Distinguishing Assistant Professors from Associate Professors

Assistant Professor vs Associate Professor

Teaching is considered a noble profession and it often receives a level of respect that few other professions can match. Individuals who choose teaching as their career path understand the challenges involved in climbing the academic ladder, with the ultimate goal of becoming a full professor, the highest academic rank a college-level teacher can achieve. The two intermediate levels are assistant professor and associate professor, which can be confusing for aspiring teachers. This article will discuss the differences between assistant and associate professors and what it takes to move from one rank to another.

Assistant Professor

Despite the title, the rank of assistant professor is actually an entry-level position for college or university teachers. In most cases, this position is filled by individuals who have completed their doctoral thesis and earned their doctoral degree (PhD). Some colleges may hire people with master’s level degrees as assistant professors. Contrary to the title, an assistant professor is not an assistant to a full professor; rather, they are a professor on the lowest rung of a promotional ladder that leads to the position of full professor, which is the highest rank a college-level teacher can achieve.

An assistant professor typically does not have tenure and must work in this position for 5-7 years, during which they either earn a promotion with tenure or are given one more year to obtain tenure. If tenure is not achieved, the college or university may terminate the teacher’s employment at this level, preventing further advancement.

Associate Professor

The rank of associate professor is one level above assistant professor. In some cases, an assistant professor may be promoted to the rank of associate professor as a recognition of their teaching services after 3-4 years at a college. This promotion may or may not include tenure. Alternatively, an assistant professor may automatically become an associate professor when they receive tenure at the college where they have been teaching for the past 3-4 years.

Assistant Professor vs Associate Professor

• The entry-level position for an academic is an assistant professor, while the next level is an associate professor.
• Assistant professors do not have tenure, whereas associate professors typically do.
• Tenure and promotion are two separate events at some colleges. However, if an assistant professor does not receive tenure within 6 years, they may be given an additional year to achieve it; otherwise, they are often terminated by the college or university.

Key Takeaways

  • Assistant professor is an entry-level position, while associate professor is the next level in the academic hierarchy.
  • Assistant professors typically do not have tenure, but associate professors usually do.
  • Failure to obtain tenure within a certain time frame may result in termination of employment for assistant professors.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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