Publication Date

September 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


A survey of salaries for the 2000–01 academic year from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR, formerly the College and University Personnel Association) offers some good news for recent history PhDs and graduate students, indicating continued growth in the hiring of new assistant professors and some marked improvement in salaries for junior faculty.

The CUPA-HR surveys for 2000–01 found that the average salary for historians at private colleges and universities rose to $56,489—a healthy 3.9 percent increase.1 When compared to last year’s 3.4 percent increase in the cost of living, this news seems particularly positive. However, the average salary for historians at public institutions lagged behind with a modest 2.7 percent increase, rising to $56,410.

The CUPA-HR salary figures are based on a 9- or 10-month academic year for faculty working over 51 percent time. The figure does not include fringe benefits and other outside income like summer employment. The CUPA-HR survey is the only national report that provides salary data on specific disciplines, but it divides the data into separate surveys of private and public institutions and also fails to differentiate between different types of degree-granting colleges and universities.

As the rank-by-rank data demonstrates (Table 1), within the aggregate trends were some intriguing variations for historians at public and private institutions. Most notable, the increasing competition for new history faculty drove up salaries for new assistant professors (all those hired to, or promoted to, the assistant professor rank in the fall of 2000) at private colleges and universities by 6.4 percent. This reversed two years of subpar increases in compensation for new assistant professors (where salaries rose less than 2 percent), and brings starting salary levels into line with public institutions at slightly above $39,000.

Table 1

At most of the other levels, salary increases were relatively similar at all ranks, and average compensation at public and private institutions was comparable.

Even though aggregate salary adjustments at public institutions were fairly equitable between the ranks, the gap between historians at the highest ranks and the lowest remains quite acute. At both public and private colleges and universities, the highest paid history professor made more than seven times the salary of the lowest paid instructor: $152,716 compared to just $20,834 at public institutions, and $160,400 compared to just $22,000 at private colleges and universities. A decade ago the highest paid history professor received five times as much as the lowest paid faculty member.

Notably, average history salaries continue to lag behind the averages for all faculty (Figure 1). In part, this decline results from a sharp decrease in the number of senior faculty in the profession (Figure 2). History had one of the highest proportions of full professors in any discipline less than a decade ago (at over 50 percent). The growing number of retirements and new hires reduced the proportion of full professors to below 40 percent for the first time in 15 years. The replacement of high-paid senior historians with lower-salaried junior faculty helped to reduce the average salary for historians. Nevertheless, salaries for historians at every rank have now fallen well behind the average for other faculty at the same level.

Figure 1

For the first time, the CUPA-HR surveys include some salary data on part-time faculty. Unfortunately the data is not broken down by discipline, but the report does provide information that supports the troubling data reported here last year about the low pay and limited benefits for most part-time and adjunct faculty. The average payment for part-time faculty at private institutions was $677 per credit hour last year, while the average payment at public colleges and universities was $710. Like the surveys reported last year, the CUPA-HR report found that fewer than one-third of the institutions provided basic retirement and health benefits to their part-time faculty.2 Public colleges and universities were somewhat more generous in offering benefits to their part-time staff. Access to voluntary retirement plans, for instance, was available to part-time faculty in 33 percent of the public institutions, while only 20 percent of private institutions provided such access.

Figure 2

A wider salary survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) found a similar 3.5 percent increase in average salaries for faculty at public and private institutions, as well as two-year colleges (which also were excluded from the CUPA-HR survey). 3

Salary increases were smallest at two-year colleges, rising by just 2.6 percent. Faculty at MA-granting "comprehensive" colleges fared only marginally better, averaging 3.0 percent in increased salary. Faculty at PhD-granting institutions and liberal arts colleges fared significantly better, with average increases of 3.8 and 3.7 percent respectively.

Unlike the CUPA-HR surveys, the AAUP report does not provide discipline-specific information, but it does take into account all forms of compensation, including fringe benefits and summer wages. According to the AAUP, the average faculty salary in higher education is $60,700 with an average of $14,506 in additional benefits and compensation (including insurance, retirement, Social Security, and tuition). For ranked faculty, the highest average salaries were in doctoral programs, where faculty average $68,553 with $16,444 in additional benefits. The lowest average salaries were at two-year institutions where salaries average $46,394 with an additional $12,228 in benefits.

Further Improvement in Junior Hirings

Perhaps the best news in the survey was the continued growth in the number of new assistant professors reported hired last year. (Figure 3). The proportion of history departments hiring new assistant professors continues to rise dramatically, to a third of all departments in the survey. The 764 departments responding to the survey reported hiring 370 new assistant professors last year. This is an increase of 93 new assistant professors in just two years, and 108 above the CUPA-HR findings of five years ago. This is the largest number of institutions hiring and the highest number of new hires since the CUPA-HR surveys began counting in 1986.

Figure 3

These figures reinforce AHA data reported earlier this year, according to which a similar increase could be seen (in the number of new assistant professors hired) in the last edition of the Directory of History Departments.4 The data in the CUPA-HR surveys also highlights the marked generational shift now taking place in history departments, as the proportion of full professors of history fell to its lowest point in 15 years (Figure 2). While still above the average for all fields (full professors account for 35 percent of all faculty at private institutions compared to 39 percent of history faculties) the proportion of upper level faculty has been declining at the rate of 2 to 3 percent a year since 1996.


1. CUPA, National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Private Colleges and Universities (published annually for the academic years 1986–87 through 2000–01), and CUPA, National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Public Colleges and Universities (published annually for the academic years 1986–87 through 2000–01). Salary figures are based on a 9- or 10-month academic year, full-time faculty only. Fringe benefits and summer earnings are excluded. Copies can be obtained from CUPA-HR at 1233 20th St. NW, Ste. 301, Washington, DC 20036-1250, (202) 429-0311.

2. See Robert B. Townsend, "Summary of Data from Surveys by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce," (November 2000), 3.

3 American Association of University Professors, "Uncertain Times," Academe 87:2 (March-April 2001). Copies can be obtained by contacting the AAUP at 1012 14th St., NW, Ste. 500, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 737-5900.

4. See Robert B. Townsend, "2000 Job Market Report: History Job Openings Continue to Surge," Perspectives 38:9 (December 2000), 3.

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