Assistant professor is an academic rank just below the rank of an associate professor used in universities or colleges, mainly in the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea.


This position is generally taken after earning a doctoral degree and generally after several years of holding one or more postdoctoral researcher positions.[1][2][3][4] It is below the position of associate professor at most universities and is equivalent to the rank of lecturer at most Commonwealth universities. In the United States, assistant professor is often the first position held in a tenure track, although it can also be a non-tenure track position. A typical professorship sequence is assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor in order. After seven years, if successful, assistant professors can get tenure and also get promotion to associate professor.[5]

There is high demand for vacant tenure-track assistant professor positions, often with hundreds of applicants. Less than 20% of doctoral graduates move onto a tenure-track assistant professor position after graduation.[citation needed]


The table presents a broad overview of the traditional main systems, but there are universities which use a combination of those systems or other titles. Some universities in Commonwealth countries have also entirely adopted the North American system in place of the Commonwealth system.

North American system Commonwealth system
(higher tier, including distinguished professor or equivalent)
Professor Reader (mainly UK) or associate professor (mainly Australia, NZ, South Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Ireland)
Associate professor Senior lecturer
Assistant professor Lecturer


  1. ^ Bourne, P. E.; Friedberg, I. (2006). "Ten Simple Rules for Selecting a Postdoctoral Position". PLOS Computational Biology. 2 (11): e121. Bibcode:2006PLSCB...2..121B. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020121. PMC 1664706. PMID 17121457.
  2. ^ Ruben, A. (2013). "The Postdoc: A Special Kind of Hell". Science. doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a1300256.
  3. ^ Brooks, I. M. (2008). "Postdoc glut means academic pathway needs an overhaul". Nature. 454 (7208): 1049. Bibcode:2008Natur.454.1049B. doi:10.1038/4541049a. PMID 18756230.
  4. ^ Odom, D. T. (2014). "Survival strategies for choosing the right postdoc position". Genome Biology. 15 (3): 107. doi:10.1186/gb4163. PMC 4053951. PMID 25001498. open access
  5. ^ "The Transition from Graduate Student to Assistant Professor". Archived from the original on 2022-06-11. Retrieved 2017-08-18.