Press Release

May 17, 2017

CUPA-HR Survey Finds Pay Gaps Among Higher Ed Staff, Lack of Younger Skilled Craft Workers

What does the staff workforce look like in higher ed? How long do they stay in their positions? Are women and minorities well-represented and paid equitably? Which staff positions have the highest salaries and which have the lowest? How does this pay vary across the country?
These are some of the questions CUPA-HR sought to answer in this year’s Staff in Higher Education Salary Survey. Survey results include:

Makeup of the Staff Workforce

  • The age ranges for staff positions in higher ed are wide, ranging from the early 20s to age 65 and beyond. The exception is in the area of skilled craft positions, where ages of incumbents are most likely to be in the late 40s and 50s. The lack of younger skilled craft workers may indicate a future hiring gap in this area.
  • Racial/ethnic minorities are underrepresented in higher ed staff, making up only 29 percent of total higher ed staff. Minorities are best represented in service/maintenance positions, where they occupy four in 10 positions. They are least represented in the skilled craft area, making up only 16 percent of those positions.
  • Women are well-represented in all staff areas except skilled craft, where they make up only 3 percent of the workforce. They are best represented in the office/clerical area, where they occupy nine out of 10 positions.

Minority and Gender Pay Gaps

  • There is a pay gap between minorities and White staff for all but office/clerical positions. This pay gap is worst among service/maintenance staff, where racial/ethnic minorities make only 90 cents on the dollar compared to White staff. Asians are an exception, being paid at or above equity for all but service/maintenance positions.
  • Women are paid less than men in all staff areas except office/clerical work. The largest pay gap is in service/maintenance, where women are paid only 86 cents on the dollar compared to men in service/maintenance jobs.


  • The overall median years in position for higher ed staff is four.
  • The lowest turnover is among skilled craft workers in the Northeast, who have a median of 11 years in their position.

Overall Pay

  • Overall, higher ed staff have an annualized median pay of $35,000.
  • Skilled craft workers have the highest pay, with an annualized median pay of $47,000, and service/maintenance workers have the lowest pay, with an annualized median salary of $30,000.

Regional Pay Differences

  • There are large regional differences in staff salaries, particularly in the areas of skilled craft and service/maintenance.
  • The Northeast pays the highest salaries, and the South pays the lowest.

This year’s Staff in Higher Education Salary Survey collected salary data for 169,358 staff at 737 institutions for 147 mostly non-exempt staff positions. An overview of results from the Staff in Higher Education Salary Report is available on CUPA-HR’s website.

CUPA-HR is higher ed HR. We serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and serving nearly 23,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at more than 1,900 member institutions and organizations around the country and abroad, the association offers learning and professional development programs, higher education salary and benefits data, extensive online resources and just-in-time regulatory and legislative information.

CUPA-HR is the recognized authority on compensation surveys for higher education, with its salary surveys designed by higher ed HR professionals for higher ed HR professionals and other campus leaders. Learn more about CUPA-HR research.