What do professors make in Canada? - Macleans.ca

What do professors make in Canada?

It may be more than you guessed. Click to see where your school stands.

Professor by Rainer Ebert on Flickr

Professor photo courtesy of Rainer Ebert on Flickr

What does your professor make? Assuming he or she is a full (tenured) professor, it’s probably more than you guessed. The median pay among full professors at 31 Canadian schools is $128,480, according to a recent study.

That said, if your professor is at the University of Northern British Columbia, she likely makes a far less than if she’s with the University of British Columbia. A report by Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Studies shows that salaries in the 2009-10 school year followed no apparent pattern. Some highly-ranked schools pay less than not-so-prestigious schools. A few smaller schools — Trent for example — pay profs much better than bigger neighbours. The report presented data from 31 schools. That’s fewer than half of the 81 schools profiled in the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities, meaning this list is far from comprehensive.

It’s worth reiterating that these figures are for full professors only. Assistant professors, associate professors and contract faculty make much less and many academics work for more than a decade before getting full status, if they ever do. Still, these numbers show that professorship is a lucrative career from coast to coast.

Trent – 158,876

Calgary – 154,008

British Columbia – 151,145

Alberta – 145,585

Athabasca – 144,689

McMaster – 144,366

Lethbridge – 144,255

York – 143,091

Wilfrid Laurier – 142,905

Windsor – 141,831

Ottawa – 141,417

Guelph – 139,934

Lakehead – 137,827

Manitoba – 137,765

Brock – 137,666

UOIT – 135,000

St. Mary’s – 129,603

Victoria – 128,122

UPEI – 126,903

Memorial – 126,623

Nipissing – 123,754

New Brunswick – 123,546

St. Thomas – 123,307

Brandon – 117,494

Acadia – 110,000

UNBC – 103,796

Cape Breton – 102,622

Mount Royal – 101,974

OCAD – 101,086

Kwantlen – 84,896

Trinity Western – 78,778


What do professors make in Canada?

  1. Many academics work for more than a decade?

    Many get a 4 year BA, a 2 year MA, a 6 year PhD, and a 2 year post-doc, and THEN if they’re lucky they start their tenure track. Tenure is typically in year 6, and you usually have to wait at least 5 years after tenure before you can even try for full prof. Most don’t even try.

    Show me another job where you need 14 years of post-secondary training, 6 years probation, and 5 years further probation before you can make $120K a year. 25 years of your life. 25 years of training. For $120K.

  2. The wages are fair, considering the level of education the professors must attain before becoming tenured. They have already paid a substantial amount in education costs for their own degrees.

    Considering that my husband made approximately $145,000 as a 4th-year electrician apprentice last year, I’d say the wages for professors are a bit on the low side – I expected them to make more.

  3. mat

    Three quarters of Canadians made less than $50,000 in 2009 and 95 per cent of Canadians made less than $100,000, according to Revenue Canada. Most people in most jobs are constantly upgrading their skills, just like academics. So, even though I acknowledge that they work very hard, I still believe that full professors are well-paid.


    • You know what, I’m very much inclenid to agree.

  4. Josh
    The issue is the training involved: You have to give up so much time being in school and going into debt, that most profs are starting life in the early 30s owing substantial amounts (many people I know have debts nearly $100K)…. so they’re not even gettting started on saving for retirement or buying a house into their 40s. They therefore need reasonable compensation for that. That’s 15 years of schooling that they’re not earning at all–so someone finishing college after 2 years and making $50K is going to be ahead of a professor for several decades before the prof has a chance to even catch up.
    Rate of pay should be tied to education required, since education is so expensive and takes you out of the work force.
    Most people don’t make as much money–yes, but NOBODY else goes to school as long as professors. Not medical doctors, not vets, not CEOs, nobody.

  5. I’m not surprised at all. I think the pay that comes with a full proffessorship is modest enough given the talent, responsibility, and workload involved. Remember, this is the pinnacle of an academic career, not the average working rank. Compared to top earning doctors, lawyers, engineers, business people, politicians and many other professionals, a professors pay is not so great. It is merely enough, I think, to avoid making money a major disincentive for those who are committed to advancing research, providing knowledgeable advice to society, and teaching future academics and professionals.

  6. These numbers are overstated. Many professors don’t get full time contracts and only get paid for a few courses they teach each academic year. Those have as much education as tenure professors. These numbers are not median, they are top 10% from each school.

    • Sorry, sunglasses, if they don’t have “full time contracts,” then they are not professors. The are sessional lecturers, which is a different category altogether. The great thing about being a professor is that you can often pick which 10 hours a day you work—in many disciplines, it is a kind of life-style choice, and the thinking is never turned off. The money after 10 or more years of education, and starting out at a research university full-time, is about $70k/year.

  7. Key word here is opportunity cost.

    Simple calculation. Take two people at age 23 with a Bachelor’s degree. One wants to be a prof. The other goes out and finds a full-time job with fixed salary of $50000/yr that never increases (slightly above the 25-29 year-old median, but below the 34+ medians posted in the other article). We’ll call this person a median income earner (MIE).

    Our to-be professor’s (TBP) academic progression looks like this:
    -2 year Master’s (no income)
    -4 year Ph.D (no income)
    -2 year post-doc ($40k/year)
    -1 year post-doc ($40k/year)
    -5 year assistant professorship ($75k/year)
    -5 year associate professorship ($85k/year)
    -full professor (128k/year)

    At age:
    29: MIE has earned $300k, TBP, $0.
    32: MIE – $450k, TBP, $120k
    37: MIE – $700k, TBP, $495k
    42: MIE – $950k, TBP, $920k
    65: MIE – $2000k, TBP, $3864k

    Now, you might say, “So look, the prof earns twice as much by the end of their career”. And that’s true. But the income differences at age 29, 32, and 37 are significant. Our median income earner could be well on their way to paying off a house by the time our to-be professor could even think about buying one. Having access to that money earlier in life does matter–in terms of home equity, investments, having children, whatever, debt repayments, whatever.