# Are really scientists earning this much?

#### twofish-quant

Probably for a newly hired non-tenured professor, the salary is a bit lower ($30,000 -$50,000 perhaps?).
Assistant professors make about $60-$70K. $30K-$50K is at post-doc level. I should point out that professor salaries are public records for state schools, so you can go to the library and get a list of what each professor in a state school makes.

Like most professions, you don't start right off the bat with the higher salaries in your profession. A new Assistant Professor who has only had their PhD for <5 years and only a handful of papers authored will obviously make less than a full Professor who's been teaching and doing research at a school for over 20 years.
That's not obviously true in physics. In physics and academia, your salary is pretty dependent on what your field is more so than seniority. Entry level finance professors make a *LOT* more than professors in medieval French lit, and if you want to pull in the megabucks, look at the football coach.

Also academia is one of the few areas in which professors are encouraged to have outside income. I know a lot of professors that make money (sometimes large amounts of money) from a side-business.

#### twofish-quant

Where do people get this idea that physicists make 30k a year? 80-90k a year seems pretty standard for professors, as well as experienced engineers and scientists in industry. For accomplished senior employees in industry, it could easily be as high as 120k.
And people that go into Wall Street end up making $250-300K and there are people with physics Ph.D.'s that make$1M+.

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#### rhombusjr

That's not obviously true in physics. In physics and academia, your salary is pretty dependent on what your field is more so than seniority. Entry level finance professors make a *LOT* more than professors in medieval French lit, and if you want to pull in the megabucks, look at the football coach.

Also academia is one of the few areas in which professors are encouraged to have outside income. I know a lot of professors that make money (sometimes large amounts of money) from a side-business.
I was comparing professors in the same field e.g. an assistant physics professor vs full physics professor, but thanks for the clarification.

What sort of side-jobs do professors typically have?

#### twofish-quant

What sort of side-jobs do professors typically have?
Lots of different ones. Some of them become billionaires by making speakers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amar_G._Bose

Pretty much every MIT physics professor that I've ever met either was trying to start their own small company or was doing consulting work for large ones. One big difference between academia and industry is that in industry you generally get fired for moonlighting, whereas in academia the university will active encourage you to start your own company or do outside consulting work.

#### twofish-quant

I think when the public is ignorant of what a certain group of people actually do, they assume they must not be paid well either.
What's really shocking I think is not that the general public has no clue what physics Ph.D.'s do, but that people in academia have no real idea what physics Ph.D.'s do, and how much they make. I think that part of "the myth of the starving physics Ph.D." is that there is this idea that if you don't go into academia, then you'll be spending the rest of your life begging for spare change in street corners.

I think it's a basic human thing to think "If I don't know what they do, they must be fairly useless to society, so who would want to pay them anything?"
The problem with this idea is that it doesn't really apply to investment bankers or high school teachers. Most people can explain what a high school teacher does and how it is beneficial to society. Most people can't explain what an investment banker does and how they are beneficial to society. Yet investment bankers make more money than high school teachers.

#### D H

Staff Emeritus
What's really shocking I think is not that the general public has no clue what physics Ph.D.'s do, but that people in academia have no real idea what physics Ph.D.'s do, and how much they make.
That's not all that shocking. People in academia tend to have misconceptions of what people outside of academia do, period. Ivory tower syndrome. Overcoming this problem is one reason why schools encourage their professors to moonlight, particularly during the summer break.

#### RufusDawes

First, a bit of a caveat: An astronomer typically has a PhD. Comparing astronomers to the typical engineer is not quite a fair comparison. A better comparison results when you compare astronomers to engineers with PhDs. Astronomy don't look quite so lucrative in that light. It's still pretty dang good, however.

That said, salaries in technical fields (medical doctors excluded) are fairly flat. Lawyers and doctors are a different story, particularly lawyers. The salary range for lawyers is huge. A small number make incredibly vast sums amounts of money. Most do not. Here is the salary distribution for starting salaries for lawyers in 2006 (source: http://blogs.payscale.com/ask_dr_salary/2007/09/median-vs-mean-.html):

http://blogs.payscale.com/.a/6a00d8341bf85853ef0134821750c1970c-pi

Those are starting salaries, mind you; the disparity grows with time. The mode in that curve is $42,000 per year (2nd mode:$135,000).

You just won't see something like that for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Salaries are more or less unimodal and the distribution is fairly tight. A very influential scientist might makes 3 times what a freshout makes. The only way to make vast sums of money is to move beyond being a scientist, engineer, or mathematician. Presidents of prestigious universities and CEOs of large engineering firms can make a large amounts of money -- but they aren't really scientists or engineers anymore.
It always confused me how a starting lawyer can make so much money.

#### RufusDawes

I've noticed a few people saying they want to go into a field of science to make enormous salaries. Struck me as rather wrong, and fanticiful. But we'll see you can always go work in finance with any sort of strong mathematical background.

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