Biology professors at community colleges normally need only a master's degree, while those at four-year colleges, universities and professional schools nearly always need a Ph.D. degree, especially for full-time positions. The earnings of a biology professor depend on a number of factors, including not only academic credentials, but also the professor's rank, the type of institution and its location.
Salary by Rank
Salary.com provides salary information for Ph.D. biology professors as they advance up the academic ladder to obtain full professor rank and tenure at four-year institutions. At the lowest level, an assistant professor of biology has a median annual salary of $55,267 as of April 2011. An assistant professor's salary varies from $27,741 at the 10th percentile to $87,946 at the 90th percentile. An associate professor has a median income of $65,668 per year, with a 10th to 90th percentile range from $32,551 to $106,182. A full professor earns a median salary of $82,529 per year, with a range from $45,241 to $165,260. Gaining tenure normally takes about seven years.
Average and Range of Salaries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the average salaries of all post-secondary teachers of biology, combining community college professors with those in four-year colleges and universities. Their average annual wage came to $87,220 per year as of 2009. The earnings of professors at the 10th percentile came to $41,060 annually, while those at the 90th percentile earned $155,020.
Salaries by Type of School
Professors of biology in four-year colleges, universities and professional schools earned more on average than those in junior colleges, according to the BLS in its 2009 report. A total of 42,380 professors in four-year colleges, universities and professional schools earned an average of $91,440 per year. In two-year or junior colleges, 11,300 professors of biology averaged $66,350 per year.
Five states had an average pay for biology professors exceeding $90,000 per year in 2009, according to the BLS. In Texas, the highest-paying state, professors averaged $115,170 per year. In Alabama, they averaged $109,990, while in Massachusetts they averaged $106,780. Hawaii came fourth, with an average annual pay of $95,520 per year, and in New York, the average was $90,800 per year.
The number of jobs for professors in all disciplines will increase by 15 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS. An increase in the traditional college-age population and the large number of adults returning to college will spur this increase. Many jobs will open up at two-year colleges for teachers with master's degrees, but competition for full-time tenure-track jobs at colleges and universities will be keen. However, biologists can find employment in many other industries once they have a PhD degree. According to Collegegrad.com, more than half of biological scientists work for government at the federal, state or local level, while many others work in the pharmaceutical industry or in research laboratories.