Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The highest paying job in university?

  1. May 13, 2010 #1
    I'm just wondering if anyone has any idea about what would be the highest earning job which you can get into through uni, must be mathematical or science based. not medicine or law.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2010 #2
    President of the university or university system. At a school with a successful sports program, the coach.
  4. May 13, 2010 #3
    Highest paying job in an university is not a professor. Usually the president. Some schools have their football coaches on salaries above $3 million a year.
  5. May 13, 2010 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Another good trivia quiz - which government job pays 3-5x as much as being president.
  6. May 13, 2010 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    fixxiks is right - football coach. Sigh.
  7. May 13, 2010 #6
  8. May 13, 2010 #7
    A football team could learn a great deal from a physics instructor...it's all about packaging.
  9. May 14, 2010 #8
    What country? If it's the U.S., I think it's one of the 18 senators lobbied by Exxon Mobile.

    The ability to become a NFL college, less so than a college coach is beyond any Ph D. The amount of stress they take is one of the highest. My friend use to play UF. It's not easy being a coach. So their paid matches their work environment.
    Last edited: May 14, 2010
  10. May 14, 2010 #9
    Well, I find quite astonishing the amount of money American universities pay for athletics and coaching. Perhaps it's just me, or the country where I live, but shouldn't universities be more focused in science and knowledge? I don't mean sports shouldn't be valued, but isn't it too much? 3 million dollars a year is a really good budget, and it could be used doing a lot of productive research.

    Anyway, I think we've all ignored the original question. I believe the original poster didn't want any athletics or management position to be discussed.
  11. May 14, 2010 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Compared to being a postdoc in this group http://www.cup.uni-muenchen.de/ac/klapoetke/ (see http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/86/8601sci1.html [Broken])

    You know you are doing real chemistry when you synthesize TNT as a student warmup and HF and FOOF are only precursor steps to the stuff you are trying to make.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. May 15, 2010 #11
    No, it is purely because of a strange cultural obsession with team sports. You can argue any number of jobs are just as stressful - that is a complete red-herring. An anthropologist from another planet would find it ludicrous to see the amount of money spent by research institutions on spectator sports.
  13. May 15, 2010 #12
    Eh, it's just economics - supply and demand. It's very hard to find a coach who can win games and fill stands, and you can easily look at a coach's record to see how he performs against those metrics. It's much harder to quantify the differences between professors, especially in a way that would justify spending 10x the salary on one professor over another.

    One great D1 level coach is easily worth ten so-so assistant coaches to a big school. It's harder to argue that its worth passing up ten random assistant professors just for one top researcher. Schools always have an option to just add more researchers vs hiring the best. This decreases the value of being a top researcher. Each team only gets one head coach.

    And let's not forget tenure. Coaches are dumped as soon as they stop performing. Schools don't have that option with professors.

    I'm not saying it's right, but it's hardly surprising. It would take a lot of government policy action to change anything here, but honestly the only reason to increase pay for professors would be if the quality of those people staying in academia isn't adequate. As far as where government money is needed - I don't think increasing the quality of the USA's PhDs is a priority.

    Oh, and professors in all math and science fields make about the same money.
    Last edited: May 15, 2010
  14. May 15, 2010 #13
    As a general rule, if you are interested in money, universities are the wrong place to look. Even as a football coach... the big money is in the NFL.
  15. May 16, 2010 #14
    I wouldn't say it's a strange cultural obsession.

    Personally, I don't think he, she, or it would. I think that the anthropologist would find it stranger that people in math and sciences wouldn't figure out that team sports make so much money. One of the things that I found was that to do well outside of academia, you really have to rethink some of your beliefs about how the world works.
  16. May 16, 2010 #15


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Or at least one should separate how the world actually works from how you believe it should work.
  17. May 16, 2010 #16
    One reason that I encourage people to study philosophy and the humanities is so that you can deal with the fact that the world doesn't work in the way that you think it should. One thing that you learn when you start studying this sort of thing, is where you got the idea for how things should work.

    kote: It's very hard to find a coach who can win games and fill stands, and you can easily look at a coach's record to see how he performs against those metrics. It's much harder to quantify the differences between professors, especially in a way that would justify spending 10x the salary on one professor over another.

    Depends on the field. In business and finance, it's quite typical for one professor to have very, very different salaries. Different world in physics.

    Also having been on Wall Street, I think that we should get away from the idea that people that make large sums of money necessarily deserve those sums, or that making large sums of money means anything other than you can make large sums of money. Part of the reason I don't think too much about explanations for how football coaches deserve large sums of money is that it sounds a bit too much about how bank CEO's deserve large sums of money.

    A lot of the US attitudes toward money are social darwinist came from people like William Graham Sumner and Henry Spencer.
  18. May 16, 2010 #17
    Curious because I don't think it would take a lot of policy action to change things drastically. Any policy changes would of course be bitterly opposed by people that would lose because of it, but that's part of the political game.

    The problem is that academia really has very skewed priorities. Most of the demand that I see for professors is in lower division courses. Increasing pay for those positions would be a very good idea, but you run into some pretty huge political obstacles.

    Personally, I don't think this issue really is pay, but rather institutional structures. How much people get paid is largely determined by institutional games.

    That's not what I've seen. Professors in "hot fields" like biotech get pretty large amounts of money from consulting.
  19. May 16, 2010 #18


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It's a simple law of economics - anywhere that you get no points for coming second the reward is going to go up to whatever someone can pay.
    In industry a worker that is 90% as productive as another is worth 90% the salary, in sport a team that scores 90% of the goals of the winner is worthless, same in court - a lawyer that 'almost' wins a case isn't worth anything.
  20. May 16, 2010 #19
    I wasn't saying that they deserve more, just that it makes sense that they make more - which is why it would probably (although not necessarily) take policy / regulation to change things. Even when you're talking about business professors, the highest paid professors make nowhere near what they could be making outside academia.

    Consulting seems to me to be more of a way to work outside the system than it is a part of academia itself.
  21. May 16, 2010 #20
    It really depends on the specifics of the industry. There are some "feast or famine" industries. Curiously physics academia tends to also be feast or famine.

    They could be. Most areas of the law are not feast or famine industries. There is a lot of law that doesn't involve dispute resolution (i.e. contract drafting), and most dispute resolution involves negotiations in which both parties do whatever they can to stay out of court. Even cases that end up in court are rarely "either-or" propositions. It's usually the situation that everyone knows that A is going to end up in jail or that A is going to be paying B some large sum of money, the question is how many years and what the sum of money is. If you get sued for $50 million, and the lawyer gets it so that you "almost win" and you end up just having to pay $500,000, this is a pretty big victory.

    Court cases are often long and expensive, and one sign of a good lawyer is that they will be able to give you advice that will keep you out of court, since with most court cases, you lose even if you win. How much the pay the lawyer is part of legal strategy.

    The other thing about corporate legal cases is that they tend to be massive "team sports." You aren't dealing with one lawyer but rather dozens of them.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook