In the American university system, associate professors are generally ranked just below full professors. An associate professorship is usually a tenure-track position, sometimes leading to a position as a full professor. The responsibilities of associate professors are not uniform, and can vary depending on where they work and in which area they specialize. However, most professor positions of any rank involve both teaching and writing or research work.

Highest Salaries by Discipline:

Professors and instructors of all ranks earned the most in the discipline of legal professions and studies, according to a 2012 survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. In the field of law, associate professors earned $108,264, on average, in private schools, and $96,892, on average, in public schools. Associate professors of business, marketing and management earned $91,976 and $101,060 in private and public schools, respectively. Those who specialized in engineering earned $90,183 per year in private schools and $89,585 in public schools.

Lowest Private School Salaries:

Across all levels of postsecondary instructors included in the 2012 survey, the lowest wages were found in the disciplines of religious studies, general studies and liberal arts, and homeland security and related protective services. In private schools, associate professors in communications earned the least, with an average of $60,695 per year. Other low-paying subject areas for associate professors, on average, were theology and religion, at $61,996 per year; liberal arts, $62,886 per year; and English, $63,804 per year.

Lowest Public School Salaries:

The 2012 survey noted that disciplines with the lowest pay for postsecondary teachers tended to be different between public and private schools. In public schools surveyed, associate professors of English earned only $62,201 per year. The next two lowest-paying disciplines for associate professors were visual and performing arts, where they earned an average of $62,500 per year, and history, where they made $63,418, on average.

Increase in Salary:

According to the 2012 survey, associate professors in 813 participating postsecondary institutions reported higher salary increases overall in private schools than in public schools in the 2011-2012 school year. Associate professor salaries increased by 1.8 percent in all schools, compared to 2.3 percent in private schools and 1 percent in public schools. This is compared to an overall increase of 1.1 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, and no measurable increase in the 2009-2010 academic year.

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