There’s a huge gap in US professor salaries based on major

A decision to go into academia is rarely financially motivated. But it’s still worth noting that there’s a huge amount of income variation, depending on the area of study.

For example, despite both being social sciences, an economics professor can make an average of 50% more than a sociology professor when starting out as an assistant professor, according to a new report (PDF) from the American Sociological Association. The gap’s been around forever, but it’s getting larger:

A full professorship helps, but doesn’t exactly equal things out:

When you broaden it to a few more disciplines, the gap with sociology continues. This chart measures the percent of a comparable discipline’s salary an associate professor of sociology can expect to make:

Why the gap? Some of it’s due to demand. Engineering is rising substantially, and economics and its sub majors have traditionally been extremely popular. Fabio Rojas, a Northwestern sociology professor and blogger who originally highlighted the study, argues that his profession needs to do a better job of marketing itself. For instance, sociologists should make it clear that theirs is very much an applied, not just a theoretical field. Salaries don’t rise aggressively without external demand.

Sociologists should be well positioned to figure out how to make a stronger case for themselves. They did, after all, invent the focus group.


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