Week 1: Hierarchies


Not all professors are the same. The different levels are based primarily how the person has advanced in their career. Their advancement occurs through a ‘tenure’ process, on the type of work they do and their status in their field and in the university. Some professors have masters degrees and some have PhDs. Some only teach and some only do research. Some are right out of graduate school and some have been in their careers for awhile. 


An instructor or lecturer is a full time educator, whose work is usually just teaching focused. They are sometimes able to go for tenure (discussed on the next page). 


The assistant professor is the first level of a ‘tenure’ track career path. The assistant professor teaches, does research, and must publish. 


After presenting their work and teaching evaluations to a departmental committee, the assistant professor can be promoted to associate professor. At this stage, the associate professor receives ‘tenure.’ Their job consists of research, teaching, and committee work. 


Associate professors apply to become full professors by again presenting their research and teaching evaluations to a committee for advancement. The full professor is usually a fairly well known person in his or her field. They sometimes have administrative duties. 


Part-time instructor paid to teach one or two classes based on college credit hours. Often does not have a PhD. 


Visiting Professor

Instructor hired with a short term contract, usually one year. 

Graduate Students

Post-undergraduate students working towards a Masters or PhD in the discipline. Hired to teach 1-2 courses a semester. 

Artist in Residence

Artist (Literary, Artistic etc) hired to contribute to the University’s Art Programs. 

Research Faculty

PhD who does not teach, but instead does research on campus; usually a PhD in the sciences or engineering. 

Professor Emeritus

Semi-retired professor, who sometimes still teaches, but mostly maintains an affiliation with the university. 


“Academic Titles and Ranks.” University of Washington. https://ap.washington.edu/ahr/academic-titles-ranks/ 

Rutherford-Morrison, Lara. (July 15, 2015).”18 Types of Professors You’ll Get in College, If You Haven’t Gotten One Already.” Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/articles/98038-18-types-of-professors-youll-get-in-college-if-you-havent-gotten-one-already

“The Transition from Graduate Student to Assistant Professor.” Career Center. Berkeley, University of California. https://career.berkeley.edu/PhDs/PhDtransition