Community College Professors Earn More Than University Professors

I recently learned this fact, and had it confirmed by two other people in the world of post-secondary education. I tried to do some googling, but couldn’t find any reliable-looking data.

Is this a surprise to anybody else? Apparently college profs have it better because they’re unionized. As such, they’re paid more and enjoy better benefits than their peers at university. Plus, college instructors apparently aren’t under the same pressure to publish academic work.

As far as I could figure out, the main advantages of being a university professor are the accompanying prestige, and the, er, more cerebral and academic environment.

Did you know that this was the case? Any profs out there who might care to comment?


  1. From what I saw, my dad had it easy: working 8 months a year, nothing to publish unless he wanted to. He worked at a local college for over 30 years and it’s not like there were many developments in calculus and algebra for him to keep up with. And at the end (he retired 4 years ago) he was making more than I am as a database admin.

    On the other hand, he hated his job. The entire time. I know I’d hate it too, but back in the day you didn’t change careers I guess. So I’m not jealous, because I love what I do. Though I wouldn’t mind more vacation.

  2. Some universities with college roots have unionized faculties. Take Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops for example. I couldn’t say what the profs there get paid though.

    The University of Waterloo in Ontario is well known for having strong ties with industry. In the late 90s my girlfriend’s supervisor, a renowned chemistry prof, was responsible for bringing in literally millions of dollars of funding from industry. The prof made somewhere on the order of $60K a year.

    As a sysadmin with a half-completed bachelor’s, I made more.

    Although, come to think of it, the professor was happy and I wasn’t. I ended up going back and finishing that physics degree. 🙂

  3. Uni profs make their money from book deals, consulting gigs, research grants and so on. But, even without those revenue streams, some of them earn money in the $100k+ range, though Arts & Fine Arts profs are less likely to be at that level. ($35k for some!) Business profs can start in the $100ks.

    A lot of profs also moonlight as instructors at other institions. They teach the same courses and thus have no prep time. I think this is more common among college instructors, though.

    If you aren’t into the whole publish or perish thing and you don’t want to pick up side jobs, college is the destination of choice for many. Lots of vacation, no research or publishing pressures, etc.

    Of course, many courses are farmed out to sessionals now. So f/t instructors are a dying breed.

  4. One of my very best friends is a professor at a local university college. He makes more money that another of my very best friends who is an assistant professor at a local university. I can’t reveal either of their names, but with this anecdotal evidence, I’m quite convinced I did the wrong thing in going for the PhD. But *sigh* what can I say? I love research (and for the record, I love teaching too).

  5. Sounds like a great deal. That is, unless you know, you actually care about publishing papers and stuff!

    I can only comment on UBC, having did 8 years of post secondary education there. The profs I worked with didn’t seem to work very hard. A max load is teaching 2 classes a term (usually only given to new faculty), and most profs were taking months off every year for “research” or vacation. Looks like a pretty easy life. Yes, you do have to publish, but except for really prestigious journals, it’s fairly easy to get published these days.

    In terms of economic gain, a master’s will beat a Ph.D. in most fields, simply due to lost opportunity costs with getting a Ph.D. and the time value of money. Most people who go higher typically do it because they love learning and/or teaching.

  6. Many universities post their salary schedules online (SFU for example) and the amount you make is determined by your academic rank and placement within that rank.

    Most universities are unionized, but use the term “faculty association” instead of union. These faculty associations often encompass professional (non-academic) staff as well.

    2 and 2 (the 2 classes a term that Duane refers to) is becoming less common, especially in the Humanities, which suffers from lower funding. 3 and 3 is becoming more common for junior faculty.

  7. Ok, since this is my field I feel compelled to chime in. I agree with Darren James, a 2-2 load is rare now. I’ve been offered salaries of US$ 32,000 a year (gross salary pre-tax) with a 4-4 load in a number of (supposedly respectable) United States’ universities. I have said “No, thanks. I’d make more money in Mexico if I was a university professor there”… and that’s a truth.

    Some faculty members seem to be quite good at negotiating their teaching loads. I do know of some who have a 1-1 load or at the most, 1-2.

    It’s also true that some junior business profs make $ 100,000 or more. Clearly, I chose the wrong field. Environmental studies is NEVER going to get me that kind of salary.

    1. hello Raul, i know this discussion is somewhat dated so i’m hoping a response is still likely but i’ve been doing a lot of research on the facets of my potential profession and your post caught my attention the most. It did so because i’m currently an undergrad student in environmental studies with interests in biology/ecology/geophysics etc and i’ve been recently been giving mind to obtaining a phd because i want to be a professor and teach. in honesty i’m not wholly obsessed with how much money the profession will bring me because i love the discipline, but its something i still think about…. so i guess what i’m really asking is how is it? given and not given the issue of money. i know of some professors that don’t like teaching itself but i guess everybody has there reasons for and against. what are yours if you don’t mind me asking. id really love and appreciate any feedback. thx :]

  8. A lot depends too on how much funding you can bring into the university. I have a friend and colleague who has brought a lot of research funding into our local university, and he teaches a 0-1 load every other year (he has a large publication record as well, which helps).

  9. And I can’t speak for salaries but I have spoken at length with one of my past college professors. He’s been teaching for 30+ years and has taught at both Universities and Colleges. My understanding from our discussions is that at the College level, he feels less pressure to publish and research and as a result, has more time to prepare for the actual lectures. He had taught at Universities (both here and int he US) and Colleges and decided that he preferred the College life.

    I gathered that it’s as much a financial as a professional reason.

  10. Raul, have you thought about moving into a different department? I had a business prof who was actually a philosopher. He spun his experience into ethics and knowledge management. I thought he was brilliant for doing so!

  11. Thanks for the tip, Andrea… I actually think that I’m going to move into business and sustainability. If I manage to crank out a few papers on the topic, publish a book or something and establish some sort of presence as a sustainability/corporate social responsibility type, I might be able to convince a business school.

    I do have an MBA (and a BEng in Chemical Engineering), which helps a lot (and I have done some research in the sustainable business field). But most of the research I do now has to do with urbanization and the environment. But thanks for the suggestion 🙂 Point very well taken!

  12. I think that universities are *the excuse* for professors to do research (but bear in mind, Derek, that I’m a bit jaded right now – my experience with academia in the past few months has been less than happy).

    But my Mom is a professor, so are two of my brothers (all with PhDs). It’s the family business 🙂

  13. Does anyone know how much community college professors with PhDs earn–or where I could find out this info? I vaguely remember being told that com. college profs with PhD start off making $20k more than those with Masters…

  14. I taught community college for 10 years. (physics, computer basics, and mathematics) I have been out of it for over 20 years, but quite frankly I never got paid so much, to do so little in my entire life.. I just got sick of the politically correct BS that was starting to permeate the Academic faculty thinking. I felt more comfortable with the ‘skills’ teachers, that at least had some experience in the ‘real’ world. We were called ‘Teaching Masters’ back then..

  15. If you think college professors may make more money because they are unionized, wouldn’t it make sense to look a one of their union newsletters and their collective agreement?

    For example,

    At the end of the day, students should hope that no professor at the front of the room got into it for the money.

  16. Presumably most people posting here are students. Its disappointing that nobody would actually gather the easily available objective facts to formulate an opinion.

    College professors make substantially less money than university professors.

    Here’s links to the collective agreement at a smaller more college like university (as opposed to a big powerhouse university where salaries are even higher) – Trent:

    For comparison, here’s a link to common pay scale used at colleges across BC:

    Click to access Sectoral%20Table%20Common%20Agreement%20April%201,%202007%20-%20March%2031,%202010%20FINAL.pdf

    For Trent, faculty salaries start at a a low of 68569 and cap at 169428 (see page 170 Appendix A of the collective agreement). Merit pay increases these wages further.
    College salaries in BC range from a low of 49688 and cap at 83231.

    In other words, college and university salaries aren’t even in the same ball park with top university pay being more than double top college pay. To put that in perspective there’s a bigger difference between the salaries of a a top university professor and a top college professor than there is between a McDonald’s drive through worker and a top college professor.

    In conclusion, the title of the article and the “fact” the author learned couldn’t be more wrong.

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