How do professors get paid?

  • Thread starter ehrenfest
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  • #1
ehrenfest
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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.
 

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  • #2
Ed Aboud
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In Ireland its a fixed salary, not sure about the rest of the world.
 
  • #3
robphy
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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]
 
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  • #4
Crosson
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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:

Tenure-Candidate
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.
 
  • #5
ehrenfest
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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?
 
  • #6
D H
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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?

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: http://humanresources.about.com/od/glossarye/g/exempt.htm" [Broken].

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?
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.
 
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  • #7
ehrenfest
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No.

Sorry, what do you mean by that. It wasn't really a yes or no question...
 
  • #8
Asphodel
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how do professors get paid?

Usually by direct deposit.
 
  • #9
Crosson
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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.
 
  • #10
TMFKAN64
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The IRS even has a special category for such people: http://humanresources.about.com/od/glossarye/g/exempt.htm" [Broken].

Exempt vs. non-exempt has nothing to do with job security. Follow the link if you don't believe me. :smile:
 
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  • #11
eastside00_99
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Tenure-Candidate
Tenured Associate Professor
Full Professor

Ah, the glorious caste system (with possibility of advancement). It has always struck me as ironical how anti-democratic and totalitarian academia can be...
 
  • #12
Moonbear
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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:
 
  • #13
Moonbear
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Ah, the glorious caste system (with possibility of advancement). It has always struck me as ironical how anti-democratic and totalitarian academia can be...

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).
 
  • #14
G01
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Ah, the glorious caste system (with possibility of advancement). It has always struck me as ironical how anti-democratic and totalitarian academia can be...

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

Employee
Assistant Manager
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?
 
  • #15
will.c
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Ah, the glorious caste system (with possibility of advancement). It has always struck me as ironical how anti-democratic and totalitarian academia can be...

Totalitarian? That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
 
  • #16
eastside00_99
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How is that a caste system? It's promotion, just like any other job...

I mentioned that there was possibility for advancement, so not exactly the caste system as some might think of it.
 
  • #17
eastside00_99
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As MB pointed out; This is opposed to the rest of the world?:
Yes, academia is completely unlike the rest of the world.

never said it was unlike the rest of the world.
 
  • #18
eastside00_99
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Totalitarian? That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

why quarrel about the use of the word if you know what I mean?
 
  • #19
will.c
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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.
 
  • #20
tron_2.0
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fight fight fight!

*points and gawks*
 
  • #21
mathwonk
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the remark "the sky is the limit" in regard to grant money needs qualification. he emans you are encouraged to bring in as much of it as possible. but there is a definite limit on how much of it benefits the professor directly as salary. it cannot exceed his usual salary rate, although without it he might receive no salary at all in summers. so the most it can be is three months, usually at most two from NSF, of summer salary.

but it can supplement travel money and can provide money for graduate students and visitors. the primary beneficiary of the grant for whom the sky really is the limit, is the university, which is why they like professors to generate lots of it. one year in the past, when my college tuition was paid for my kids i did not apply for a grant, thinking stupidly, well this year i do not need it to do my research, so why bother wasting the time applying. then i found that (a certain relevant segment of) my university was upset, because they didn't care if I needed it, as they still wanted their rather handsome share of it. so the implication was that the goal of the university was not to generate actual research, but research money.
 
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  • #22
D H
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so the implication was that the goal of the university was not to generate actual research, but research money.
Of course. The same goes for corporate IR&D monies, or even more so. The ultimate goal of an IR&D project is not to generate research. The ultimate goal is to make money.

Universities do the same. While a university merely needs to buy a good coffee machine for its mathematics professors ("a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems"), a university needs to provide a lot more infrastructure for its science and engineering professors. These professors need costly research facilities, and it is preferable that such facilities be financed research grants. A university will put seed money into a new research facility but only if having that new research facility will bring in new research money.
 
  • #23
r_bap
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I have a question which relates to the discussion of this post:

What is the timeline from graduating with a BSc to becoming a full professor? How long does the PhD take? Postdoc? Assistant Professorship? etc...
 
  • #24
The|M|onster
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so the implication was that the goal of the university was not to generate actual research, but research money.

Ooh! That's kind of a scary thought. Maybe they should append Inc. to the end of every university's name.

Mathwonk, given your experience in academia, if you could do it all over again would you? Also, would you advise an undergraduate who is interested in pursuing a PhD in mathematics to look for a career in academia or in private industry?
 
  • #25
Moonbear
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I have a question which relates to the discussion of this post:

What is the timeline from graduating with a BSc to becoming a full professor? How long does the PhD take? Postdoc? Assistant Professorship? etc...

You ask tough questions. There is a wide range of individual variation, depending on the subject, research area, available funding, positions open, institutional policies, publication rate, and sometimes simply how well you get along with the department chair (I've seen more institutions implementing more formal guidelines to offer some protection for the faculty in that last case, but it's still a factor in a lot of places).

Time to obtain a Ph.D. is anywhere from 4 to 10 years (most schools I've been at have 10 years at the cut off that if you haven't completed it by then, they throw you out). Five to six years is most common, with a few struggling along a 7th year if something in their original project plan went so kablooey they practically needed to start over.

Post-docs usually last until a faculty job can be found...it's a stepping stone. Some only do them for a year or two, others end up in a long progression of post-docs lasting 6 or more years (this is rare, but if one graduates at a time the field is saturated and refuses to change paths, they can get caught in that holding pattern for a while).

At the assistant professor level, usually there's a time clock for getting tenure...move up or out when the timer goes off. In most places, that's 5 years, but often with one chance to appeal/reapply if you miss the target the first time, which can buy another year or two. So, no more than 7 years (if someone is absolutely outstandingly productive with bringing in multiple grants and publishing copiously, they might be able to come up for tenure early, but it's really rare).

The remaining two levels of associate professor and full professor are not defined. Some people will never get past associate professor for the duration of their career (I see this mostly with people content to just teach and not too worried about maintaining active research so that they never reach the next publication level and international recognition requirements for promotion to the next level). Others will do it in another 5 years. Think of it like any other career...if you're motivated by promotion, you'll work your butt off to achieve it. If you reach a level in an organization and salary that you're comfortable with, and decide you would rather be passed over for promotion in favor of having some free time to live your life, you're not going to work as hard to get that promotion. At that point, promotion doesn't make a lot of difference anyway. It does in terms of salary, but you're certainly not hurting for money as an associate professor. Your job is already as secure as it ever will be, and it makes no difference in anything else you can do as faculty (actually, as soon as you're hired on as assistant professor, salary and tenure is the only difference between you and a full professor in terms of what you can and can't do within the university...you can still serve on all the same committees, vote on policy changes, teach the same classes, bring in graduate students or post-docs to work with you, etc.; which is why I don't at all understand the comment earlier that it's a caste system, and can only think it's from someone who is not employed in academics.)
 
  • #26
Moonbear
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Ooh! That's kind of a scary thought. Maybe they should append Inc. to the end of every university's name.

We are pretty close to that. Our research money goes through the "Research Corporation." It's a reality of how universities operate; they depend heavily on external funding to keep the doors open. It goes to pay a lot of the overhead expenses. The direct research costs are covered by the grants, but they wouldn't be terribly worried if you had to slow down your own research due to lack of funds if it didn't cut into paying other bills (they take a percentage off the top, predetermined by agreements with the funding agencies, called "indirect costs" which is basically a tax on your grants paid to the university for the university to do as they choose...the more benevolent ones give a percentage of that back to the department or researchers as discretionary funds as incentive to bring in more money, others just keep it all for the administrators to dole out for whatever they think it needs to be used for). Since there are some departments better able to bring in big money than others, those departments are leaned on the most to do just that (in return, faculty, post-docs, and grad students also tend to get better salaries in those departments since they bring in money rather than drain resources). Those include the science and engineering departments, sometimes math departments. English departments would struggle to exist if some of the "tax" off science funding didn't get channeled their way.

These are all good questions to be asking though, because a lot of people who want to go into academia are naive to what happens behind the scenes. They think of it as a job where you spend your time teaching and doing research in anything that interests you. The reality is you do research in anything that pays the bills, and hope you find something that interests you that fits that category. Academic freedom in today's world does not extend to choosing research projects that are unfundable. Talk to some folks ready to retire and some folks just hired or just having received tenure and you'll learn how the academic environment has shifted, even to the point of devaluing teaching in science departments in favor of bringing in more money. There's a bit of a shove back the other way though, as universities are realizing they've hired on a lot of great researchers, but none of them can teach well or can take on the amount of course load that needs to be covered as all the teaching faculty retire. How much that will continue, I'm not sure...probably only important if it prevents them from expanding classes to bring in more tuition money, and then back to research focus.
 
  • #27
mrjeffy321
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Is my understanding correct?
When a professor gets a grant, the grant-giving organization writes the check the university the professor works at. The university takes out ‘their’ percentage of this money and spends it as they please while the rest of the money is put into some kind of account and ear-marked for that particular professor to spend.
Is this about what happens, or no?
 
  • #28
Moonbear
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Is my understanding correct?
When a professor gets a grant, the grant-giving organization writes the check the university the professor works at. The university takes out ‘their’ percentage of this money and spends it as they please while the rest of the money is put into some kind of account and ear-marked for that particular professor to spend.
Is this about what happens, or no?

Yep, that's about it. The grant is really given to the university, which means the university is also responsible for oversight to make sure the money gets spent on things related to the grant.
 
  • #29
mathwonk
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i would probably do it again, but work harder and more consistently from an earlier age.


and grants are very tightly restricted by rules meant to prevent fraud and insure the univ gets its share of the overhead. these make it actually much harder to purchase the needed equipment in a timely way and at a good price.

one of my colleagues actually wound up purchasing a needed computer from his pocket to carry out a "grant funded" project, due to time delays imposed by paperwork.
 
  • #30
mathwonk
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the frustrations of academia are not unique. all jobs have their earthly aspects. you need to learn and apply some business principles in all of them to survive. but you probably have more chance to be altruistic in academia than in some other jobs. it really feels good to stay after class and help an interested student. but it is harder if you are having trouble paying your bills.

my opinion is that universities should not be run as profit making businesses since they are subsidized by the legislature. they should put as first priority to provide the service to the community they are being subsidized for, and not pressure faculty to spend so much time trying to bring in a few more dollars in grants.

i.e. it is wrong to have faculty teach courses of 400 so they have fewer courses to teach and can spend more time applying for grants, when students learn better in classes of 40, and tuition actually provides more income than grants do.
 

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