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I mean both the salary a department offers to new hires and to already hired faculty members. I would prefer answers specifically about math departments, but I would also be interested in answers about departments in other STEM fields as well as other fields such as the humanities or the social sciences.

My motivation for this question came from another question I asked recently on another website. I had asked specifically how math departments improve and received the answer that with enough money, a math department could hire and keep the best researchers in some specific field. Now I'm asking here to confirm that that is indeed the case for math departments, but I am now also interested in seeing if this applies to all departments in academia in general.

EDIT: I cannot give a specific criteria for "quality" as I assume this may vary from field to field. What I can say somewhat concretely, though, is that research productivity should be weighted above attention to teaching. Of course, if a department happens to have one or two extremely productive researchers in some specific field but does not offer a PhD program, then I would not considered that department a top department.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are several main financial factors faculty candidates must consider when weighing offers:

  • Salary and resultant standard of living
  • Overall compensation package (health, retirement and pension, other benefits)
  • Institutional support (resources, personnel, infrastructure)

The first two are with respect to the financial resources committed directly to the faculty member; the last is the amount of resources committed to the professor's working group. It is difficult to say how much the different factors are weighted, as this is highly subjective and personal.

However, I would caution against considering absolute salaries as a metric; salaries always have to be considered relative to the cost of living in one's environment. (Would you rather have $50,000 in New York City or $40,000 in Akron?)

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I'm accepting this answer because it made me consider factors I had not considered before. – Matthew Tran Mar 1 '13 at 2:01

I know people who have changed their mind about where to go for ~20% increase in salary. It wouldn't make them go to a terrible place instead of a great one, but it was enough to weigh advantages. I also know people who have not changed their mind about where to go for a >30% increase in salary, but that this was viewed as somewhat surprising by people who heard it (given that the places were otherwise not that different).

Based on this very limited data set, I would speculate that in the 20-30% range you'd have substantial power to attract faculty members a tier higher than your reputation would otherwise allow.

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Your first paragraph is valid anecdotal evidence, but I would strongly caution against generalizing as you have in your final sentence without at least some source to back you up. – eykanal Feb 27 '13 at 0:07
@eykanal - I think my language was appropriately cautious. It's clearly anecdotal, I clearly spell out it's a limited data set and that I'm speculating. If anything, all the warnings serve to emphasize the fact that you shouldn't trust this, rather than just leaving people to draw their own conclusions on the basis of the numbers I gave. I hope there's an answer with better data (or better anecdotes), but this is nonetheless more than nothing. – Rex Kerr Feb 27 '13 at 0:27
I hear you, and that's why I didn't downvote. Personally, I would have left the speculation "as an exercise to the reader", but I guess it's a matter of taste. – eykanal Feb 27 '13 at 1:21

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