In 1919, as the smartest ditched academia for the private sector, had professors’ salaries gotten too low? The average professor then earned $41K in today’s money. Average professor salaries are much higher now, but the problem persists — or has grown.
Edwin F. Gay, Dean of Harvard Business School penned an essay on the subject. As the article notes, “after Jan. 1 [he] will forsake educational pursuits to manage the New York Evening Post.” His assessment:
“High thinking and low living” may have been the teacher’s traditional habit, but when the living falls too low, even the high thinking youngster must look elsewhere for the exercise of his talent.
He writes that at an unnamed “one of the greatest of our Western State universities,” the average professor’s salary in 1918 was $2,438. Using historical inflation data, that would be the equivalent of $41,425 now. (And if anything, given the university’s presumably-elite status, that was presumably meant to represent the higher end of professors’ salaries at the time.)
In 2018, the American Association of University Professors found that the average salary was $104,820 for a full professor, $81,274 for an associate professor, and $70,791 for an assistant professor.
In other words, the salary did indeed go up. But the same concerns about the best and the brightest largely going into the private sector instead of academia persist. Indeed, it’s likely a bigger concern now than back in 1919, given the explosion of such lucrative intelligence-based fields as the tech sector and Silicon Valley.
Does a University Career Offer “No Future”?: Failure to Pay Professors Decent Salaries Presents Grave Problem– World of Business Is Drawing Them Away
Published: Sunday, September 14, 1919