Salary Gap Between Positions in Academia Slowly Narrowing

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Career advice, blog posts


Career advice, blog posts

The following is an analysis of data taken from the INOMICS Salary Report 2018 - downloadable for registered users here. Specifically, it looks at the average salaries of PhDs, Post-Docs, and Full Professors, working in economics over the last 5 years, working in the U.S, the U.K, Germany, and Italy. It is the 4th instalment in a series of insights handling the Report’s findings. The first three can be found in our insights section.

With the Salary Report now in its 5th year, sufficient data has been collected from the U.S, the U.K, Germany, and Italy, to compare the wages of PhDs, Post-Docs, and Full Professors over the last half a decade, beginning in 2013.

Source: Salary Report 2018


As Graph 7 shows, the salaries of PhD candidates in the respective 4 countries have fluctuated somewhat over the last five years. In USA and Germany, there can be observed a slight increase over the period, perhaps reflecting their improving economies. 2017, in particular, proved, for both countries, a lucrative year for economists of this status. In comparison with Italy the inverse can be observed, and a slight decline in salary visible. Of the four the UK, stands as the anomaly, experiencing relatively consistent wages at this level.

Source: Salary Report 2018

This consistency of wage in the UK is also apparent for those engaged in Post-Docs. Although offering the highest average salary over the last 5 years the U.S, similar to Germany showed largely stagnant salaries, both actually seeing a marginal decline over the previous 3 years. Italy, while showing signs of a modest increase in the last 2 years remains the lowest of the Western countries included. The general trend of a Post-Docs’ average salaries going down mirrors that of PhD holders who also earned less in 2017 than they did previously.

Source: Salary Report 2018

From Graph 9 it can be observed that in all four countries that were analysed, there was a tendency for average salaries of full professors to grow steadily from 2013 to 2016, although a modest drop seems to have taken place in the European countries in 2017. This may be partially explained by significant shifts in currency exchange rates between 2014 and 2016. Interestingly, we can analyse how salaries of professionals from the same country, but in different positions have changed over time. For instance, in Germany in 2013, there was a huge gap between the average salary of a PhD candidate and a full professor and even until as recently as 2015 full professors were earning more than three times as much as PhD candidates. During the last two years, however, this gap has shrunk, with PhD candidates’ salaries going up in 2017 and full professors’ salaries dropping slightly. Although the difference is still significant (more than double), there is a clear trend towards narrowing salaries between positions in academia.

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There will be more analysis of the Salary Report’s findings in the upcoming weeks, keep an eye on the INOMICS insights section for future instalments. Additionally, for career opportunities and job listings in business, finance, and economics, take a look at our jobs section. It has all that you will need to take that next big step! 

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