What Professors Make The Most Money?

Academic compensation has long been a topic of curiosity and speculation. In this article, we delve into the factors that contribute to professors’ earning potential and seek to uncover which professors make the most money. 

By examining field of study, academic rank, institutional type, and geographical location, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the intricate landscape of academic salaries.

What Professors Make The Most Money?

Field Of Study

The field of study plays a significant role in influencing professors’ earning potential. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Demand And Market Value. Professors in fields with high demand and a limited supply of expertise, such as computer science, engineering, or healthcare-related disciplines, often command higher salaries due to the market value of their specialized knowledge.
  • External Funding And Grants. Specific fields, such as scientific research or technology development, often attract substantial external funding. Professors in these fields may have access to research grants and contracts, which can enhance their earning potential through additional income streams.
  • Industry Partnerships And Collaborations. Professors involved in interdisciplinary research or collaborations with industry partners may have opportunities for consulting, patents, royalties, or sponsored research projects. These external engagements can significantly augment their income.
  • Prestige And Reputation. Fields historically associated with prestige and high-profile research, such as medicine, law, or economics, may offer higher salaries to attract top talent. The reputation and impact of a professor’s work within their field can influence their earning potential.
  • Academic Demand And Enrollment. Fields with high student enrollment and demand, such as business, healthcare, or computer science, may have greater resources allocated to attract and retain faculty. This can lead to competitive salary packages in order to secure top educators in these areas.

Note that while these factors generally contribute to differences in professors’ earning potential across fields, there can be significant variations within disciplines based on individual qualifications, research productivity, teaching effectiveness, and institutional policies.

The Academic Rank

Salary disparities among academic ranks (assistant professors, associate professors, full professors) are influenced by several key factors. While specific numbers, percentages, and statistics may vary across institutions and disciplines, the following factors contribute to the differences in salaries:

  • Rank Progression. As professors advance in their academic careers from assistant professor to associate professor and then full professor, they typically experience salary increases. According to a survey conducted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 2020, the average salary for assistant professors was $76,417, while associate professors earned an average of $89,591, and full professors had an average salary of $104,820.
  • Tenure Status. Tenured professors, who have achieved job security and academic freedom, often earn higher salaries compared to non-tenured faculty members. This is due to the increased experience, expertise, and research accomplishments typically associated with tenured positions. According to the same AAUP survey, tenured professors earned an average of $104,820, while non-tenured faculty earned an average of $69,911.
  • Institutional Factors. Different institutions may have varying salary structures and resources allocated to faculty compensation. Factors such as the size and prestige of the institution, regional cost of living, and budgetary constraints can impact salary disparities among academic ranks. For example, professors at top-tier research universities or Ivy League institutions may generally have higher salaries compared to those at smaller colleges or non-research-intensive universities.

While these factors contribute to salary disparities, individual accomplishments, teaching effectiveness, institutional policies, and negotiations can also play a significant role in determining the overall compensation of professors. 

Additionally, specific salary data may vary across countries, disciplines, and individual institutions.

Geographical Location

Yes, there are significant differences in professors’ salaries based on the geographical location of their institution, and these variations can affect which professors make the most money. Here are some examples of how professors’ salaries differ in various countries:

United States

Professors in the United States often have the potential to earn higher salaries compared to many other countries. Factors such as the institution’s size, academic rank, field of study, and location can influence salary ranges. For instance, professors in prestigious research universities in major cities earn more than those in smaller colleges or rural areas.


Professors in Canada generally have competitive salaries. The average salaries can vary based on factors such as the province, institution type (public or private), and field of study. Professors in major cities like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal may have higher salaries due to the higher cost of living in these urban centers.

United Kingdom

Salaries for professors in the United Kingdom can vary depending on the institution and rank. Generally, salaries tend to be lower compared to countries like the United States. However, prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London often offer higher salaries to attract top talent.


Professors in Germany have relatively high salaries compared to some other European countries. The salary structure is often determined by the federal state (Bundesland) and the rank of the professor. Factors such as research experience, teaching load, and institutional funding can also impact salaries.


Salaries for professors in Australia can vary based on the institution, discipline, and rank. Professors in research-intensive universities typically earn higher salaries compared to those in teaching-focused institutions. The university’s location, such as metropolitan cities like Sydney or Melbourne, can also influence salaries.


In Sweden, professors often have competitive salaries due to the country’s emphasis on education and research. The salary structure is usually standardized and based on academic rank, experience, and the specific collective agreement between the university and faculty unions.

Professor Salaries Ranked

Here is a generalized ranking from highest to lowest salary for various types of professors in different fields. Medical, business, engineering, and law professors make the most money compared to their peers.

  • Medical Professors
    • Clinical Professors: $200,000 to $300,000+.
    • Medical School: $150,000 to $250,000+.
  • Business Professors
    • $120,000 to $180,000+.
  • Engineering Professors
    • $100,000 to $160,000+.
  • Law Professors
    • $100,000 to $150,000+.
  • Computer Science Professors
    • $90,000 to $140,000+.
  • Natural Sciences Professors (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
    • $80,000 to $130,000+.
  • Social Sciences Professors (Psychology, Sociology, Economics)
    • $70,000 to $120,000+.
  • Humanities Professors (English, History, Philosophy)
    • $60,000 to $110,000+.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, professors’ earning potential varies based on factors such as field of study, academic rank, institutional type, geographical location, and external funding opportunities. 

Professors make the most money in high-demand fields, prestigious institutions, and regions with higher costs of living and strong economies. 

However, note that salary alone does not determine success in academia, as other factors like job satisfaction and intellectual impact are equally significant. Individual qualifications, experience, and institutional policies also play a role in determining compensation. 

Ultimately, a fulfilling and impactful academic career extends beyond financial considerations, emphasizing personal growth and contribution to society.

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