I think I heard somewhere that in the USA, a tenureship at a university requires 8 years to obtain.

Is there any way someone can fast-track this process? I.e. can this time period be cut shorter?

  • 3
    Institutes I have some familiarity with go with 6 years from hire to tenure decision. Experienced hires from, e.g., Bell Labs in the old days or a national lab (I know of several recent examples), often can negotiate for faster tenure decisions.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 20 at 19:01
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    Inventing a time machine would probably shorten your tenure clock. Jul 20 at 19:04
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    @AzorAhai-him- yes, that would be an easy case for tenure…
    – Dan Romik
    Jul 20 at 20:45
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    It may help the answerers if you say why you would want to fast-track it. When such questions come up, it's usually because the candidate wants to slow or stop the clock, not accelerate it.
    – cag51
    Jul 20 at 23:29

Yes. The time to get tenure can be as short as 0 years. I know people (a small number, to be sure) who received a tenured job offer straight out of a postdoc.

In US mathematics departments it is also extremely uncommon for someone to take 8 years to be given tenure counting from the time the tenure track position starts. At my own department, 2-6 years is typical depending on the level of experience the person had when they started their position, and of course on how productive they are. I suppose if you count from the date of the PhD, 8 years is perhaps closer to typical.

In general, the way to fast-track the process is to be really, really good, and/or to have job offers from other universities. But as I said, the assumption that without fast-tracking it will take 8 years is not quite accurate.

  • yeah 8 years must be an upper bound these days. Jul 22 at 1:33

Actually, the probation period is usually 6-7 years, with perhaps a mid-term evaluation. Under some circumstances it is normally shortened, but not often for a first position. But in a lot of places negotiation is possible, though you need a really strong negotiating position.

Having "promise" probably isn't enough. There is more to an academic career than productivity. People want to see how compatible you are with others and how you support students at various levels. If you haven't already established that, somehow, you are unlikely to get a shorter period before final decisions are made. In fact, if a dean hires you without a probationary period, other faculty may well object. (See the superstar exemption, below.)

But, for someone hired from another institution, perhaps already tenured there, but possibly in later years of a TT position, the probation period might be two years. This assumes that the person already has a good academic record, research, teaching, ...

And, superstars can be hired (many/most places) without probation.

It is likely, also, that there are places with inflexible rules.


Every university will be different, both in terms of the "default" tenure clock as well as the mechanisms for going up for tenure early.

At my university, it is possible to apply early for tenure. Such cases receive extra scrutiny from the various evaluation committees, so it's very rarely attempted (the only cases I'm aware of are professors who spent some years at the Assistant level at a different university and then transferred in), but it's available.

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