Chronicle of Higher Education
Two California colleges pay their professors top 20 salaries.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, California has two colleges in the top 20 of average faculty compensation for 2011-12.
Full professors at Caltech make $172,800 per year, while full profs at UCLA make $162,600.
This puts full professors at both admittedly quote prestigious institutions at or very near the highest U.S. income quintile, as defined by the Tax Policy Center.
For the record, both California schools are in the lower half of the top 20. Harvard is number one, with full professors who earn $198,400.
I was curious about which schools full professors finished at the bottom of the survey. That would be Villa Maria College of Buffalo, at $42,200. Strangely, associate professors there make $49,300. Things get weird at the bottom. However, these professors are still solidly in the third U.S. income quintile. They're also right about at the median for U.S. individual wages, roughly $44,000.
Obviously, if you want to make a very good living as a college professor, you need to aim for a top university as your employer. But no matter where you end up, you can do okay. Now, whether that's worth the cost of graduate school and 8-10 years of sacrificed earnings is up to you.