Where are the Best (and Worst) Places in the Country to be a Psychology Professor?

Imagine what life as an academic would be like if you actually got to choose what part of the country you live in. That is instead of letting such an important decision rest solely on where you happen to land a tenure-track faculty position (if you happen to land a tenure-track faculty position).

After exploring salaries for various academic disciplines in my last post, I decided to dig a little deeper in this post and investigate which regions of the country offer the highest (and lowest) median salaries for psychology professors. You know, just in case you’ve been itching to uproot your life and say, “to hell with tenure.”

The data presented below come from the 2013-14 Report on Faculty Salaries in Graduate Departments of Psychology, issued by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Workforce Studies and the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology.

Each graphic displays the median salaries for psychology professors of all ranks (Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Full Professor) in doctoral departments across nine regions of the country (a description of which states comprise each region is provided at the end of this post).

Figure 1 displays median salaries in actual dollar amounts, whereas Figure 2 displays median salaries adjusted for the average cost of living (COL) in a region.

Note that you can click on each figure to make it interactive and to explore the data further.

*The data reflect only those faculty who hold a doctoral degree and who are in departments of psychology that award the doctoral degree (e.g., psychology departments, educational psychology departments, and professional schools of psychology. All salaries are nine-10 month salaries.

Based on median salaries adjusted for COL, the nine regions can be rank-ordered as follows (from highest adjusted median salary to lowest adjusted median salary):

  1. East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) – $88,898
  2. Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) – $84,319
  3. West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota) – $84,315
  4. West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) – $82,828
  5. Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) – $82,393
  6. East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) – $81,487
  7. South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) – $78,510
  8. New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) – $70,366
  9. Pacific (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) – $69,440

But perhaps money isn’t everything.

Although the average psychology professor out on the West Coast might be underpaid relative to someone in the Midwest, I don’t imagine anyone would be too quick to give up Pacific beaches and a warm climate for a little more money in land-locked states like Illinois or Indiana.

Then again, after spending two years as a post doctoral researcher in Champaign-Urbana, I can vouch for the fact that Illinois has some fantastic barbecue.

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