A prevalent belief is that it is advantageous to have surname initials that are placed early in the alphabet (early surname initials) in academic fields in which authors are ordered alphabetically (alphabetic academic fields), because first authors are more visible. However, it is not certain that the advantage is strong enough to affect academic careers. In this paper, the advantage in having such early surname initials is analyzed by using data from 1,345 course catalogs that span a 100 years. We obtained academic titles and surname initials of 19,353 faculty members who appeared 211,816 times in these course catalogs. Two alphabetic academic fields – economics and mathematics – and four other academic fields that are not alphabetic were analyzed. We found that there are some years when faculty members who have early surname initials are more likely to be full professors. However, there are many other years when faculty members who have early surname initials are less likely to be full professors. We also analyzed the career path of each faculty member. Economists who have early surname initials are found to be more likely to become full professors. However, this result is not significant and does not extend to mathematicians.