Dec 11, 2012
Resident [Any Field]
For those of you in academics or who are in the know, I'd like to hear what you have to say about this.

I've always assumed that in academics the predominant pay increases come as you get promoted from assistant to associate to full professor. I was chatting with one our senior attendings at sign out and he said that while you do get salary bumps with your promotion, you usually get bigger bumps by getting a job offer elsewhere and using it as leverage with your chair to negotiate a raise. And according to this person it is commonplace to do this every 5 years or so - it is simply a game that everyone knows each other are playing.

So are the pay raises with promotions significant or not really?
Is this interviewing elsewhere really a commonplace thing?
And finally, are academic salaries otherwise set in stone between promotions? Aka if you are an assistant professor for the first 5 years of being an attending do you really not get a small raise each year, at least to cover inflation?



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10+ Year Member
Jan 30, 2006
You've got the Touch- You've got the Power!
Attending Physician
You are both right. In academia, you only ever get a raise when you are promoted, and that only happens twice (if you start a asst. Prof). You DO typically get cost of living adjustments, which I found to be 1-2%. However, these are institutional, and they may or may not happen depending on your department or institution policies or financing.

Your raises can be a % of your starting salary, which may not reflect your market value. Let's say you joined the department in 1990, and are finally promoted to full professor. You are given a 30% increase from your associate professor status, which is also based as a percentage of the rate you got when you joined in 1990. You can guess it won't be a lot. However, not all departments work this way.
The easiest way to get a raise is to change institutions because a lateral move (or even a promotion) will net you your market value. With more experience and credentials your value will increase.
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Not a New Member
10+ Year Member
May 15, 2005
Agree. And even outside of academics or medicine this has become common. Loyalty is not usually rewarded, but people will pay more for someone they "need" to fill a position. When is the last time you shopped around for auto insurance?
Aug 6, 2016
Attending Physician
Generally true. Depending on the institution, promotion salary increases can be either in the single digit %-age to somewhere along the order of <20%. Promotions represent the rare opportunities to get significant pay raises. If the department does not have a standard raise system, then you have faculty who generally will keep hush hush about what raise they got. If the institution values you more, you get a higher raise. If you're not as valued, your raise can be less. It's all relative. If the department does have a standard raise system, then this is moot.

You can play the game of getting a job offer elsewhere but that can be a somewhat dangerous game and generally, you play this only once. If you are foolish during this process, that can have a negative impact on your relationship with your department moving forward should you decide to stay at the institution. So it would be preferable for the faculty member to have a really good offer from a good place if you are going to play the game. Be prepared for the department to call your bluff in the case where the department would be happy to get rid of you (even though you think the department holds you in high regard).

I went through this several years back. I got a high pay raise when I got promoted. Later, I got an offer at another place and I moved since I knew the salary in the retention package would not come close to the new salary. I didn't play the game.


7+ Year Member
Oct 15, 2009
Attending Physician
I think a lot of this is very dependent on the specific institution, their policies, budget, etc. Just FYI, I do know personally of at least one institution that did NOT give their pathologists a raise upon promotion. As far as going on an outside interview and getting a job offer for leverage to get a raise in a current position, I have seen several examples of that technique work quite effectively. However, I think the points that jada764 brings up are valid concerns. I know some academic pathologists are also able to supplement their salary with other sources of income, such as running a tissue bank, getting government research grants, obtaining separate payment from a medical school/college for teaching activity, and (if you are expert with a big enough name and are able to set it up with your department) money from outside consult cases.