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How do professors get paid?

  1. Jun 15, 2008 #1
    Do they give you a set amount just for "being on the faculty"? Do you get paid per class? Do you get paid per article or book published? How much of your payment comes from your university and how much comes from other sources such as NSF grants? Specifically I am interested in how math professors get paid.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2008 #2
    In Ireland its a fixed salary, not sure about the rest of the world.
  4. Jun 15, 2008 #3


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    Generally, the salary, benefits, etc... are negotiated when first hired... then the pay gradually increases. In some places [like state universities], the salary is often based on a published table.

    [Edit: added in red]
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008
  5. Jun 15, 2008 #4
    In the United States university math departments there is a system of advancement and promotion.

    At the lowest level you have lecturers. These are people who are hired on a semester-by-semester basis and who get paid exactly according to the number of classes they teach. Sometimes they cannot control which classes they teach or how many of them they will be responsible for. Sometimes they don't have a PhD and/or produce hardly any research, sometimes they are graduate students. Lecturers do not get promoted.

    Everyone else is either tenured, or is on the tenure promotion track. Usually there is a heierarchy like:

    Tenured Associate Professor
    Full Professor

    The difference as you go up the scale is a higher salary, more respect, and more job security. Everyone on that scale, however, is simply paid a salary by the university and expected to (1) teach a certain class load (3-10 hours per week) and (2) output research papers at least once a year on average (publications are the biggest factor in promotion).

    Sometimes lecturers or tenure-track professors will take on extra courses or summer session courses to make more money. Other times they will do fewer courses with no reduction in pay because they have "research release time." The possibilities for this depend on the department.

    After that the sky is the limit with grant money if you are productive in doing research. Grant proposals are hard work, and attracting grant money is an important factor in getting promoted.

    Academic papers do not generate revenue, but books do in the form of signing bonuses and royalties.
  6. Jun 15, 2008 #5
    Three questions:

    Tenure means that you are employed indefinitely, right? Everyone who doesn't have tenure has a contract that lasts a finite amount of time, right?

    Is grant money like a stipend in that you can just keep it for yourself or do you have to use it to buy supplies?

    Do professors on the tenure track get paid the same rate regardless of what time of year it is (winter break, summer break), whether they are actually working or not (e.g. if they go on vacation), or when the last time they published was?
  7. Jun 15, 2008 #6

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    Tenure means you have a right to due process. Tenured professors can be terminated, but only with cause. Untenured professors can be fired at-will. Untenured professors are a bit like people with advanced degrees working outside the college environment in the sense that there is zero guarantee that you will have a job tomorrow in many states. The IRS even has a special category for such people: exempt employees.

    No, AFAIK. It does play a big factor in getting tenure, however. Even a tenured professor who doesn't garner research grants will have a hard time getting [str]slaves[/str] graduate students to [str]perform[/str] help with research and [str]write[/str] co-author papers. No papers, and no grants = no promotions and no (or minimal) pay raises.

    Doing consultancy work is a different ball game. Several universities even encourage their professors to do some consultancy work as doing gives a connection with the real world.
  8. Jun 15, 2008 #7
    Sorry, what do you mean by that. It wasn't really a yes or no question...
  9. Jun 15, 2008 #8
    Usually by direct deposit.
  10. Jun 15, 2008 #9
    Grant money can pay for supplies and it can also pay for your time (you get to spend it like a stipend). Most grants will ask for a report of what was accomplished. You don't have to break down what you spent the money on, but rather focus on showing that the grant money was well spent.

    I have never heard of a university salary actively vary depending on whether you have published recently, other than the fact that promotion up the salary scale depends on frequent publishing.

    The total pay during a compressed summer session is approximately the same as what it would be for an entire semester.
  11. Jun 16, 2008 #10
    Exempt vs. non-exempt has nothing to do with job security. Follow the link if you don't believe me. :smile:
  12. Jun 16, 2008 #11
    Ah, the glorious caste system (with possibility of advancement). It has always struck me as ironical how anti-democratic and totalitarian academia can be...
  13. Jun 16, 2008 #12


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    Most of the answers are "it depends." Most get paid a set salary for the duration of their contract, and can either earn merit raises or predetermined raises based on years experience (the old line and step approach), with the big raises coming with promotion from one rank to the next. That salary can be 9 months, 10 months, or 12 months, depending on the institution, teaching load, and even department. In some positions, you need to bring in 100% of your salary from grant funding (i.e., NSF, NIH), such as a research assistant professor type position. Some tenure track positions have an expectation you will bring in 70% of your salary, but will cover you if you fall short...you may lose lab space or find your teaching load sharply increased if you fall short more than a year or two. Others will cover your full salary and any extra money you bring in can be used entirely for your research program. And yet others will cover your salary during the academic year (the 9 or 10 month positions) and expect you to find your own salary for the summer through research funding or teaching additional summer courses...or you take the summer off.

    If you are in a lecturer position, or on a 9/10 month salary teaching summer classes, you can be paid by the class. But, note that a lecturer is not a professor.

    If you publish a book (often a textbook), you can supplement your salary with royalty payments for the sales of that book. This is not expected though, just a perk if you do.

    Those who can bring in a significant portion of their salary on external funding (grants) usually have a good deal of leverage in negotiating raises. But, you can not earn more than 100% of your salary (you aren't allowed to give yourself raises or bonuses) on grants. Grants are primarily used for doing your research, that is what you apply for them to do, but you can justify using it to cover your salary for the portion of your time that is dedicated to that particular project. In other words, if you have a 30% teaching load, 5% time spend on committee assignments, and the rest of your time divided equally between two research grants, each of those will only cover 32.5% of your salary (half each of the total of the 65% remaining).

    The real joy of academic positions is everything is measured in percent effort. It doesn't matter if you work a 40 hour week or an 80 hour week, the percentage of that work week spent on each project determines your percent effort, and it can never add up higher than 100%, so you can never earn more than the negotiated salary in your contract without renegotiating a raise. :rolleyes:
  14. Jun 16, 2008 #13


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    How is that a caste system? It's promotion, just like any other job where you might advance from plain old employee to manager to director to vice president to president, or some such, in academia it's assistant professor to associate professor to full professor to professor II, each earned by achieving specified benchmarks in performance (external funding, numbers of publications, national and international recognition).
  15. Jun 16, 2008 #14


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    As MB pointed out; This is opposed to the rest of the world?:

    Assistant Manager

    Junior Engineer
    Senior Engineer

    Junior Law Partner
    Senior Law Partner

    Yes, academia is completely unlike the rest of the world.

    Also...totalitarian? Would it be more fair and nice if we promoted people irregardless of whether they deserve the promotion or could handle the responsibility? Maybe less feelings would be hurt, but would we still function as a society?
  16. Jun 16, 2008 #15
    Totalitarian? That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  17. Jun 16, 2008 #16
    I mentioned that there was possibility for advancement, so not exactly the caste system as some might think of it.
  18. Jun 16, 2008 #17
    never said it was unlike the rest of the world.
  19. Jun 16, 2008 #18
    why quarrel about the use of the word if you know what I mean?
  20. Jun 16, 2008 #19
    That's the problem; I don't know what you mean. If you really mean that the system is totalitarian, explain why, because it seems like a non-sequitur considering you're attacking a merit-based promotion scheme where your eligibility for advancement is decentralized among your peers.
  21. Jun 17, 2008 #20
    fight fight fight!

    *points and gawks*
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