Academic ranks in Canada

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Academic ranks in Canada are the titles, relative importance and power of professors, researchers, and administrative personnel held in academia.


In Canada, a distinction is generally made between college- and university-level Higher education in Canada professors.


  • Distinguished professor or university professor (distinguished professor emeritus, university professor emeritus)
  • Professor or full professor (research professor, professor of practice, visiting professor, adjunct professor, professor emeritus; Fr professeur titulaire - professeur agrégé des Universités)
  • Associate professor (research associate professor, visiting associate professor, adjunct associate professor; Fr professeur agrégé)
  • Assistant professor (research assistant professor, adjunct assistant professor; Fr professeur adjoint)
  • Lecturer or instructor (sessional lecturer or sessional instructor; Fr chargé de cours)

Assistant professor is the entry-level rank for non-tenured members of faculty.

Tenured and tenure-track positions

These full-time faculty members engage in both undergraduate and graduate teaching, mentoring, research, and service. Only faculty members in these positions are eligible for tenure.

  • Assistant professor: An introductory level professor. A position generally taken after receiving a PhD and completing a post-doctoral fellowship. After 4–8 years, assistant professors will be either tenured or dismissed from the university.
  • Associate professor: A mid-level, usually tenured, professor.
  • Professor (sometimes referred to as "full professor"): a senior, tenured professor.
  • Distinguished professor or endowed chair (e.g., "the Brian S. Smith Professor of Physics"): An honorary position in which a full professor's salary may be increased, perhaps by being tied to an endowment derived from the university, private individuals, firms, or foundations.

The top administrative post in many academic departments is the "department chair." Prior to the 1970s, such administrators were called "chairmen" or "chairwomen," but the term in most institutions has since been shortened to the gender-neutral "chair." While many department chairs also hold endowed chair positions, the two positions are distinct.

Educators who hold a formal title of "Professor" (referred to as tenured/tenure-track faculty) typically begin their careers as assistant professors (or "lecturers" and "senior lecturers") with subsequent promotions to the ranks of associate professor and finally professor. The titles are historical traditions; for example, it is not implied that an assistant professor "assists" more senior faculty. There is often a strict timeline for application for promotion from assistant to associate professor, most often 5 or 6 years following the initial appointment. Applicants are evaluated based on their contributions to research, teaching, and administration. The relative weightings of these contributions differ by institution, with PhD-granting universities usually placing more emphasis on research and liberal arts colleges placing more emphasis on teaching. The decision to grant tenure and promotion from assistant to associate professor usually requires numerous levels of approval, with a common sequence being:

  1. external reviewers—several nationally or internationally prominent academics in the candidate's field will be asked to review the candidate's application for promotion and submit a confidential report;
  2. based on this report and evidence of the candidate's accomplishments in his or her curriculum vitae, a committee of members from the candidate's department will make a recommendation for tenure/promotion or denial of such;
  3. the department will vote;
  4. the department decision is communicated to a university panel of individuals from outside of the department who evaluate the application and decide whether they agree or disagree with the departmental recommendation;
  5. the dean;
  6. the board of governors/president or other upper level governing body.

A decision to reject a candidate for tenure normally requires that the individual leave the institution within a year. Otherwise, tenure is granted along with promotion from assistant to associate professor. Although tenure and promotion are usually separate decisions, they are often highly correlated such that a decision to grant a promotion coincides with a decision in favor of tenure, and vice versa. Promotion to associate professor usually results in an increased administrative load and membership on committees that are restricted to tenured faculty.

Some people remain at the level of associate professor throughout their careers. However, most will apply for the final promotion to full professor; the timeline for making this application is more flexible than that for assistant to associate positions and the associate professor does not normally lose his/her job if the application is rejected. As with promotion from assistant to associate professor, promotion from associate to full professor involves review at multiple levels, similar to the earlier tenure/promotion review. This includes external reviews, decisions by the department, recommendations by members of other departments, and high-ranking university officials. Usually, this final promotion requires that the individual has maintained an active research program, and excellent teaching, in addition to taking a leadership role in important departmental and extra-departmental administrative tasks. Full professor is the highest rank that a professor can achieve (other than in a named position) and is seldom achieved before a person reaches their mid-40s. The rank of full professor carries additional administrative responsibilities associated with membership on committees that are restricted to full professors.

Non-tenure-track positions

Individuals in these positions typically (though not always) focus on teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, do not engage in research (except in the case of "research professors"), may or may not have administrative or service roles, and sometimes are eligible for job security that is less strong than tenure. They may still use the prenominal title "professor" and be described by the common-noun "professor," whether or not the position title contains the term. Likewise, the term "instructor" is very generic and can be applied to any teacher, or it can be a specific title (tenure or tenure-track) depending upon how an institution chooses to use the term.

  • Professors of the Practice, and Professors of Professional Practice: have commonly been reserved for practitioners who are appointed because of skills and expertise acquired in nonacademic careers and whose primary focus is teaching. This designation is bestowed on individuals who have achieved a distinguished career in a specific field of practice (engineering, management, business, law, medicine, architecture etc.), and will have a substantial basis of experience equal to a tenured professor (normally a minimum of 12 years) and a national/international reputation for excellence reflected in a record of significant accomplishments. Such appointments are also being offered to individuals with academic career backgrounds. These latter professors of practice are principally engaged in teaching and are not expected to be significantly involved in research activities.
  • Teaching assistant (TA), graduate teaching assistant (GTA), course assistant (CA), teaching fellow (TF), or graduate student instructor (GSI): Positions typically held by graduate students. TAs play a supportive role involving grading, review sessions, and labs. Teaching fellows (and at some universities, TAs or GSIs) teach entire courses.
  • Adjunct - instructor / lecturer / sessional lecturer (primarily Canadian): Part-time, non-tenure track faculty members who are paid for each class they teach. When mainly involved in teaching, they are not always required to have a PhD degree. The minimum credentials usually constitute an academic or professional appointment at government, industry, or another institution. Besides paid teaching positions, Adjunct Professors may be nominated in recognition of their research contributions and activities at the appointing institution with nil salary.
  • Lecturer/Instructor: A full-time or part-time position at a university that does not involve tenure or formal research obligations (although sometimes they choose to perform research), but can often involve administrative service roles. This position does not necessarily require a doctoral degree and usually involves a focus on undergraduate and/or introductory courses. In some colleges the term Senior Lecturer is awarded to highly qualified or accomplished lecturers. A convention some schools have begun to use is the title "teaching professor," with or without ranks, to clarify that these are in fact true faculty members who simply do not have research obligations.
  • Visiting professor (with ranks): (a) A temporary assistant/associate/full professor position (see above), e.g. to cover the teaching load of a faculty member on sabbatical. (b) A professor on leave who is invited to serve as a member of the faculty of another college or university for a limited period of time, often an academic year.
  • Research professor: A position that usually carries only research duties with no obligation for teaching. Research professors usually have no salary commitment from their institution and must secure their salary from external funding sources such as grants and contracts. (These are often known as "soft money" positions.) Although research professor positions usually are not eligible to be awarded tenure, their ranks parallel those of tenure-track positions (like clinical professors); i.e., research assistant professor, research associate professor, and (full) research professor.

Retired faculty

Retired faculty may retain formal or informal links with their university, such as library privileges or office space. At some institutions faculty who have retired after achieving the rank of professor are given the title "professor emeritus" (male) or "professor emerita" (female).

Research personnel

Administrative ranks

  • Dean (often also full professors)
  • Associate dean (often also full professors)
  • Directors of administrative departments
  • Associate/assistant directors of administrative departments
  • Chairs of academic departments (usually full professors)
  • Graduate Coordinators
  • Undergraduate Coordinators

College Ranks

Faculty ranking systems vary from province to province. In Ontario, colleges usually include three faculty ranks: technician, instructor, professor.[1] All ranks may be full- or part-time positions. College professors may or may not have undergraduate and graduate degrees, but they typically have professional certifications and experience that qualify them for the position. Additionally, college professors may propose and create curriculum, whereas instructors and technicians cannot. In departments that offer bachelor's degrees, provincial governments typically require that a minimum of half of the program faculty hold terminal degrees and be employed at the professor rank.[2]

Academic Chair is a title applied to chairs of departments. Dean is a title applied to overseers of groups of departments.

A variety of vice-presidential positions exist at the discretion of individual colleges.

Some colleges have specialized research units whose staff may be full- or part-time. Staff in these units go by a number of titles relevant to their work.

See also

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