What is the average salary of a professor of biology or biochemistry? I think that the people who answer the questions here are mostly professors, so maybe you could start by telling me your salary - if you don't mind. Any tips you would give to a student that is thinking about studying a science like biochemistry to then be a professor?

Hi Adrian,

I should start by saying I am not a Professor (yet!), but I think it's fairly safe to say that no one on this website went into science for the money. We could all be making a lot more cash if we had gone into other professions. That's not to say Professors are paid poorly (although it varies considerably between countries, universities etc.), but simply that it takes a long time to get there.

I am already 27 and yet I still don't have my PhD. My studentship (a salary of sorts) is similar in value to an entry-level administrative office job. Whereas many of my friends that graduated at the same time as me and went into 'normal' graduate jobs are on double that or more.

After I finish my PhD I will be looking for (better paid) post-doctoral positions, which normally only last one to a few years and can be thin on the ground (often requiring us to search all over the world). Most of us will take a few of these before being offered a permanent position, if we are offered one at all. It will be many years later before - and again, if - I achieve the rank of Professor.

It is important to point out that nobody is a 'shoe-in' for a professorship, even if you have a PhD. So there is a sacrifice both in terms of money and job security that most of us have made (and are making) to get as far as we are now.

Of course there is a pay off to what we do - each of us are discovering things about the world that nobody before us has ever known - we get paid to do what we enjoy!

A final point I should make is that you can make a lot of money in biology by entering industry (e.g. medical science, pharmacology etc.).


just a quick addition to Graeme's answer, because we get a lot of people reading this from different countries.  In Britain, and much of Europe, a professorship is linked to a 'chair' that is leading a large research group, or being a 'Head of Department'. 
So there are 'few' professorships compared to the number of lecturers, and 'few' lectureships compared to the number of Post-docs, etc. etc.  I believe that an assistant professor in the US is equivalent to a lecturer in the UK, that is, they have their own research group and teach as well.

Last edited by Neil Gostling (8th Mar 2007 22:16:46)

I'm a Lecturer in the UK (yes like an assistant prof in USA) and a typical starting Lecturer makes about £30k ($60k USA but living costs in UK are almost twice as much relatively, so not as nice as it sounds).  In the USA starting salaries are maybe $50-60k on average, with wide variability.

Overall though the last reason I'd recommend for anyone to go into academia is the money! The travel, the teaching, the flexible working schedule and independence, and above all the joy of scientific inquiry and discovery are the main payoffs.

Given how much effort (training, hours, stress etc) you have to put in to be moderately successful, you get paid poorly, e.g. school teacher. In many places (especially cities where good universities are and hence costs of living are often higher) you'll struggle to afford a house and other amenities... hell I don't know how I'll afford to send my kids to college for example.

Not many professors owning up to what they earn here! The minimum salary of a UK professor (what is called a 'full professor' in the USA) is just under £45,000 a year. After that your pay rises according to whether you take on big additional adminstrative duties (e.g. being head of your department) and, very importantly, your scientific reputation (e.g. if you publish lots of good papers and get invited as an expert to important international conferences, and if you win grants that brings research money into your university). However, John Hutchinson, in the previous answer, is a bit out of date in his comparisons to other professions. For example, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, a head teacher of a large secondary school can expect to start on at least £20,000 a year more. The starting salary for a schoolteacher is more than the starting salary of a lecturer at a university, and both are a LOT less than a doctor's salary. This annoys lots of university lecturers because, although they have done as much academic training as many other professions, and to get there have survived on very little money as students for many years, their salaries have increased very little over the years. But I PERSONALLY don't think that's grossly unfair, as I think schoolteachers and doctors do vital jobs -- particularly now that I have two small children! Besides, I wouldn't want to swap my job with a head teacher at a school, or a doctor. After all, I get paid to do what would be my hobby anyway -- studing animals -- and I enjoy teaching the next generation of biologists too. I can't think of a better job! And, if you're curious, I get about £56,000 a year, aged 46, which I think is pretty good.

Oops, shoulda qualified my answer for schoolteacher vs lecturer/prof salary as "school teachers in the USA" as I am familiar with their plight there (being from the USA but working in UK now, as you have to go where the jobs are in academia!) but not the situation w/school teachers in the UK.

Starting salaries vary greatly from country to country, between disciplines, and for different kinds of schools.  In the US, small colleges generally pay between $50-60K a year for first year professors with PhDs and 2-6 years of postdoctoral research experience.  Large research institutes might pay upwards of $80K for new professors at the top of their field (often with 4-10 years of postdoctoral experience). 
Getting these jobs isn't easy though!  Only about 30% of science PhDs actually get jobs in academia.  This last year, some Biology jobs at top universities in the US had over 400 applicants.  Many people with excellent publication records and PhDs from top institutes do not get jobs.  My advice for someone interested in research and teaching would be to really explore your options (like working at a biotech company or teaching at a community college or high school) and have backup plans to your backup plans.

Last edited by Ajna Rivera (22nd Apr 2010 17:01:28)

It varies greatly.  Here are four examples, two from myself.  When I started my first assistant professor job in West Virginia, I was making $49K/9 months.  i recently moved to my second job and increased that to $75K/12 months.  However, that's me.  A friend started at $80K/12 months while another friend is negotiating for a position now at ~$67K/9 months.  I can say that the 12 month salary is easier on the finances. No need to worry about socking away money for the summer.