A lot of people think professors have a great life. That they live and work in cushy ivory tower universities where they write books and teach students about science, the humanities, and other subjects.
I wanted to be a history professor when I was in university. I love studying the growth of the labour movement in Canada and the United States, and most tenure track professors earn between $80,000 and $150,000 a year, much more than the average Canadian salary of $38,700 a year.
But I found out most PhDs in the social sciences don’t become full-time tenure track professors. Many spend their days working as part-time lecturers who rarely get tenure. Many drop out and find other avenues of work. Most professors are contract teachers who only make an average of only $28,000 a year. That is a pretty poor dividend after spending 10 years in university.
Tenure track positions are slowly becoming the minority of teaching staff at our universities. At the University of Toronto alone, contract workers make up 60% of the teaching staff.
Universities make money from students enrolled in PhD programs and employ cheap labour from graduate teaching and research assistants.
This is one of the key reasons why teaching assistants at University of Toronto and York University are on strike. Graduate students at U of T receive a minimum funding package of $15,000 a year. This amount hasn’t increased since 2008, and it’s well below the $19,307 poverty line for a single adult living in Toronto. And it isn’t much better for York University’s teaching assistants either.