How to know if a professor is tenured? (Updated 2024)

Many believe that being a professor means either working full-time or part-time. But do you know, they are also further categorized as tenured or non-tenured professors? I also didn’t know it until my cousin became one. When she got her first job as an assistant professor, everyone asked her if it was a tenured one. It made me a little confused, and I asked her about it. She told me when you become a tenured professor, you get a guarantee in the job until you are retired.

Yes, it is amazing, but how to know if a professor is tenured? It can be confusing. But, I was able to find a way. Thus, here I will share how you can find out and also the path to becoming one.

Quick Takeaways

  • If a person has been an associate professor in an institution for the last 3-4 years, they may be a tenured professor. Therefore if you want to know if the professor is tenured or not you can check if they are associate professors or not.
  • To become an associate professor you will need to complete the undergraduate degree, get the graduate degree, gain the experience, and get the doctoral degree. After that, you will need to apply for the professor position and first complete your assistant professor period and then apply for the associate professor position.
  • The salary of a tenured professor is much higher when compared to non-tenured professors.
How to know if a professor is tenured?

How to know if a professor is tenured?

Individuals who are generally full-time employees are known as tenure track. If a professor is an assistant professor then they will be tenure track and if they are associate professor or a full-time professor then they are known as a tenured professor. Except for these professors, any other professor comes under a non-tenure track or is not a tenured professor.

However, it is also possible that the associate or assistant professor needs a tenure track. This is because some institutions hire professors for 2-3 years and give them higher titles. You can become a tenured professor after completing the highest degree in your field that is Ph.D. Check for the following things if you want to know whether the professor is tenured or not-

  • Check for the titles: As mentioned, only Assistant and associate officers can become a tenured professor.
  • Look for the institutional policies: There are chances that you may get to know when a professor will be a tenured professor. If a particular professor meets all the requirements, he/she may be a probable tenured professor.
  • Check the year of appointment: If the professor has been appointed for any of the titles in recent years, they may be tenured. But if they have had any one title for long, and there is no promotion, they may be nontenured.

How to become a tenured professor?

How to know if a professor is tenured?

As it was something new for me, I wanted to know the full procedure of becoming one. What would be a better way to find out the process than asking my cousin? Following are the steps to become a tenured professor-

1. Undergraduate degree

The first thing to do is to complete the undergraduate degree in any chosen field. Suppose, if you want to become a maths professor, you must get an undergraduate in mathematics.

2. Master’s degree

Once you have completed the undergraduate degree, attend graduate school for a higher degree. Having a master’s degree increases your chance to become a professor at a lower level. Suppose you want to become a mathematics professor, you will need to select a specific field of mathematics. You can choose discrete maths, calculus, or any other branch to excel in it.

3. Gain some experience

Try to do some internships or part-time jobs, to get related experience. Although it may not help you get the tenured position, it will definitely help you become an adjunct assistant professor. Once you get the role of adjunct assistant professor, it will be easy for you to become a tenured professor.

4. Get a doctoral degree

How to know if a professor is tenured?

Try to complete your PhD along with your part-time job. You will only get the tenured position once you complete the doctoral degree. It will help you increase your knowledge in the specific field you want to teach. In addition to that, you may have to complete the research project and submit it at the end of your Ph.D.

5. Get the tenure track position

You will have to start by being in a tenure-track position. It means you must work as an assistant professor in a particular institution. The only job will be to teach full-time and mentor students. As institutions open up such positions yearly, you must apply to more than 2-3 institutions.

6. Publish your work 

As an assistant professor, try to work with the research team and publish your own projects. Commonly, most associate professors start as assistant professors and get into some research work. 

7. Get the tenured position

After a few years of working as an assistant professor, you will get the role of associate professor. Once you get the position you will have to work for 5-6 years without getting the tenure. Once you complete your time period, you are eligible for a tenured position.

What is the average salary for a tenured professor?

Undoubtedly, the salary of associate professors is higher than that of assistant professors. It varies based on different institutions and other factors like the area of living. The average salary for a tenured professor is around $95,827. It means that the average wage lies in a range starting from $77,169 to $131,492.

What is the difference between an adjunct and a tenured professor?

An adjunct professor is appointed on a contractual or part-time basis. They get lower salaries and have fewer responsibilities than full-time professors. Whereas if you are a tenured professor, you work as a full-time associate professor. However to become a tenured professor you will need to complete a specific period as an assistant professor.

The average annual salary earned by the tenured professor is much higher than the adjunct professor. As an adjunct professor, you will not get any job security, whereas as a tenured professor, you will have job security.

How much time it will take to get the tenure position?

The time taken to get the tenured position depends upon the area of living. It will take you 7-8 years to become an assistant professor. After that, you must work for 4-5 years. After gaining experience in this role, you get promoted to the associate level. When you work as an associate for 3-4 years, it leads to a tenured position. You can say that, it will take around 14-15 years to become a full-time tenured associate professor. 


Tenured professors are the ones who have given more than 10 years of teaching and have completed their assistant professor period. Therefore, if you want to know whether the professor is tenured or not you must look if they are an associate or assistant professor. If they are associate professors and have given more than 5-6 years, they may have received the tenured position. Other than these two positions, all are non-tenured track positions.


Is being a tenured professor worthy?

Tenured professor means having job security. It means that being a tenured professor is definitely worthy. Along with that, it also offers a higher salary than the other professors. Being a tenured professor, you must speak in the institutional decisions. You get a lot of international collaboration or traveling opportunities. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to get this position. So if you are ready to put in your time and efforts, being a tenured professor is really worth it.

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