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Physics Physics professor salary question

  1. Jun 27, 2012 #1
    I know some professors at my school do research- obviously. But some don't. Does my physics professor get paid more for doing research? Or does something fun like that come out of their own pay? Like do they have to finance it themselves?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2012 #2
    Hmm...? I was under the impression that the primary role of professors is to do research; teaching is often a secondary thing (they usually take only about 1 module per semester at most). In fact, most of the more basic modules are taught by lecturers and not professors.
  4. Jun 27, 2012 #3
    Well... all of my classes the people who are lecturing are professors..
  5. Jun 27, 2012 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    My understanding is that at many or most research-oriented universities, some of a professor's pay comes from the university, and some comes from the research grant (from some outside source) that funds his research (this is called "soft money"). I think a common setup is that the official salary from the university is based on a full teaching schedule, and the professor uses some of his grant money to "buy" some of his teaching load so he can use the time for research.

    (This is in the USA; practices are probably different in other countries.)
  6. Jun 27, 2012 #5
    thank you jtbell! :)
  7. Jun 27, 2012 #6
    One other thing is that a lot of the teaching classes are "nominal." If you open up any course catalog for a university, you will see entries for "graduate research" or something similar. Those are "bookkeeping classes". Graduate students pay tuition which gets pooled into teaching credits, which are used to pay for teaching loads. In fact, the "class" consists of people doing research. Distance learning classes also end up with the same framework.

    In addition, unlike most other occupations, universities *encourage* professors to moonlight, so it's very common for professors to have side jobs either consulting or starting their own companies. It's also encouraged for professors to take any inventions that they have, make money off of them, and start companies based on that research. Because universities are non-profits and because it's a "reputation economy" if you take your research and then start a mega-company and become a bizillionaire with the profits, the university will love you, whereas this will get you instantly fired in industry.

    Also companies will often sponsor research. They give the university money with the expectation that it will go to a particular group minus a "tax" which is giving to the university. In the "mechanical world" this doesn't lead to problems, but there has been a lot of discussion about conflict of interest when it comes to biotech and social sciences (i.e. finance).
  8. Jun 28, 2012 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I am not paid "more" for research- that is, whatever salary that I am paid through a research grant is at the same monthly level as the salary I am paid from my institution. Also, I can't double-bill my time- I can't simultaneously draw salary from my institution and my research grant.

    As a general rule, institutions pay salary ("hard money") for teaching; salary requests on a research proposal ("soft money") exist because of the assumption that the PI will spend time doing research instead of teaching. For tenure-track appointments, as jtbell mentioned, salary dollars from research can be used to replace (buy-out) institutional salary and/or they can used to provide salary support during summer months. Non-tenure track appointments usually require 100% salary support from research grants, and it is increasingly common for research-intensive institutions to require *all* faculty to 'recover' a certain percentage of their salary from research grants.
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