I am a visiting assistant professor at a selective liberal arts school for psychology, first year post-grad. I have five publications but probably won't get any offers for tenure track positions without an additional postdoc. I also am trying to find a position in which research is an element, but not the first priority of the job (which is a really narrow path, it seems).

I haven't been able to find a lot of information specifically about "lecturer" positions in US universities. I know they can come with some security and focus mainly on a lot of teaching. I enjoy teaching and would be happy to make it the focus of my career, but I am still holding on to the ideal of the tenure-track line. If I did take a lecturer position at a high-ranking school, I figure I can depend on potentially a better starting salary than a tenure line at a smaller or lower-ranked school- while it would be at the cost of career growth, would it be incorrect to assume I could just make a living that way and possibly get some job security down the line? (For example, I know there have been "senior lecturer" designations and such that seem to indicate security of employment). Or even if there was stability but no growth?

Can anyone speak to maintaining a lecturer position as a kind of permanent position? I know that they are generally term to term, or are on some contract every x years (for example one of the positions I applied to is renewable on a 3 year contract). I know that lecturer positions are not really helpful to transition to tenure-track lines focused on research, but what about teaching-focused schools? Or, even, if one just stops at lecturer?

I feel at the moment that taking a lecturer position would sort of end my tenure-track aspirations on paper, but also I don't want to end up doing term positions or adjuncting for 10 years (true stories about this have been told to me). I could do a postdoc but the return rate on those is generally later in the year, which comes at the expense of current opportunities if I get any offers. Additionally, although I'm young in my career I am already feeling myself fatiguing and I don't want to go through years of moving, instability, financial insecurity, etc. I started grad school initially thinking of the classic tenure track position, focusing on research, etc. but I didn't really enjoy the research aspect as much as I thought, so I shifted my focus to teaching (apparently not a good move). Since I don't actually know anyone who's gone in for a lecturer position or what kind of growth there is there, can anyone weigh in on their stability, enjoyability, growth etc?? And if I take it and do want to try to pursue a tenure track line somewhere else, could it ever be useful?

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    I'm having trouble making sense out of what you're really wanting to know. It's a diverse but competitive market. Apply to literally hundreds of places, take what you can get. My impression of the perma-adjunct life-of-horror people is that it's self-inflicted: they are only willing to work within a very limited area and have access to a very small fraction of a job market that rewards willingness to move. This is usually because of a spouse or other family, so can have a good reason, but it's still limiting themselves to 1% or less of what's out there. Jan 16, 2018 at 23:59
  • Varies with institution. E.g., I have a permanent Lecturer position (with tenure-like protections) at a U.S. East coast university. Jan 17, 2018 at 0:52
  • The permanence/security of "Lecturer" positions varies significantly between universities and even between departments on the same campus.
    – JeffE
    Jan 17, 2018 at 17:02
  • Anecdotal evidence: one of the most celebrated mathematicians in my field had a one year lecturer position as their first position. It's not terribly uncommon if your dissertation gets finished ahead of schedule, and you need to find a position after most of the post-docs and tenure track positions are filled or already at a short list stage. I was in that situation as well, though I'm not nearly as significant or celebrated. Jan 17, 2018 at 19:08

3 Answers 3


The context here is clearly the US system. I'm responding based on my own experience working with people in such positions at my institution and elsewhere.

This is ultimately a personal decision. There are certainly many institutions where instructors have been employed for decades and even reached retirement. Having a stable job is better than having an unstable job or no job at all.


  1. Lecturer/instructor positions are not generally tenure-track positions. You won't have the protections of tenure, and if your institution comes on hard times, you'll be one of the first to be laid off.

  2. Although some institutions have "senior" instructor or lecturer job titles, there isn't nearly the same scope for advancement as for a tenure-track faculty member. In particular, tenure-track faculty can advance from assistant to associate to full professor and ultimately into department chairmanship or higher administration. In terms of salary, you're likely to be stuck at a level below the tenure-track assistant professors for the rest of your career.

  3. Instructor/lecturers seldom get to teach any but the lowest level (remedial, developmental, and first year) courses. You probably won't have the opportunity to teach advanced undergraduate or graduate courses. You may not have much control over the syllabus, textbooks, etc.

  4. Teaching loads can be very high in these positions. There just won't be time for any professional development.

  5. Taking one of these positions for a year or two might help your chances of getting a tenure-track position at a teaching-oriented institution (because you'll have gained some teaching experience to balance with your research background), but after you've stayed in such a position for a while (say five years), your chances of being able to move into a tenure-track position at even a teaching focused institution will decrease substantially (because at that point your research will have stopped, and even teaching-oriented institutions want some research from tenure-track faculty.)

In short, it's a deprofessionalized dead-end job.

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    -1 Not true in all cases. E.g., I have a permanent Lecturer position with tenure-like protections at a large U.S. East coast university. Jan 17, 2018 at 0:53
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    @DanielR.Collins Your case may be an exception, but my impression is that Brian’s answer is true in most cases... Jan 17, 2018 at 3:49
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    You may not have much control over the syllabus, textbooks, etc. Possible. On the other hand, my experience has been that full-time lecturers often "own" lower-level classes, and become responsible for selecting textbooks, developing syllabi, supervising and coordinating other instructors, implementing significant changes where warranted, etc. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view. Jan 17, 2018 at 4:31
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    -1 The professionalism, control, workload, security, advancement opportunities, and respect attached to "Lecturer" (or "Teaching professor") positions vary significantly among different universities and different fields. Yes, in many departments lecturers are disposable cogs with ridiculous workloads, but definitely not in all.
    – JeffE
    Jan 17, 2018 at 17:05
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    I'd certainly be interested in seeing examples of how some institutions have structured these positions so that instructors have opportunities for salary, career advancement, professional development, and participation in shared governance that are comparable to the opportunities available to traditional tenure track faculty. Knowing what kinds of policies to look for could help the OP and others in navigating the job market. Jan 18, 2018 at 15:15

I don't think this is especially common in the U.S., but I do know of some R1 universities that have a position known as "Lecturer with security of employment", where the salary, difficulty of getting dismissed, and sabbatical opportunities are all comparable to that of a tenured professor, but you aren't expected to do any research but only to teach. Pretty good job if you can get it.

  • Actually "Professors of the Practice" as they are called, are probably required to do research, but of a different sort. Pedagogical research, for example. Or at least those of my acquaintance in CS do, in fact, do quite a lot of research and have wide reputations. At Duke, CMU, Stanford, etc.
    – Buffy
    Apr 11, 2020 at 22:41
  • @Buffy It probably varies from place to place. According to this document UCSD explicitly does not require their "lecturers with security of employment" to do research, but does encourage it. (It's recognized as a sign of "professional achievement and activity", one of their performance evaluation criteria.)
    – Anyon
    Apr 12, 2020 at 15:45
  • @Buffy No, those are different. I had a (fantastic) lecturer with security or whatever they were called. Professors of practice are usually people with a lot of industry experience Apr 12, 2020 at 21:11

This is going to vary widely between fields and institutions. There's a very prominent example of someone making a (partial but non-trivial) career as a lecturer, however: Barack Obama

He was a Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992-1996, and then a Senior Lecturer from 1996-2004. The University of Chicago happens to be a top-tier institution that makes extensive use of lecturers. The junior positions pay very well, but do not involve any administrative or governance elements. The senior position does.

To answer your question as generally as possible, it's my impression that a lecturer position like this will lag behind a tenure track position within the same department, but can easily meet or exceed the pay and benefits of a tenure track position at a smaller school. If anything, the lecturers seem more likely to be teaching in specialized areas, since they often have professional experience as well as academic. The full-time version is nothing at all like temporary adjunct positions, though UofC does also have part-time lecturers who are closer to that.

So while Brian's blanket answer that it's a "deprofessionalized dead-end job" is wrong, it is very true that the real answer will vary widely by institution.

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