How do I Become a Tenure Track Assistant Professor?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 April 2018
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To become a tenure track assistant professor at most universities and colleges in Canada or the United States, you will need to earn a PhD or be close to completing your PhD and then be hired by a school of higher education. Your success at being hired will depend under a number of factors, including the current job market, your academic career thus far, and how well you handle the hiring process. In some cases, you may be required to take on several non-tenure track teaching jobs before you can even be considered for a tenure track position.


If you plan a career as a college professor, in most cases you will want to secure a tenure track position at a school. This position is one in which you will have the opportunity to earn tenure at the college or university, which can give you considerable academic freedom, a higher level of compensation, as well as significant job security, as tenure track faculty typically cannot be discharged by a university unless they are guilty of significant misconduct. If you are hired in a tenure track position, you will likely be hired at the rank of assistant professor. At this point, your goal will be to develop success both in the area of teaching and published research such that you can earn tenure within a specific time frame, usually four to eight years after you are hired. If you are unable to earn tenure, it is likely that you will lose your position as a tenure track assistant professor and will need to find employment elsewhere.

As you are wrapping up your dissertation work, you will want to begin your search for a job. Good sources of information on employment opportunities include academic journals and websites. In some cases, schools that are looking for new professors may send out notices to graduate programs at other universities. You will need to submit your curriculum vita (CV) to these schools along with a cover letter explaining your interest in the position. Your CV should include information about your education, teaching experience, as well as a list of your published work, and you should also speak to your professors about getting letters of recommendation.

Schools that are interested in evaluating your candidacy for a tenure track assistant professor job will contact you about setting up interviews or obtaining additional information. You may initially be asked to complete a telephone interview and then visit the school to meet its faculty, talk to its students, and perhaps make a presentation of your own original work. Eventually, the hiring committee at the school will make a decision about your candidacy and inform you if you have or have not been hired. As jobs in academia can be scarce, it is generally a good idea to send your CV out to several different schools so that you have the best chance possible of being hired as a tenure track assistant professor.



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