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What Is the Average Salary of a College Instructor?

Field of study and type of employer are two factors that affect the average salary of a college instructor. Keep reading to learn more about what you could earn in a postsecondary teaching position.

Career Overview

College instructors teach a wide variety of subjects in a wide variety of settings, such as technical schools, community colleges, and 4-year universities. The average salary of a teacher is highly dependent on factors such as these, and can differ greatly from about $60,000 a year up to $100,000 or more.

Important Facts about this Occupation

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% expected growth in employment (faster than average)
Certification May be required/beneficial when preparing students to earn the same credential
Key Skills Communication, critical thinking, resourcefulness, writing
Similar Occupations Career and Technical Education Teachers, High School Teachers, Postsecondary Education Administrators

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Based on Subject

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average salary for all postsecondary instructors was $73,680 as of May 2018; however, this can vary greatly depending on the field of study that you teach (www.bls.gov). The lists below detail the average salaries for some of the highest- and lowest-paying fields for college instructors, based on May 2018 BLS figures:

High-Paying Fields of Study

  • Law: $111,140
  • Engineering: $101,720
  • Economics: $101,480

Lower-Paying Fields of Study

  • Foreign Language and Literature: $67,640
  • English Language and Literature: $66,590
  • Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement: $61,900

Other Factors that Affect Salary

The BLS also shows that where you teach can affect how much you make as a college instructor. For example, an instructor at a 4-year college or university or a professional school typically earns more than an instructor at a community or junior college. Also, college instructors are increasingly being employed on a part-time rather than full-time basis. In these instances, instructors sometimes opt to teach at more than one institution to earn the equivalent of full-time pay, but this can leave them without full-time benefits, like insurance and paid vacation.

Education Recommendations

If you intend to teach at a 4-year college or university, you'll typically need to earn a doctorate. Some schools hire instructors who only hold a master's degree, but these instances are the exception rather than the rule. If you have a master's degree, you might instead consider teaching at a 2-year institution.

If you're looking for a tenured teaching position at a university, you can expect competition, and you'll likely need extensive experience; in the meantime, you might opt for a non-tenure-track or part-time position, which can help you gain valuable teaching experience in a college setting. Students who are working on their doctoral degrees might find part-time or temporary jobs as teaching assistants.