Department, competition affect faculty members’ pay rates

Matt Graham

Faculty pay at the University depends not only on the amount of work professors do but the field in which they do that work.

Average faculty salary varies greatly from department to department. For example, faculty pay in the College of Liberal Arts averages just more than $78,000 a year, compared with more than $126,000 for professors in the Carlson School of Management, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting.

Faculty salaries are determined largely by market forces. Competition, not only with other schools but with the private sector, leads to some academic disciplines being far more lucrative for professors to work in.

“It’s all based on a market,” said Dennis Ahlburg, Carlson School associate dean.

Peter Zetterberg, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting, said certain academic disciplines historically get paid more than others.

Zetterberg said law faculty members are usually the highest paid at any university, followed by management and engineering professors.

“If you would look at the salaries at other institutions, you would find exactly the same thing,” he said.

Zetterberg said professors who are in high demand in the private sector can demand more money from universities.

“Medical professors could all be practicing physicians, working as physicians, making what physicians make,” he said. “The same goes for the law professors, who could all be working lucrative jobs with law firms.”

Ahlburg said competition with the private sector is making it increasingly hard to attract faculty members to business schools.

He said not many students graduate with doctorates in business, so colleges and businesses compete heavily with one another to attract top graduates.

“We need to convince students who get their business degree to become professors and not go into the private sector and make a lot of money,” he said.

Outside competition

But the competition doesn’t come only from within the United States.

“It’s an international market,” Ahlburg said.

Although some schools must fight with businesses for faculty members, private-sector competition is not a factor for all schools.

Jim Parente, College of Liberal Arts associate dean, said the private-sector competition does not really apply in his college.

Most liberal arts schools’ competition for recruiting faculty members comes from other liberal arts schools, Parente said.

As a result, salaries in liberal arts disciplines tend to be much lower than in other fields that have a higher demand in the business world, he said.

But there are exceptions. Faculty members from liberal arts fields such as economics and psychology tend to receive much higher pay than faculty members in other liberal-arts-related departments, officials said.

Factors for pay

Roberta Humphreys, associate dean for academic affairs at the Institute of Technology, said each faculty member’s salary is set on an individual basis.

She said the faculty head is required to review each member of the department, and salaries are “set by the department, in consultation with the dean.

“(Salaries are) based on the faculty member’s performance during that year, and actually sometimes they look at a pattern over two or three years based on research, teaching and service,” Humphreys said.

Research, teaching and service are the three factors the University uses to judge the performance of its faculty in all its colleges, Parente said.

Zetterberg said the discrepancies in pay among various departments are unavoidable.

Noting the high salaries at the Carlson School, he said, “If you’re going to have a school of management, those are the salaries you’re going to have to pay.”

But the same applies to all other colleges that employ professors who are trained in high-demand fields, Zetterberg said.

Parente said that when a department is figuring out where to get the funds needed to pay its faculty, it goes to the administration with a compact request.

“Every year, the college sends a compact document over to the central administration saying ‘These are our priorities, and these are the kinds of things we could use some of your help on financially,’ ” Parente said.

But officials said the amount of money allocated to any department for salaries ultimately depends on the competition it has to fight off to retain its faculty.