Becoming an Economics Professor

A professorship in economics is a stimulating career path that often includes teaching, mentoring, researching (and the publication of that research), and committee work. Although many economics professors engage in teaching at the community college, college, and larger university level, it is also common to find economics professors teaching through online institutions or serving in an adjunct capacity.

In smaller college settings, it is most common for economics professors to focus solely on teaching and lecturing, although economics professors in larger university settings tend to devote a portion of their time to researching and publishing. In particular, economics professors working toward tenure often focus their careers on private study, much of which results in published work.

In addition to teaching basic economics courses in the post-secondary setting, many times professors of economics focus their careers on students who major in economics. As such, economics professors also teach master and doctoral-level courses. In this setting, economics professors serve as important mentors and advisors to students, as well.  Further, economics professors may serve on thesis or dissertation committees or may serve as advisors for students working on these graduate-level projects.

Economics professor jobs at a college or university that offers degrees in economics often involves serving on department committees, where they provide consultation regarding such issues as curriculum or admissions policies.

Economics professors should have a broad knowledge in the field of economics as to be able to effectively teach any number of classes within economic educational programs, including:

  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Financial Economics
  • International Economics
  • Organizational/Industrial Economics
  • Labor Economics
  • Public Finance Economics

Economics professors may also find a number of professional opportunities outside of a post-secondary educational setting. Many choose to become authors of books or articles, while some serve as advisors or consultants to financial organizations and companies. Further, some economics professors choose to take their economics expertise to the stage, where they are compensated by universities and private organizations to give public or private lectures.

Education for Economics Professors

The career path for economics professors is a relatively straightforward one, as the vast majority of colleges and universities demand, at a minimum, a master’s degree in economics, although many demand doctoral studies or a doctorate degree in economics.

Recent graduates of economics who are interested in pursuing a career as an economics professor typically begin their professional career teaching in lower-level classes at a community college level, and many are hired by experienced economics professors, where they may do everything from supervise teaching to conduct research.

Salary and Employment Projections for Economics Professors

Salary for economics professors depends on a number of key factors, including rank, tenure status, degree, and type of educational institution.

The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics Salary Survey 2009-2010 reported the following average salaries:

  • Professor: $99,008
  • Associate Professor: $72,236
  • Assistant Professor: $61,478
  • Instructor: $49,973
  • Lecturer: $52,083

The U.S. Department of Education survey also reported the percentage distribution of full-time faculty in 2009-2010:

  • Public research/doctoral granting institutions: 37 percent
  • Public two-year institutions: 22 percent
  • Independent research/doctoral granting institutions: 18 percent
  • Public comprehensive institutions: 10 percent
  • Independent comprehensive institutions: 8 percent
  • Independent liberal arts institutions: 4 percent
  • Public liberal arts institutions: 1 percent

Average salaries for full-time professors by institution included:

  • Two-year institutions: $71,477
  • Liberal arts institutions: $85,938
  • Comprehensive institutions: $83,617
  • Research/doctoral-granting institutions: $116,222

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for postsecondary teachers was $62,050 in May 2010, with the top 10 percent earning more than $130,510. This profession is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Resources for Economics Professors

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