What do you call the professors that are hired by two different departments? Say, a history professor who is also a chemistry professor.

Also, in reality how would one do that?

  • Do you have any examples? I have heard about professors beeing affiliated with more than one department or even university but never two different fields. It also doesn't make much sense. Professors should be experts in their field and today it's basically impossible to be a true expert in two not closely related fields.Also: it's a full time job.
    – user64845
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 23:20
  • I see that people are answering the first part but not the second part. I suggest you remove the last paragraph and write a separate question. Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 17:22
  • @DSVA, whether or not professors should be experts in their field surely varies by country? In UK usage of the word "professor" I would agree with you (although an emeritus professor might no longer be up to date); but US usage seems to cover anyone who teaches in a university, and in extremis that just requires knowing more than an average first year undergrad. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 11:29

3 Answers 3


It's usually called a joint, secondary or courtesy appointment. The purpose is to allow faculty to teach or do research in cross-disciplinary topics. Someone with a joint appointment is usually a full member of both departments and funded by both; secondary and courtesy appointments reflect a looser relationship.

Their formal title will be a list of their appointments, e.g., "Professor, Electrical Engineering; Professor (courtesy), Applied Physics".

To an audience, they might be introduced as "Professor of Electrical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Applied Physics", but beyond that, there's no special term for someone who holds this type of appointment. They're still just called a professor, same as the rest.

  • Thanks for answering. One additional question: is the professor with secondary appointment allowed to do research in that secondary department?
    – John
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 14:44
  • 1
    @John Depends on the appointment and whether/how much funding the other department provides but usually the whole point is to allow the individual to teach or do research in cross-disciplinary topics meaning, yes, they generally may do research in their secondary department. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 15:14

In my experience, it is common with the caveat that one of the fields is their primary affiliation (for instance, their office may be in that department), but they teach classes in some other field as well. On the professor's website you may see that they state the non-primary department(s) as a "Secondary Appointment" (or any of the other terms Nicole Hamilton mentions).

Regardless of whether they are officially affiliated with multiple departments, many professors have expertise in two different fields or in the intersection of two different fields (e.g. computational biology, philosophy of physics, applications of statistics to medicine, etc.)

  • 1
    What do you call the professor who has the dual affiliation? Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 17:23

At my US university, there is a difference based on how their salary is drawn (where the tenure line lies). If they are jointly paid and the tenure case is jointly determined, they have a joint appointment. If the appointment is courtesy, one department pays and evaluates and they have a secondary appointment.

In either case, they are merely referred to in emails, conversation, or other normal correspondence as Professor, just like other faculty. (Note this is not the U.K. where "Professor" is a more rarified title.) In formal title writing, they would be (Assistant/Associate) Professor of X and Y, where X is their primary appointment, if Y is secondary. Order can be either way if they are joint.

If someone has a joint appointment, they likely attend all faculty meetings in both departments. Other faculty in the department will see them as a full member of the team. If they appointment is secondary, other faculty won't see them the same way. They will be thought of as a "affiliated" faculty member for the department.

For a joint appointment, the position is generally advertised that way. This is because the pay structure is worked out in advance. If someone has a secondary appointment, it can be determined at the time of hiring (during negotiations) or after hiring, often on the basis of a talk and faculty vote in the secondary department.

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