Wednesday, July 10, 2013


A Two-Part Question

You read an article about a college at which the average salary for assistant professors is $51,000, for associate professors is $57,100, and full professors is $67,000.  What do you conclude?

a.  It’s scandalous that they’re so low.  No wonder they’re losing people!

b. That sounds about right.

c. Sheesh, adjuncts would kill for that.

d. Interesting that community colleges often pay that or less, with higher teaching loads, and nobody says “boo.”

Justify your answer.

As a high school teacher in Canada that makes $95K, this seems insane to me that the average is this low, given that here, college/university teachers make more than high school so my wage is considered somewhat low.

But, based on anecdotal evidence from my friends in the US who teach (high school or college) , it seems that education is just not valued in the States, and this is yet another way of demonstrating this.
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C) Why yes, yes I would, kill for a salary anywhere close to that. I absolutely adore teaching at my community college, and believe you me, I'll teach there as long as they'll let me, but I also know that adjuncting here at this CC is the low. Thank goodness my husband has a full-time job.

I'd love the opportunity to teach ANYWHERE full time (I have a background in secondary ed., and maintain a professional educator license In The Hopes (tm) that at some point, in some capacity, I'll earn a liveable wage. Given that I'm 37, and graduated with an undergraduate degree in 2007, I'm not holding my breath.) (WHAT plans for retirement?)

D) No one says "boo" to teachers at the elementary or secondary levels who don't make that off the bat - nowhere close to it (give it 10-20 years they'll be close.) Or, they do say "boo," but no one seems to be able to do much about it, except continue to pile on more work (5 classes at the college level? How about 8 at the middle school or high school level?)

No one goes into teaching for the money; we go into it for many other reasons, but if you're looking for some manner of consistency ("rhyme or reason") for the broad spectrum of teachers' salaries, and you FIND that reason, please let me know.
e) Where in the US are we talking about?

I'm at a university with multiple campuses. My campus is in a region of the state where cost of living is 25-30% higher than another campus. My peer at that other campus makes same salary. Their salary goes way farther. (Yes, there are other trade offs -- I can take public transportation)
To add my voice to [Anonymous 6:42pm], I'm another Canadian high school teacher, and echo my professional colleague's sentiments. I'm at the junior end of the pay scale (albeit in Alberta, where salaries are highest and where I've maxed out on the educational qualifications side of the qualification), yet after only one year of teaching experience, I'll be earning more than an average UWSP full professor (I'm slated to make about $68.3K this upcoming year, up from $65K this past year); at today's rates, I'd max out eventually around $99K. While Alberta is somewhat atypical allowing me to reach my current compensation levels that quickly, virtually everywhere in Canada a full-time school teacher (elementary, middle or high school) will eventually surpass the average full professor's average salary by a fair margin, and can do so with "only" a Bachelor's degree/4 years of education. But as the article notes, many high school teachers in Wisconsin around Stevens Point make more than the full professor, too. So in the end, I feel the best answer is (a), even though (c) and (d) also strongly resonate. You reap what you sow.
b. for me.

Sounds like my last 2 jobs. Both Directional State U's. I could make more in the private sector. I would probably do better as a high school teacher. I still want to do what I am doing (DSU prof) as I am good at it, and there is a certain quality of life associated with the job that I wouldn't get in the private sector (or as a high school teacher).
I'd say b, though it could be low to some people. I know in our very high cost of living area, many schools, both colleges and secondary schools pay in that range, mostly for folks in late early or mid career. 10-15 years in, you're approaching or above 100k. So the full prof salary is the most troubling.

I'll say as a k-12 teacher I'm in that range myself, but I only have 3 years of experience so far. I got "credit" for my doctorate and my college teaching experience. Otherwise, I'd be much lower. I do know public school teachers around here start near the top of that range. Experience plus degrees puts them well past it.
Ditto Anonymous @ 4:46. Quality of life differential is huge. Not saying that every day of employment in post-secondary is a walk in the park, but you will not have the challenges that go with K-12.
Supply, I'd like you to meet Demand. Perhaps the two of you can find an equilibrium?
This isn't so much about the post as it is about the comments but I'm wondering exactly what quality of life I'm lacking teaching secondary school that college teaching would provide. I've only done it as an adjunct but I have to say, my colleagues in secondary ed certainly seem lot happier than most of the professors I know.
$51K is what I make as mid-level administrative staff at a public university. I am valuable to my employer and good at my job, but it still seems blindingly obvious that faculty at any level should be earning more than me. So yes, viewed through that lens, those salaries are scanadlously low.

(Though I will add the caveat that I live in an expensive east coast urban area; 51K probably means something a little different in Wisconsin.)

That said, yes - adjuncts and CC faculty are also suffering. Options a, c, and d are certainly not mutually exclusive.

Can I elect option e, that the academic job market as a whole is extraordinarily dysfunctional?

I'm glad you brought this up. To be honest, when I quickly glanced the comments on my phone this morning and saw reference to "quality of life" concerns, I thought it was referring to the better quality of life for the secondary ed teachers, not the faculty members!

My husband was T-T for a while. He was glad not to have to deal with young teenagers, so there's that. He was also glad not to have to teach all day every day. But, the pressure to bring in research dollars tore him up. He worked a thousand hours a week and worried all the time. And summer wasn't one long vacation, that's for sure. So I don't associate faculty work with a high quality of life, personally.

That all said, two faculty friends of mine are doing a year in Switzerland. He's at CERN, she's doing her humanities research, the kids are learning French. That kind of experience is harder to come by in secondary ed for sure, or in the private sector.

I guess it depends what your field is, what your skills are, what kind of success you have...I'd agree that you can't sweepingly say that one has a higher quality of life than the other.
Pressure to produce research and/or get funding for it is EXTREMELY variable. At R-1 universities, of course it's extreme (but the money is better too). At many directional state u's (and especially once you have tenure) this is not such a concern. And in some departments (I'm looking at you, Education) the standards for research are, shall we say, forgiving.
To correct Anonymous 7:51pm, a teacher in Canada will not necessarily make more than a full professor. At my university (a top 10 research institute in Canada), there is no cap on full professor salary and I know that a number of my senior colleagues are making $150K++ and continuing to rise. Junior faculty in my area (Education) start around $85k and can move up quickly with merit and cost of living increases (assuming they are productive and that there are no c-o-l freezes). This may not be the same for all faculties/specializations but the general statement that school teachers make more than faculty is not necessarily true.

As for my reponse to the question - I would have to go with A. I had no idea salaries were so low for faculty positions. My friends here in Canada are having a hard time finding academic work because all the jobs are so competitive - there's definitely a different climate here.
I would say - this is not news. In my area, starting salaries for faculty are in the mid 60k range and the median cost of a home is $800k+. Only people with a spouse who subsidizes them or a trust fund can afford to teach. The real kicker is that by requiring more and more research, the faculty are actually making more work for themselves while receiving static pay. I don't know why research was pushed so much in my last department (4-year Master's granting state U) - it was necessary for promotion but a total time suck with little real benefit.
First, it is hardly a "crisis" if you are only advertising for 8 faculty (of about 340) at present, albeit for a January start for one job I looked at.

I'd say B-, since some of the salary levels seem a bit low for a directional that has graduate programs, but that depends on field and the average years of service. The numbers might be biased by a large number of retirements. (My CC's means must have gone down as about 1/3 of our faculty retired.) The median household income for that county is around $50,000 so starting faculty should be able to afford the median home. (The median income where I live is a bit lower, so faculty look richer.)

My comment on "C" is that many adjuncts don't want to move to an area that might be best described as college-town+farms+deer-hunting country that can be quite cold in the winter. I know, because there is no question in my mind that my CC's location affects the applications we get.

My comment on "D" is that my college pays right around to a bit more than that for faculty with a PhD. MS and MA are lower. Yes, we teach a lot, but we don't have to publish and bring in research grants and I'll bet they teach a lot also. Lots of different preps that include small upper division classes for majors.

My comment on "A" is that this could be the actual problem if they are bringing in people like the physics job wanted (strong funded research in atomic-molecular-optics that can involve undergrads) because those people could easily leverage some experience into a better paying job at a SLAC or R1 or industry.

The question you didn't ask:

Is this an example of a "nothing special" college that is feeling pressure because it can't hire the faculty it needs to follow its mission based on what Scott Walker and company give them plus what students are willing to pay in that relatively isolated area?

I think the answer is "yes", although it is hard to tell if they would do better without any graduate programs. If they are a Wannabe R1 operation, they are doomed.

PS on one comment: They want PhD faculty because you must have a PhD to teach graduate courses. A masters is enough for any undergrad class, provided content knowledge is high at the MS level.
I just want to comment on your blog title, its pretty cool. Im looking at a few Edmonton colleges and deans like you are what draw me in! Clever!
I personally conclude that I'm glad I didn't teach there...
Just a few notes about the secondary vs. tertiary quality of life...

1) There's some sort of balancing act between pay, self-imposed stress (engendered by externally imposed requirements), and flexibility of schedule at the day-to-day and year-to-year levels.

2) In general, I felt like I had the best balance when I was a FT CC instructor. I had decent flexibility while also making a decent (for the area) salary and not having a lot of stress.

I'd probably put secondary teacher and r1 faculty on about equal planes, although for very different reasons.

In both gigs, I work all the time. Slightly less as a secondary teacher, and, being a secondary teacher never induced the level of stress that I feel on a daily basis.

There was a period of 2ish years in my R1 life where I had to run 10+ miles a day chanting, "it's just a job, you'll get a different job, a better job" (thanks DD for the mantra, with an assist to Pirates of the Caribbean) just to stay sane and semi-healthy.

But, there seems to be a lot more potential for professional growth and change as a tertiary faculty member...
Religious institution with many faculty being, well, religious.
Mr. Dantes, are you implying that all teachers are precisely the same? That is, after all, a requirement for the "free-market" mathetmatical model.

Otherwise, you are in "Monopolistic Competition" or, more likely, "Monopsony" (or "Ologopsony").

I like it when conservatives use words they don't understand. Which is good, because I get what I like a LOT.

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