The Average Salary & Teaching Load of a College Professor

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A higher rank as a professor equals a higher average salary.
A higher rank as a professor equals a higher average salary. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

The average salary for a college professor depends on many factors. While some receive a six-figure salary, many work for a lower than average annual salary. The teaching workload is just as variable, with some professors teaching more students yet earning less than their counterparts. Even the field in which you teach will have an effect on your salary and workload.

Average Salary

The average salary for a college professor varies depending on the type of institution, the professor's rank and the location of the school. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average for all professors is $58,830, but the lowest 10 percent averaged $28,870 and the highest 10 percent averaged $121,850. Research-oriented faculty earn more than teaching-oriented faculty, and professors in the sciences earn more than professors in the humanities.

University Professors

Most professors work at universities and similar four-year institutions. If they are full-time professors involved in the tenure process, they have a small teaching load compared to community college professors and some adjunct professors, and overall they focus more on research than teaching. University professors prepare lectures and evaluate their students with grades, but they also have access to teaching assistants, to whom they delegate some of this work.

Community College Professors

Professors working at community colleges, which some academics refer to as two-year colleges, focus primarily on teaching instead of research. On average they teach between four and five courses every semester, and they do not typically have access to teaching assistants or other professional aides. Individual departments may require additional administrative duties, and full-time community college professors will spend more than teaching than the university counterparts.

Adjunct Professors

Both four-year schools and community colleges employ contingent faculty, called adjuncts, to fulfill temporary needs on a short-term contract. In addition to receiving lower pay than full-time faculty, adjuncts must share rudimentary offices and accept whatever teaching assignments they are given, usually between one and three classes per semester. Adjuncts spend all of their time teaching; typically, schools will not include them in meetings or administrative decisions.

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