Academic tenure or a full professorship is the ultimate goal of postsecondary teachers. It guarantees job security and allows the freedom to teach even controversial subjects without fear of reprisal. Before an individual reaches that level, he must go through academic ranks, starting with that of assistant professor, which has lower pay than a full professor.


The Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed 1,251 colleges to determine salaries for the 2011-2012 school year. It showed how salaries differed by academic rank, type of institution and name of institution. For equal comparisons, all salaries are adjusted to a work year lasting nine months, whether individuals were paid for an academic year or fiscal year. Assistant professors, who are the lowest rank on the tenure track, averaged $66,564 annually. Only instructors, who are not on a tenure track, were paid lower at $47,847 per year. Associate professors made $78,565 per year on average and full professors earned $113,176 per year.

General Highs and Lows:

For all colleges, the lowest-paid assistant professors in the 50 states averaged $35,700 annually at Lackawanna College. This is a two-year institution in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with 18 tenured teachers out of 31 full-time members, and more than 2,100 students. The highest paid assistant professors earned $112,300 a year at the University of Pennsylvania. In comparison, full professors at the same university averaged $181,600 annually and associate professors received $117,800 per year. The University of Pennsylvania is a private doctoral institution in Philadelphia with 773 tenured teachers out of 1,807 full-time faculty members, and more than 27,000 students.

Public Four-Year Colleges:

Among public four-year colleges, the lowest-earning assistant professors were at Western Oregon University, averaging $42,500 per year. This public master’s institution is located in Monmouth, Oregon and has 133 tenured teachers out of a full-time faculty of 229. It has more than 7,600 students. The highest-paid assistant professors were at Rutgers University-Newark. Salaries here ran $100,200 per year. This public doctoral institution in Newark, New Jersey, has 261 tenured teachers out of 534 full-time positions and more than13,000 students.

Private Four-Year Colleges:

For private four-year colleges, the lowest-paid assistant professors in the 50 states were at Tabor College, with average salaries of $35,900 per year. Tabor, located in Hillsboro, Kansas, is a private baccalaureate institution with 757 students. It has 12 tenured professors out of 34 full-time faculty members. The highest-paid earned $112,300 at the University of Pennsylvania, which was also the highest paying for that rank among all institutions in the country.

Two-Year Colleges:

Among all two-year colleges, assistant professors received their lowest average of $39,800 per year at Sullivan County Community College, a public institution with more than 2,300 students located in Loch Sheldrake, New York. The highest salaries were at Westchester Community Colleges, where assistant professors averaged $90,000 per year. This public two-year institution is located in Valhalla, New York, and has more than 21,000 students. Of its 166 full-time teachers, 136 are tenured.

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