Penn State - Human Resources
Policy HR21 DEFINITION OF ACADEMIC RANKS
POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: June 6, 1958
THIS VERSION EFFECTIVE: February 3, 2009
This policy provides guidance on the qualifications necessary for appointment or
promotion to the various academic ranks.
In assessing candidates for appointment, tenure, promotion, sabbatical
leave, etc., the University will accept only those degrees earned at
institutions in the United States that have been accredited by regional higher
education accrediting associations (such as Middle States) and professional
accrediting associations (such as AASCB in Business) in disciplines in which
such accrediting takes place, or foreign degrees that have been earned at
institutions recognized by their respective governments. Degrees from qualified
institutions (per above) are the only ones that the University will acknowledge
for appointment, determination of rank, or subsequent personnel decisions.
Further, misrepresentation of such information by an individual can be cause
for denial or termination of employment.
- Lecturer or Instructor. A lecturer or
instructor should possess at least a master's degree or equivalent, or be an
active candidate for an advanced degree, in an academic field related to
his/her teaching specialization.
- Senior Lecturer or Senior Instructor. The
senior lecturer or senior instructor should possess at least a master's degree
or its equivalent in an academic field related to his/her teaching
specialization; must have demonstrated ability as a teacher and adviser; and
must have shown evidence of professional growth, scholarship, and mastery of
- Research Assistant. The research assistant
should possess a master's degree or equivalent, or be an active candidate for
an advanced degree, in an academic field related to his/her
- Senior Research Assistant. A senior research
assistant should possess a master's degree or its equivalent in an academic
field related to his/her research; must have demonstrated ability as a
researcher; and must have shown evidence of professional growth and scholarship
in his/her discipline.
- Assistant Librarian. The assistant librarian
should possess a graduate degree in Library or information studies or other
appropriate degree; must have demonstrated potential, ability as a librarian;
and must have shown promise of growth in research and service.
- Assistant Professor (or Research Associate).
The assistant professor (or research associate) should possess a doctor's
degree or its equivalent in organized research or professional practice; must
have demonstrated ability as a teacher or research worker; and must have shown
definite evidence of growth in scholarly, artistic, or professional achievement.
The research associate rank
is limited to a faculty member in an academic unit who devotes a major fraction
of time to the personal conduct of research in which individual initiative,
creativity and responsibility are required.
- Associate Librarian. The associate librarian
should possess the same qualifications as the assistant librarian, demonstrate
excellence in librarianship, show evidence of an established reputation in
research, and have a strong record of service to the University and the profession.
- Associate Professor (or Senior Research
Associate). The associate professor (or senior research associate) should
possess the same qualifications as the assistant professor (or research
associate), but must also give evidence of an established reputation in
scholarly, artistic, or professional achievement.
- Librarian. In addition to the qualifications for associate librarian,
the librarian should demonstrate sustained excellence in librarianship, give evidence of creativity in his/her field of
specialization (including a continuing capacity for significant contributions in research and
creative accomplishments), and show evidence of leadership in the profession. The rank of librarian should
be reserved for persons of proven stature in librarianship, research, and service.
- Professor (or Professor of Practice or Senior Scientist). In addition
to the characteristics of the members of the lower ranks, the professor (or
senior scientist) should give evidence of a marked capacity for creative work
and of leadership in his or her field of specialization. This rank should be
reserved for persons of proven stature in teaching and/or research.
The professor of practice
title for this rank is limited to those individuals who are non-tenure-track faculty who may not have had the
traditional academic background that is typical of faculty as they move through the professorial ranks. The title
of professor of practice should be reserved for persons who have accumulated a decade or more of high level and
leadership experience in the private or public sectors outside the academy that would provide a unique background and
wealth of knowledge that is of particular value as it is shared with the University's students and other faculty. Prior
to an offer being extended to an individual being considered for the professor of practice title, the appropriate dean or
academic administrator shall consult with, and receive approval from, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.
The senior scientist title for this rank should include the field of research specialization of the individual
as appropriate for the college or intercollege unit.
NOTE: For example, in a college; Senior Scientist--Biology Research;
Senior Scientist--Sociology Research; Senior Scientist--Soil Research; etc. In
interdisciplinary programs: Senior Scientist--Toxicology Research; Senior
Scientist--Materials Research; Senior Scientist--Policy Research; etc.
PROFESSORIAL TITLES FOR RESEARCH FACULTY:
Research faculty who profess are entitled to professorial titles in
accordance with HR24 (Professorial Dual Titles for
The equivalency of rank, indicated above, is followed in granting such
FIXED-TERM RANKS AND TITLES:
Ranks and titles vary among units for faculty in fixed-term positions; most units use the
titles of instructor, lecturer, or senior lecturer; some may use the
professorial ranks of assistant professor, associate professor, and professor,
or assistant librarian, associate librarian, and librarian. Units should have
clear rationale of the different ranks and titles they choose to use and their
expectations for faculty to achieve these various ranks.
Rather than use the titles "lecturer" and "instructor" interchangeably
for fixed-term appointments, each college should determine for itself which of
the two titles it chooses to use, and then use that title consistently for such
Colleges should have their own guidelines for distinguishing between
lecturer and senior lecturer or instructor and senior instructor positions, or
for promoting from one rank to the other, but all units should operate under
the following University assumptions:
- Although there can be exceptions, the senior lecturer and senior
instructor positions are designed to be promotion opportunities, with a
recommended period of at least five years in rank as an instructor or lecturer
before consideration for promotion.
- The promotion from instructor to senior instructor or from lecturer
to senior lecturer should be accompanied by a promotion raise, in addition to a
merit raise, to be determined and funded by the college.
- The promotion procedure itself should include recommendations by both
a campus department faculty committee and the DAA or department/division head,
and the approval of the campus chancellor and/or dean of the college.
Professorial ranks are for faculty who are advanced in their fields,
have terminal degrees and scholarly records, and are hired for their special
expertise. It is not recommended that such ranks be used for faculty members
hired to teach basic courses as part of a college's service mission. For
colleges that do make use of such ranks, HR23 Promotion and Tenure Procedures and
Regulations, specifies that promotion
within the professorial ranks must include recommendations by a peer committee
and the appropriate administrator in the faculty member's unit and then be
approved by the dean of the college.
HR23 Promotion and Tenure Procedures and Regulations
4/20/07 - Professor of practice title added.
11/2/06 - Changed Intercollege Research Programs to interdisciplinary programs.