Publication Date

October 1, 1998

Salaries for historians at colleges and universities rose faster than the rate of inflation for the third year in a row last year. However, for the first time, surveys by the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA) show salaries for history faculty have fallen behind average salaries for the academy at large.

The CUPA surveys found that during the 1997-98 academic year the average salary for historians at state colleges and universities rose to $51,352—a 3.2 percent increase. The average salary for historians at private institutions kept pace with a 3.1 percent increase, raising their average salary to $51,430. Compared to the modest 1.7 percent increases in the rate of inflation, this marked a substantial gain.

However, according to the CUPA surveys, these increases for historians lagged behind the average 5.3 percent increases in salaries at public institutions and 3.5 percent increases at private institutions. History salaries also lagged behind the 3.4 percent average increases in the much broader salary survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).1

As indicated in Table 1, ten years ago, the average salary for historians at public colleges and universities was $2,253 above the institutional average for all disciplines. In the most recent CUPA survey, history salaries had fallen $1,866 below the average. Similarly, while historians at private institutions earned on average $372 more than their colleagues in other disciplines in the 1987-88 survey, they have now fallen $96 behind the average for their counterparts.

The AAUP report, based on a survey of 2,228 campuses, does not provide discipline-specific information, but it does take into account all forms of compensation. According to the AAUP, the average faculty salary in higher education institutions is $54,241, with an average of $13,028 in additional benefits (including insurance, retirement, Social Security, and tuition).

Hiring Patterns and Changing Demographics

The CUPA data continues to support AHA, which indicates a growing trend in the hiring of new junior faculty to replace senior tenured faculty.2 The CUPA reports provide information on the number of faculty in a discipline at each rank. Five years ago full professors comprised 51 percent of the faculty at history departments in public colleges and universities, making it one of the most top-heavy disciplines in the academy. However, that number fell to 44.2 percent this past year-still well above the average of 37.1 percent for all disciplines, but declining notably. At the same time, the proportion of senior history faculty at private colleges and universities has remained fairly steady in recent years.

The percentage of history departments that reported the hiring of one or more new assistant professors rose again last year, up 4 percent, to 38.4 percent. The CUPA surveys have tracked a significant increase in the proportion of history programs hiring faculty .at the assistant professor level over the past 10 years. Unlike previous years, however, history departments at private institutions showed a larger increase in hiring. Nevertheless, more hiring is still taking place at public colleges and universities, where 41.6 percent of history departments reported new hiring at the junior ranks, compared to 29.6 percent of the programs at private institutions.

The AHA will publish substantive data from recent AHA surveys of the academic job market in the December issue of Perspectives.


1. For more information, consult CUPA’s 1997-98 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Private Colleges and Universities and its National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Public Colleges and Universities (1998), and “Doing Better: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 1997-98” in the March-April issue of the AAUP magazine, Academe. Special studies and tabulations can be obtained through the CUPA and the AAUP. Contact the AAUP at 100 14th St., NW, Ste. 500, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 737-5900, and CUPA at 1233 20th St., NW, Ste. 301, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 429-0311.

2. See Robert B. Townsend, “Academic Job Opportunities Better than Expected in 1997” Perspectives, October 1997.

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