UC Berkeley professors are paid the second-highest average salaries amongst all public doctoral institutions, as first reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The report showed that for the year 2015-16, UC Berkeley professors were paid $175,617 on average, second behind UCLA and one spot above University of Michigan, with professor salaries are $184,509 and $162,846 on average, respectively. In total, the list of 20 colleges contains eight of 10 UC campuses, with five of them ranking in the top seven.
Vice Provost for the Faculty Benjamin Hermalin said in an email that UC Berkeley seeks to hire and retain the best faculty in its respective fields, who receive high salary offers from other world-class universities. Therefore the campus, according to Hermalin, has to “match the competition or … be within striking distance of it.”
He also cited Bay Area’s higher cost of living as another factor behind higher salaries.
“Average professor salary at the University of Michigan is 93% of Berkeley’s, but Ann Arbor is a 51% cheaper place to live than Berkeley,” Hermalin said in an email. “If Berkeley matched Michigan on a cost-of-living basis, the $162,846 average salary at U of M would need to be $329,553 at Berkeley.”
Campus spokesperson Michael Dirda said UC Berkeley professors are “accomplished” but its place on the list reflects a combination of factors including campus prestige, quality and geographical location.
In response to a question about high professor salaries in light of the current campus budget deficit, Hermalin said all costs have to be considered.
“It makes no sense to point to any one expenditure and say that’s the cause of our deficit, no more than any one donut eaten in your life is the cause of being overweight,” Hermalin said in an email.
Hermalin added that maintaining UC Berkeley’s excellence is a priority, a goal achievable by remaining competitive in the job market, which makes professor salaries one of many priorities. Dirda said equal consideration is also given to student welfare and campus safety.
The Daily Californian created a database of professor pay-checkers in 2016 that shows the variation in inter-departmental salaries for the 2015 year. For example, average professor salary was $326,230 for the economics department, $202,711 for the electrical engineering department and $163,035 for the English department. The database also highlighted salary variations between professors within these departments.
Hermalin said salaries vary because different academic fields have different markets. Differences are also based on past work, research load and seniority, with longer serving professors getting paid more than those with lesser service, according to Dirda.
“Faculty members are the lifeblood of the institution and are a mark of its quality and in that sense they are a priority,” Dirda said.