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. Schools offering Adult Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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 $50,000 a year up to $100,000 or more.

Important Facts about this Occupation

Job Outlook (2014-2024) 13% 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 $75,780 as of May 2014; 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 2014 BLS figures:

High-Paying Fields of Study

  • Law: $126,270
  • Health Specialties: $112,950
  • Economics: $102,120

Lower-Paying Fields of Study

  • Vocational Education: $53,130
  • Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement: $61,750
  • Education: $65,180

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.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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