. The instructor must find a teaching style that is efficient and effective. It should address the diversity of the students and learning style proclivities to ensure that comprehension is achieved. A protocol should be established that engages the students. It should include lectures that pique students’ curiosity and capture their interest and attention. Undoubtedly, this is a challenge that is wrought with difficulty, especially in math, sciences, or technically based courses. Therefore, the formulation of a lesson plan requires knowledge, ingenuity, imagination, creativity, and empathy to facilitate learning.

Second, the college professor must develop evaluative instruments to determine if conceptualization, comprehension, and learning are occurring. These instruments include regular exams, quizzes, and the dreaded midterms and finals. Additionally, instructors evaluate and grade papers and exams, although this chore is often delegated to teaching assistants.

Third, it is critical that the college professor be well organized and endeavors to develop excellent record keeping skills. Unlike secondary education, records must be available for many years. Additionally, the college professor must use time in a sagacious manner; there are many demands and time constraints. For example, they must schedule office hours for meetings and conferences with students, attend faculty meetings, supervise study groups and laboratory assignments. In addition, college professors are encouraged to be published, and conduct research in their specific field. Many write texts that are used in the curriculum

Tenured professors and department heads routinely participate in or conduct field related seminars. Additionally, they engage in research to facilitate advances in the discipline, which essentially benefits the college. Furthermore, it adds credibility, supports, and increases the professor’s reputation as an expert in the field. They write, submit and publish academic articles in scholastic journals that also build visibility and credibility. College professors may consult with government agencies, especially in math and sciences. Many serve on academic committees and panels regarding administration, budgetary matters, academic concerns, community organizations, and help develop the curriculum for the discipline.

Training and Education and Certifications

Tenured college professors hold doctorate degrees in their discipline, which usually requires an additional six years of matriculation after the completion of the Bachelor’s degree. Adjunct or associate college professors minimally must have a Master’s degree that typically includes an additional four years of college after completion of the Bachelor’s degree. Teaching assistants are usually graduate students working toward an advanced degree in the field. The Doctorate for tenured professors and department heads and the Master’s degree for adjunct professors are essentially the certifications necessary to teach at the college level.

Professional Associations

The most prestigious and leading organization in the post-secondary teaching field is the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). It was started in 1915. It’s mission statement describes its purpose: to provide “academic freedom”, which is the ability to instruct students in a subject, such as communism, without the interjection of the instructor’s personal concepts and feelings on the subject and without the threat or fear of negative repercussions or reprimands, including termination. The organization offers college professors support in their specific fields. Additionally, AAUP provides publications and keeps members apprised of pertinent legal issues.


A career of college professor can be personally and financially rewarding. It provides an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of students: fresh-faced young people, mid-career transitional students, or mature seventy year olds seeking self-realization, fulfillment, or enrichment. College professors should enjoy teaching and celebrate learning. They should be organized, patient, competent public speakers, and genuinely enjoy their profession and students. College professors have an advantage over secondary teachers. Students have paid for the college learning opportunity. They are in the class for one reason: to benefit educationally from the wellspring of the professor knowledge, expertise, and experience.

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