If you’re considering a career in academia, it’s natural to wonder how professors make money. It’s not an easy life – professors work long hours, have heavy course loads, and often don’t receive the same level of respect as professionals in other fields.

But most professors do find ways to make a comfortable living. So how do professors make money?

In this article, we will review five common income sources for professors. We’ll also discuss some of the benefits of each.

Stay tuned.

How Do Professors Make Money?

Being a professor is a calling. But it is a calling that comes with a lot of work. Professors have to design and teach courses, meet with students, grade papers, and conduct research.

Many academics are attracted to professorial work because of the satisfaction they get from teaching and helping students learn. But how do professors make money?

Here are the 5 different ways how:

  1. Teaching
  2. Conducting Research
  3. Launching companies
  4. Speaking engagements
  5. Consulting

Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these.

#1. Teaching

Being a professor means, first and foremost, being a teacher. Professors typically teach between four and six courses per semester. The number of courses you teach will depend on the size of your institution and your department’s needs.

At smaller schools, professors may also be responsible for advising students and serving on committees. At larger research universities, teaching is often the responsibility of graduate students or adjunct faculty.

Regardless of the type of institution, teaching is the primary way that professors make money. Most professors earn a salary for their teaching duties. This salary is typically supplemented by benefits, such as health insurance and a retirement plan.

In addition to their salaries, professors may also earn income from teaching-related activities, such as leading study abroad programs or serving on the faculty of an online course.

#2. Conducting Research

Many professors are researchers and make money like researchers do – by conducting research. Research is an important part of a professor’s job, as it helps to keep the institution’s academic programs up-to-date and relevant.

Professors typically conduct research in their areas of expertise. They may write books or articles, or they may give presentations at conferences. In some cases, professors may also receive grants to support their research activities.

Conducting research is often a requirement for tenure-track faculty positions. It is also generally expected of professors at research universities.

However, not all professors conduct research. Some, particularly those at teaching-focused institutions, may focus their energies on teaching and service instead.

#3. Launching companies

In some parts of the country, especially in Silicon Valley, it is almost customary for professors to launch companies. In fact, many venture capitalists will only invest in companies that have a professor on the team.

Launching a company is a risky proposition, but it can be a very lucrative way for professors to make money. If the company is successful, gets acquired or does an IPO, the professor can earn more money than they would ever earn from a salary at a university or school.

Many professors get to have their cake and eat it too. They will launch companies, often together with their students, but not quit their professorial jobs. They may take a sabbatical from their teaching duties to work on the company full-time, but they will eventually return to the university. This gives them the best of both worlds: the stability of a university job and the potential for a big payday if their company is successful.

#4. Speaking engagements

The best professors often happen to be thought leaders in their field. This means they are in high demand as speakers at conferences and other events.

Speaking engagements can include everything from keynote addresses to panel discussions. They can be invited by companies, organizations or even other universities. They can be local, national or international in scope.

Professors who are in demand as speakers can make a significant amount of money from these engagements. Professors typically earn an honorarium for their speaking engagements, which can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. In many cases, these professors will have their travel expenses picked up by those inviting them.

#5. Consulting

Since professors are often experts in their fields, they are also often in demand as consultants.

Companies, organizations and even other universities may hire professors to provide their expertise on a particular issue or problem.

For example, a company may hire a professor of marketing to help them develop a new marketing strategy. Or, an organization may hire a professor of psychology to help them select employees.

Professors who have technical expertise like in engineering or computer science are often in great demand as consultants. They can provide their expertise to companies that are developing new products or services.

Many professors start consulting companies on the side. This can be a great way to earn some extra income, and it can often lead to other opportunities down the road.


A professor’s job is not just to teach, but also to provide valuable insights through research and writing. It’s work that is tough but can be very rewarding. For many, being a professor is a calling. It is their passion and way of passing forward their knowledge to the next generation. But it is also a job, and like any other job, professors need to get paid.

So how do professors make money?

Professors make money from salary from teaching, research grants, launching companies, speaking engagements and consulting.

While some of these income sources are more stable than others, all of them offer professors the opportunity to make a good living.