(I am new to the USA academic system, so please apologize if this is very naive.)

In the USA, is it possible to have a full-time job (e.g., industry scientist) and also pursue a part-time Assistant Professor position in academia, with a research/group-leading focus? Have you seen that happen before? Would that be equivalent to Adjunct Professor?

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    You cannot lead a group while working full time. Do not do a disservice to the people you hire by pretending to lead them. Oct 19, 2021 at 3:18
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    I think it would be helpful to share what field you are talking about and what you think a research assistant professor is (because adjunct professors are totally different animals that is why I am not sure what you want to achieve).
    – Greg
    Oct 19, 2021 at 11:22
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    Honestly, I'm a little offended you think you can lead a research group on your weekends and evenings like we're a t-ball team. Oct 19, 2021 at 15:48
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    @Elabore I am still not clear how you define "part-time research assistant profs" (do you tenure track? at a university with teaching? with supervised students?) In my experience computational STILL fields still need a full-time commitment (though maybe more flexible than experimental fields) if someone has a lab/projects/reports/teaching/communities etc. and a side-job is generally an added part-time commitment after one establishes themselves at academia. Also, you should consider what is the incentive of the university: why give a lab and position to someone who is only part-time?
    – Greg
    Oct 20, 2021 at 8:19
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    @Elabore I guess the question is what is in it for the university. If you do not teach, do not bring grands or train students, I think you just use up resources from their point of view. If you train students and bring in grands, most probably you need at least 20 hours/week just for the grands and the students if not more. Most assistant/assoc professors I know doing research almost as a hobby or side hustle: administration and other commitments are already a full time job. Maybe what you are looking for is an (unpaid) visiting professor position?
    – Greg
    Oct 23, 2021 at 6:11

2 Answers 2


I won't be so encouraging as the answer of emory. I don't think it would be impossible, but I think it would be very very rare.

An Assistant Professor is on the tenure track. There are certain expectations that almost always go beyond research, since even R1 universities have a complex mission that includes teaching. Moreover, it is other faculty members (a committee) that is normally responsible for recommending (or not) tenure at the end of the probationary period. I think that a part time person would have a lot of trouble with such a committee unless their research were far beyond the expected level.

On the other hand, I know of some highly respected industry researchers who serve as adjuncts. They don't hold tenure, and serve "at will", but mostly they do it because they want to teach (not research) at the university. They don't mind the fact that the pay is abysmal.

Another issue with such a plan is that for someone hired as an industry researcher probably has some restrictions on what they can publish outside the company. These may be mild, requiring some sign off, or severe. Some industry research requires a high level of confidentiality and the company may not want any possible "slop over" into the public sphere.

A university is almost always looking for full-time long-term employees in the tenure system and would take a lot of convincing to change their minds. One reason is that such a person doesn't really depend on the university and so could leave at any time. This would be a big problem for any students advised by the person.

In some cases, for superstars from industry (or the public sector), a person might be granted tenure via a non-standard path. But they probably wouldn't be considered Assistant professors. Someone near the end of their stellar career in industry might have a foot in both camps. But I think it more likely that they would move full time to the university, and retain some part time links to industry.

It would surprise me if the US had as many as ten such available positions. And I don't know how an early career person could even convince a university to consider it.


Yes, anything and everything is possible (but some things are extremely rare and for practical purposes impossible).

I remember a former professor of mine. He was a highly successful alumnus. He was the CEO of a big regional corporation. He was a member of the board of visitors. He was a big university donor.

He was also an adjunct professor. I thought he was a very good one.

He worked as much or as little as he liked. He focused on the things he liked. He had this freedom because he was self-funding.

Can you get a position like that without self-funding? I doubt it. But if you can self-fund, there is nothing you can't do.

The test to see if you are ready for this opportunity is: Your university has screwed up payroll and your salary was not deposited today. Do you

  1. Brace for the impact on your personal finances.
  2. Not notice it
  3. Transfer money to your team members' personal bank accounts so there is no impact on their finances.

If you did not answer #3 then you probably do not have enough money.

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    Everything is possible, but not everything that is possible is common or achievable to everyone. Oct 19, 2021 at 4:17
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    Adjuncts don't lead teams. They barely even have time for research, if they try to make a living from adjuncting. They do the teaching grunt work the education system has outsourced to its periphery.
    – henning
    Oct 19, 2021 at 11:01
  • @WolfgangBangerth you are right that my answer was irresponsibly optimistic. It is possible, but not for me and the vast majority people. And the rare people for which it is possible probably have better things to do with their time and money.
    – emory
    Oct 19, 2021 at 15:27
  • @henning if you are trying to make a living from being a professor this track is not for you. But if you can pay other people's salaries, you can lead a team.
    – emory
    Oct 19, 2021 at 15:28

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