An extension agent develops programs for educational efforts that take place outside of the traditional campus setting, such as correspondence education. In this nontenure track, the principal agent is the highest-ranking extension agent, which is reflected in the salary for the occupation. In fact, the principal agent has a rank that's equivalent to that of a professor.
The extension-principal agent has similar job qualifications as a regular teacher or professor. Because this is a higher-level position, a master's degree is typically required. Lower-level extension agents only need a bachelor's degree. The level of experience usually required for the position ranges between three and six years.
As of February 2011, the "Texas Tribune" reports the salary range for an extension agent is $33,400 to $70,908. Due to the higher level of the occupation, an extension-principal agent falls on the higher end of that range. A 2004 report from the United States Department of Agriculture shows a salary range for extension agents of $50,000 to more than $190,000. This includes all levels of extension staff, including directors. The University of Arkansas listed a base master's degree salary for an extension agent of $38,000 in 2011. More-experienced extension principal agents command a higher salary and get additional pay based on years of experience at $800 per year, related work experience at $600 per year, related educational experience at $400 per year and any other related experience at $200 per year.
Comparison to Teacher Salaries
In 2005, the University of Georgia found that early-career extension agent salaries lag behind that of 12-month teacher contracts. By mid-career level, extension agent salaries catch up with teachers because teachers are only receiving cost-of-living increases by this point in their career. In fact, extension agent salaries may exceed teacher salaries. At the time of the study, extension agent salaries for master's degree holders was increased to $36,000 in an attempt to bridge the gap. No further studies have been done as of August 2011.
Because this occupation is affiliated with educational institutions, a full benefits program typically completes the salary package. For example, extension agents working with the University of Tennessee receive sick leave, vacation days, holiday pay, retirement plans, medical insurance and tuition discounts. Exact benefits vary by employer.
- USDA; Salary Analyses of Cooperative Extension Service Positions; December 2004
- Carnegie Mellon University: Handbook of Academic Titles
- Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension: Extension Agent Job Descriptions
- University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: Salary Equity/Competitiveness
- University of Tennessee: County Extension Agent Position Benefits Summary
- "Texas Tribune": Extension Agent Salaries at Texas AgriLife Extension Service