The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Where Is the Job Growth in Higher Ed?

While the employment of professionals in higher education saw an overall increase of 7 percent and grew in all areas over the past year, two areas — “other education” and “safety” — grew at a substantially faster clip than all the rest.

According to just-released findings from CUPA-HR’s 2018 Professionals in Higher Education Survey, while these two areas are the smallest in the higher ed professional workforce, they had the greatest growth by far among all other areas over last year.

Other education professionals (which includes the positions of biostatistician, statistician, data scientist and data analyst) grew by 43 percent, and safety professionals grew by 30 percent. Data analysts saw the greatest increase — 282 reported positions in 2017 to 545 positions in 2018. Police and public safety grew from 1,077 to 1,403 employees.

“It is not surprising that these are the positions seeing the greatest growth,” says Jacqueline Bichsel, CUPA-HR’s director of research. “Institutions continue to invest more in analytics for student success and strategic decision-making, so data analysts are in demand. And an increased media focus on sexual assaults and hazing incidents may underlie a need for a greater police presence on campus to respond to or prevent such incidents.”

Here are some other findings from this year’s survey:

Salary Increases

The overall median salary increase for professionals in higher education over the past year is 2.2 percent. The largest median salary increases for 2017-18 went to professionals in athletic affairs and institutional affairs. Professionals in academic affairs and research received the smallest median salary increases.

Highest- and Lowest-Paid Professionals

Professionals in the area of health science and environmental sustainability make the highest salaries. Those in student affairs make the lowest.

Largest Professional Areas

Academic affairs, student affairs and IT are the top three professional employment areas, making up about half of all professional positions in higher education.

Representation and Pay of Women and Minorities

In general, women are well-represented in professional positions in colleges and universities, but earn only 90 cents for every $1.00 earned by men. In contrast, racial/ethnic minorities are under-represented in most professional positions (making up only 22 percent of the higher ed professional workforce), but their salaries are nearly equal to those of their White counterparts.

Age and Years in Position

Areas with the highest median age are facilities and supervisors of office/clerical, skilled craft and service/maintenance personnel. Areas with the youngest median age are student affairs, athletic affairs and other education. Overall, professionals have been in their positions for a median of four years.

Research Professionals

This year’s survey took a deeper dive into research positions (research assistant, research associate, research scholar, senior research scholar and principal research scholar in the fields of physical, social, medical and life sciences). Among the findings:

  • The lowest-level titles — assistants and associates — make up about two-thirds of research professionals in physical sciences, social sciences and life sciences, and about 80 percent of research professionals in medical sciences.
  • The majority of higher ed research professionals are White or Asian. The representation of Hispanic/Latino and Black/African American research professionals tends to decrease with increases in rank in all fields with one exception — Hispanics/Latinos make up a relatively large proportion of principal scholars in medical sciences.

This year’s Professionals in Higher Education Survey includes data for 219,175 professionals in 358 positions at 1,110 institutions.  In addition to salary data, the survey collects data on gender, race/ethnicity, age, and years in position at the incumbent level for all professionals.

For a list of participating institutions, a report overview, information on data collected and options for purchasing the survey report and DataOnDemand, visit the Professionals in Higher Education web page.

Read about this year’s findings on administrators in higher ed and faculty survey findings around trend increases and diversity in the pipeline.



The CUPA-HR office will be closed Fridays through August 19.