1

My question is about alternative salary streams for academics in fields with strong industry collaboration/interest. What is a typical "bonus" that a tenured academic can expect on top of their salary grade?

I am finishing up my PhD in Engineering in the UK. Given that my PhD (and I am sure many others in similar areas) has transferable skills for the industry (e.g. data science/finance/engineering), I could leave academia for a high paying job. Like many, despite my interest in science, it is hard to justify the ~3x paycut I need to take to continue on with a postdoc after borderline poverty for so many years. And it is hard to justify turning down a job that makes more than a full professor (according to the publicly available salary spine for academics) in my first year.

I have heard that it is common for professors in applied fields to have alternative income streams, through, for example, consulting, industry bonuses, spin-outs, and tutoring services. How common are these alternate streams, and how much (on average) can one expect to make on top of their base salary?

I hope to stay in science but can't help think I'm making an ideological choice over a practical one if I do. Many thanks for any data/perspective!

3
  • See this question, which addresses ways in which engineering faculty in the US can earn additional income. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/79047/… Feb 7, 2023 at 15:17
  • 8
    If the difference between a university salary and an industry salary is important to you, go into industry. You should only become an academic if, once you have enough to live on, money isn't important to you. Feb 7, 2023 at 16:04
  • To add to @AlexanderWoo - for most people, the motivating factor of 'more money' rapidly fades once they make 'enough money' - not that HR tends to actually believe all the research...
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 7, 2023 at 16:24

3 Answers 3

3

You can not expect additional income on top of your academic salary. It may be possible to earn extra income, but you should not treat such opportunities as granted.

  1. Consulting, industry bonuses, spin-outs, and tutoring services are time-consuming enterprises. Academic work is very time-consuming itself, often taking more than nominal 40 hours per week. The demands of academic teaching, research and administration combined can take 50, 60 or sometimes 80 hours per week. Academic workload can be overwhelming. Some academic, particularly in early career, find that they can not fully meet the expectations of their University/Department and have some minimal time to take care of their own health and wellbeing. An attempt to squeeze an extra work may be detrimental to you own health.
  2. Consulting and industry bonuses come easier to people who are already established in their career, such as famous University professors. It may be difficult to secure/negotiate such income streams when you are a fresh academic who has yet to prove themselves to the world.
  3. If/when you are successful securing extra income through consultancy, University may (and often will) require a cut of your cake. The exact way how it works depends on country, University and personal circumstances, but if your consultancy or side project goes really well, you may find it easier to focus on it full-time, rather than try to balance two jobs.
1

Generally speaking, a university that pays you full time expects, fairly enough, that you will give them full time effort.

That said, there are some minor things and one (at least) major option. If you do a bit of consulting to a firm they might give the university a grant that you can draw on for such things as travel and equipment. This enhances your regular work and might also benefit a student or two. The university isn't likely to object provided that you don't neglect normal duties. Some such consulting might be in conjunction with an advanced student or two.

Tutoring is probably off limits if you are asking about tutoring the university's own students.

You can earn a bit of money by writing books. A few (very few) reap large income but most only earn small rewards for a limited time and the publisher may want regular new editions. The first edition is fun, the later ones are a bit of drudge work. If it is coordinated with your normal work it is probably acceptable and the university won't (in any case I know of) claim a share. Some people teaching writing even write novels while holding full time positions. I've known one or two millionaires based on publishing key/major books. Most of us are content with a few thousand per year for a few years.

The major possibility is in the realm of patents. Most places the university insists that they be the patent owner but is likely, in such cases, to share monetization with those who developed it. This is probably to your advantage, since they also take on the task of defending the patent against claims, which can be very expensive.

2
  • Congrats sir on 300k ! Feb 7, 2023 at 17:45
  • I may be new to the site because I logged in late. But I had been reading your answers for more than half year. Feb 7, 2023 at 17:46
0

I have a somewhat difference experience with respect to that of the answers given by Buffy and Dmitry Savostyanov. Intermittently, along the years, I did a bit of consulting with the industry, mainly electronic design and consulting about measuring systems, and my experience is that if one wants to commit a significant amount of time of their career to consulting (which is not my case), there's room for that and to have a significant alternative salary stream.

Indeed, you have to be willing to sacrifice your research output, and this could be difficult if you are at the beginning of your career or you don't have a large group, but I'm aware of people who made this choice.

In my experience, industry consultancies can be usually framed in two ways:

  1. Private consultancies, if your university allows them. These are the most remunerative, but you have to check the limits imposed by your university and indeed the tax regulations of your country to understand how to declare this secondary source of revenue.
  2. Consultancies obtained through university contracts. In this case, the industry pays the university and not you directly, but then the university gives you part of the money after having taken some overhead (which keeps the university happy). You can then choose to keep the money as a research fund or to transfer it to your personal account.

However, if you want the consultancy income to be significant you need to be able to:

  1. Advertise yourself, and grow connections within the industry. The world out there should be able to discover you.
  2. Actually solve the industry problems within a reasonable time frame. This is the most difficult part because frequently the Ivory Tower's solution are not practical for the industry, and the academic's time scale is not compatible with the industry needs. And if you're not able to fulfil the industry needs, you'll soon run out of contracts.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .