In the United States, most professors are paid by the university on a 9 month basis for teaching (Sep - May). During the summer months a professor is typically paid from their grants and other revenue sources. How is the summer salary chosen? E.g. if a professor is paid 10kUSD/month, can (s)he choose to be paid 20kUSD/month during the summer?

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    In the Humanities, where grants are seldom seen, we choose our summer salary based on the number of courses we sign up to teach in summer session. :) – ewormuth Aug 11 '15 at 22:01
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    @ewormuth, presumably that's up to a maximum of your current annual salary's monthly rate, right? – Bill Barth Aug 11 '15 at 22:08
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    I can't remember -- it's been a long time since I taught summer session. It always seemed like good extra money, though. Your salary depended on your enrollment, with full professors getting the best deal (the fewest number of students to make a full salary). For my last few years, I was 12-month faculty, so I didn't need to think about it any more. – ewormuth Aug 11 '15 at 23:34
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    Well, I know if I were a professor, I'd choose it early, often, and generously. That'll be $50, by the way. – Parthian Shot Aug 12 '15 at 2:50
  • At the two schools I've been at full time, one pro-rated my salary and paid me all year and the other expected me to teach in the summer. – Dave Kanter Nov 21 '16 at 23:38

I suppose this could depend on the funding agency. For the NSF, your summer salary is determined by your academic year salary and you cannot receive more than that, although you could receive less if the program officer cuts that part of your budget. I believe this is standard for U.S. funding agencies.

This situation is of course not fair to those who hold lower-paying jobs that do not reflect their achievements (but rather state budget priorities). Like many things in grant funding, there's tremendous bureaucratic inertia and no hope of changing this aspect of the system.

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    I don't think you can receive less per month worked, you can just work less months on the project if the budget gets cut. I believe you have to put your correct academic year salary. – Bill Barth Aug 11 '15 at 22:34
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    That's a good point. I'm used to thinking of these outcomes as pretty similar, at least in pure mathematics, but I imagine it plays out differently in other fields. (Many people getting summer salary from NSF grants in pure mathematics don't have many other funding opportunities and aren't going to do extra teaching or consulting over the summer. If they get paid for less of the summer, then they'll end up doing the same research for less money.) – Anonymous Mathematician Aug 11 '15 at 22:55
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    Yeah, if our people weren't getting paid for a particular month, we'd have to furlough them and shut the computers down with no one around to maintain them. With faculty, and especially faculty whose stereotypical work style is reading papers and writing out theorems, you can work wherever and whenever you like whether you get paid for it or not. – Bill Barth Aug 11 '15 at 22:59

Under federal rules, it's not permissible to pay a faculty member on a grant at a higher rate (per hour, week, month, or whatever) than they are paid at other times of the year. It is also not permissible to use multiple sources of funding (e.g. grants from different agencies) to pay a faculty member at more than 100% of their usual pay rate.

If a faculty member has a 9 month salary of $90K, and if they have a grant with an approved budget including two months of summer salary for the faculty member, then that faculty member can be paid an additional $20K for working on the grant for two months during the summer.

Note that NSF policy does not permit faculty members to collect more than 2 months of summer salary from any combination of NSF grants. It is sometimes possible to combine funding from NSF and other sources to get a full 3 months of summer salary.

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    NSF allows more than 2 months summer salary with approval, and rebudgeting can also put you over as long as the scope doesn't change. But, you have the default rule correct. – Bill Barth Aug 11 '15 at 22:45
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    NSF these days doesn't actually care about summer vs academic year any more. But the 2-month rule is still in effect. – Wolfgang Bangerth Aug 12 '15 at 16:04
  • Quite correct about NSF policies. But some universities allow faculty to earn as much as four months salary during summer period or equivalent, treating a two-semester academic year as eight months. This is actually quite rare, but three months is reasonably common for funding from agencies other than NSF. – MikeV Aug 13 '15 at 19:57

Typically not. If the money comes to the university through a grant, then they just get additional months at their university salary rate. However, if they choose to do outside consulting instead, then they can typically set whatever rate they can agree on a contract for.

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