Many college professors change lives, challenge the world around us, and teach us the skills needed to improve ourselves. However, their salaries range widely — anywhere from adjunct professors earnings around $30,000 to a full-time professor earning $500,000 and more.
College professors may teach at either private or public universities; their level of expertise and interest will determine where they spend the bulk of their years teaching. If a professor can obtain a position at a prestigious private university, he or she will most likely be paid a lot more than at a second-tier or lesser-known public school.
As you might expect, the highest-paid professors teach mostly at prestigious private universities: Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, and Duke. Two teach at public universities: University of California–Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin. And three teach at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, an international business school located in Arizona.
You may wonder how these professors can command such amazing salaries. The answer: these are not your run-of-the-mill, everyday instructors. They are world-renowned, have made major contributions to society, and stand at the pinnacle of their profession. They are the rock stars of academia.
The professors are listed by salary, in descending order. The salary figures have been obtained from a faculty salary survey conducted by the American Association of University Professors, as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as from other sources. The figures are not necessarily current, but in no case are they more than five years old.
Salaries above $1 million are rounded to the nearest $100,000 or $10,000, depending on the information available; those below $1 million are rounded to the nearest $1,000.
Readers might also like: The 10 Most Controversial College Professors in the US.
1. David N. Silvers: $4.33 million
David N. Silvers is Clinical Professor of Dermatology and Pathology and Director of the Dermatopathology Laboratory at Columbia University. His stellar salary rivals that of many college coaches.
Dr. Silvers received his M.D. from Duke University in 1968. He is board certified in dermatology and pathology, with a certification of special competence in dermatopathology.
According to Bloomberg, when questioned about Silvers’ high salary, the school remarked, “David Silvers is renowned in the field and has significant responsibilities in directing a highly specialized lab at Columbia University Medical Center.”
2. Zev Rosenwaks: $3.3 million
Zev Rosenwaks is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cornell University and Director and Physician-in-Chief of the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College.
Dr. Rosenwaks received his M.D. from the SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn in 1972. He is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Dr. Rosenwaks is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in assisted reproduction. He was the director of the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk, Virginia, the unit that achieved the first IVF pregnancy in the United States. He also developed the first egg donation program in the United States.
3. Dean Takahashi: $2.6 million
Dean Takahashi is Adjunct Professor in the Practice of Finance at the Yale School of Management, and Senior Director of Investments at Yale University.
Dr. Takahashi received his Ph.D. in economics from Yale.
In addition to being a professor, Dr. Takahashi is Senior Director of Investments for Yale, where he helps oversee more than $17 billion of the university’s endowment, pension, and charitable trust assets. Prior to joining the Yale Investments Office in 1986, he worked at Affirmative Investments in Boston and as a VISTA volunteer in Vermont.
In 2009, Dr. Takahashi took a two-month leave from Yale to serve as a consultant to the Office of Domestic Finance in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he focused on the impact of the financial crisis on municipal finance and policy issues regarding the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
Dr. Takahashi is married to Wendy Sharp, who teaches violin and oversees chamber music at Yale. They have two children, Kerry and Kai, who are members of the Yale College classes of 2014 and 2016.
4. William E. Fruhan Jr.: $1.19 million
William E. Fruhan Jr. is the Baker Foundation Professor and the George E. Bates Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, where he has served as Senior Associate Dean, Director of Faculty Development, Chairman of the Executive Education Advanced Management Program, Chairman of the Finance Area, and Course Head for Finance in the first year of the MBA Program.
Dr. Fruhan, who received his Doctor of Business Administration degree from Harvard University, has also directed 15 different private corporations. He is the author of a number of books, including The Fight for Competitive Advantage, Financial Strategy, and Revitalizing Businesses, as well as co-editor of Case Problems in Finance.
Dr. Fruhan’s many scholarly articles include “Corporate Raiders: Head ’em Off at Value Gap,” “Management, Labor and the Golden Goose,” “How Fast Should Your Company Grow?,” “Is Your Stock Worth Its Market Price?” (with T. R. Piper) — all in the Harvard Business Review — and “Levitz Furniture: A Case History in the Creation and Destruction of Shareholder Value,” in Financial Analysts Journal.
5. Dan J. Laughhunn: $1.03 million
Dan J. Laughhunn is Professor Emeritus at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Among courses taught by Dr. Laughhunn, who received his Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Illinois, are the following: Risk Management, Capital Budgeting, Managerial Economics, Finance, and Risk Attitudes of Professional Managers.
Dr. Laughhunn’s main field of research is decision science — the study of human decision-making under various circumstances and analyzed according to different theories and sets of assumptions. Within the field of decision science, he specializes in the study of the risk preference of managers.
Dr. Laughhunn has published widely in the main academic journals for the fields of management science, decision science, and financial management.
6. Andrew M. Isaacs: $709,000
Andrew M. Isaacs is Adjunct Professor of Business and Engineering at the University of California–Berkeley, where he is also Director of New Management of Technology Programs, Director of the Mayfield Fellows Program, and Co-Executive Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Innovation at the UC–Berkeley Haas School of Business.
Mr. Isaacs received his M.S. in Geochemistry from the University of Michigan.
Mr. Isaacs teaches courses on Marketing for High Tech Entrepreneurs, the Business of Nanotechnology, Opportunity Recognition: Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, and Energy, Sustainability, and Business Innovation.
He is also on the advisory board of the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, as well as holding the following directorships:
- Director, Bridging the Divide Program on Technology in the Developing World
- Director, Hitachi Fellows Program
- Director, IBM Ventures Fellows Program
7. Kannan Ramaswamy: $700,000
Kannan Ramaswamy is the William D. Hacker Chair Professor of Management in the Department of Global Business at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Dr. Ramaswamy received his MBA from the University of Madras (now Chennai), India, and his Ph.D. from Virginia Technological University. He is now a U.S. citizen.
Dr. Ramaswamy is known for his expertise on global strategy, emerging markets (especially South Asia), the energy sector, corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, and global management.
Dr. Ramaswamy is on the editorial board of several leading journals in the field of international management, and has co-authored (with fellow Thunderbird professor Andrew Inkpen) Global Strategy: Creating and Sustaining Advantage across Borders.
8. Andrew Inkpen: $566,000
Andrew Inkpen is the J. Kenneth and Jeannette Seward Chair in Global Strategy and Professor of Global Management at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Dr. Inkpen received his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario. In addition to the Thunderbird School, he has taught at the Ivey Business School (University of Western Ontario), Temple University, National University of Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University, also in Singapore.
Dr. Inkpen’s research focuses on management of multinational firms, management of knowledge and organizational learning, and strategic alliances and international joint ventures. He has worked closely with various industries.
His academic fields of expertise include Joint Ventures and Strategic Alliances, Global Strategy, International Knowledge Management, and the automotive, telecommunications, and energy, oil, and gas industries.
With Thunderbird colleague Kannan Ramaswamy, Dr. Inkpen has co-authored Global Strategy: Creating and Sustaining Advantage across Borders.
9. Steven Weinberg: $536,000
Steven Weinberg is the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds a joint appointment in the departments of Physics and Astronomy.
In 1979, Dr. Weinberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics — science’s top honor. Together with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam, he devised the electroweak theory, which unified two of the four main fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force and weak atomic force.
Dr. Weinberg is also a bestselling author whose books include The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe and Dreams of a Final Theory.
Dr. Weinberg, who received his Ph.D. from Princeton, has published more than 300 scholarly articles and written 10 books; he is also a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. Recently, he addressed a sold-out crowd at the World Science Festival in New York City.
10. Graeme Rankine: $493,000
Graeme Rankine is Associate Professor of Accounting, as well as Academic Director of the LG Electronics Executive MBA (Korea) Program, at Thunderbird School of Global Management. He is currently the Academic Director of Thunderbird’s Finance for Global Managers Program, and Lucent’s New Business Development Program.
Dr. Rankine has also been Academic Director of the Executive MBA–Europe Program and the EMBA–Asia (Taiwan) Program.
His research and teaching interests include Global Finance and Accounting, Strategic Finance and Accounting for Value Creation, Corporate Finance, Activity-based Costing and Management, Balanced Scorecard, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Corporate Reorganization and Restructuring.
Rankine, a native of Australia, received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington.
He has taught strategic finance and accounting programs in Thunderbird Executive Education for many corporations, including Aventis (China), ARCO (China), Briggs & Stratton, British Petroleum (USA), Cox Communications, Danone, DHL, Hewlett Packard, Hilti (China), ExxonMobil, Lucent, Pharmacia, SK Corporation, T-Mobile, Kraft, and Unocal.
Prior to joining Thunderbird, Rankine taught at Rice University, Australian National University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, London Graduate School of Business Studies, University of Colorado, and University of Washington.
As you can see, it’s actually possible for an educator to get paid like a professional athlete. As you can also see, it takes a ton of studying, a bunch of publishing, and a bit of genius to land on this kind of list. And speaking candidly, most of these professors have achieved expert status by earning degrees in subjects other than education. If you plan on joining a list like this in the future, chances are that you'll need to excel in an area of your own specialization first. But getting a degree in education could give you the tools to share that expertise with others. We can’t promise that becoming a teacher will make you a millionaire, but it’s something to shoot for.
Take your first step by checking out these education degree programs:
- Online Teaching Degrees
- Bachelor in Education
- Master in Curriculum and Instruction
- Master in Educational Leadership
- Master in Educational Technology
- Master in Higher Education
- Doctorate in Higher Education
By the way, it did not escape our attention that all 10 entries on this list are men. We won’t make any excuses for gender-based wage inequality. That’s messed up, plain and simple. However, we are working on a list of the best paid female professors in U.S. colleges and universities. We’ll have that for you soon!