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How to Negotiate a Higher Professor Salary

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Negotiating a higher salary can be quite difficult for professors because there are so many people competing for so few positions. In many fields, there are several hundred applicants for each entry-level job. At more advanced levels, there may be only 20 or 30 senior-level jobs open in a professor's specialty. Many academic salaries are negotiated within a framework of union contracts or government regulations, leaving only limited room for individuals to negotiate better deals. However, professors can use long- and short-term strategies to improve both base salary and other forms of compensation.

Research Productivity

Salary increases, especially merit raises, are usually linked to research productivity. This means that it is imperative to publish in top-tier journals and obtain grants consistently. Prestigious awards, fellowships and appointments to editorial or review boards also count as marks of distinction in academia, which can lead to larger raises. Although teaching awards and dissertation supervisions may count towards merit, simply doing your job of teaching and committee work is a condition of continuing employment, not a basis for merit raises. Make sure to document all research productivity when you submit the paperwork for annual merit increases.


Most universities increase your salary as you are promoted from assistant to associate professor and from associate to full professor. These two salary bumps are normally the largest in your career. Work closely with your department chair to ensure that you are on track for promotions as quickly as possible. If you are moving from one university to another, make sure that your years toward promotion and tenure at the old university are credited at the new one.


Professors who wish to negotiate higher salaries can take on administrative positions such as department chair or dean. Often these positions pay substantially more than ordinary professorial jobs. It is possible to negotiate, as part of an administrative contract, to retain the higher administrative salary if you choose to return to a regular teaching position.

Market Value, Moves and Counter-offers

The best way to get a raise is to apply for jobs at other universities. Usually, new positions will offer you significant pay increases to get you to move. Moreover, as an offer at a higher salary substantiates a claim that you are being paid less than your market value, you can ask your current dean for a counter-offer or market-value raise. As market value raises come from a different pool of money than regular cost-of-living and step raises, they might be available in years when faculty members are not getting raises. The main difficulty with the counter-offer strategy is that your current university may decide not to counter-offer. You should not pursue a new job unless you are willing to accept it.


Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.

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