In Australia, academic ranks for a balanced position is usually broken down into 5 pay-scales (A Associate lecturer, B Lecturer, C Senior Lecturer, D Associate Professor, and E Professor), which somehow shows the level of seniority as well as the leadership responsibilities. There might be a few exceptions to this.

I noticed some Australian Level C academics translate their title to a North American Associate Professor title. This is really confusing to me as there is already a more senior Australian title with the same name. The assertion made here is that an Australian level D is similar to a full professorship in a North American country while an Australian level E is similar to a titled Professor in a North American country. I don't understand that as there are already many titled professors, senior professors and distinguished professors in Australia.

What is a correct comparison between the academic ranks in Australia and the North American countries? Is making a comparison even correct?

  • "Associate Professor" seems to me to be a problematic title (e.g. what are you merely "associated" with rather than a part of?). I don't they do equate at least between the UK and US, partly because the age/experience profile of the "corresponding" grades are different in the UK and US (c.f. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/172797/… ). In the U.K. senior lecturers and readers are both being relabelled as associate professors. I agree that "politically correct" (like "woke") suggests polarisation. May 8, 2022 at 11:26
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    I suggest you edit this question so it does not solicit opinions about correctness. May 8, 2022 at 15:27
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    By "North America" here it seems that you really mean "US and Canada"? Mexico's system of academic ranks appears to be rather different, and I think the other Central American countries are too. May 8, 2022 at 15:37
  • The name or title of a position is often confusing when comparing countries. The value/rank/prestige of a position is determined by it's place in a system not its label. So it is perfectly normal for positions with the same name to be different and positions with different names to be the same when comparing countries. May 8, 2022 at 15:39
  • The real difference between ranks is "Non-tenure temporary, non-tenure with a possibility for tenure - tenure - Professor - distinguished Professor. There are analogs of that in academias of all countries (sometimes there are several versions of each rank in different countries) and different tracks too, Say, in France they have CNRS.
    – markvs
    May 8, 2022 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


These kinds of comparisons are always imperfect. What does 'equivalent' really mean here? It's not even clear within a country: is a Full Professor at MIT 'equivalent' to a Full Professor at Compass Point State College (Satellite Campus)?

I am not sure that the boundaries between US ranks map exactly onto any of the boundaries between Australian levels. As a rough guide, I would suggest:

  • US Postdoc = Australia A/B
  • US Asst. Prof. = Australia B/C
  • US Assoc. Prof. = Australia C/D
  • US Full Prof. = Australia D/E
  • US named chair = Australia E/E+

I think this matches both the typical level of responsibility, and the typical 'academic age' (i.e. years post-PhD) of candidates.

Australian academia grew from the historical British model, where there were comparatively few Professors and the title was indeed a mark of significant distinction. In recent years both countries have gradually moved towards a (perceived) parity with the US system, with promotion to Professor becoming increasingly 'normal' for those who survive long enough. This evolution may well be the source of some of the confusion over how titles map between countries.

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    This isn't completely accurate because promotion to Full Professor is, at many US universities, almost certain to occur. At Australian universities, it is normal to get stuck at Level D. May 8, 2022 at 15:29
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    The UK system hasn't moved to [perceived] parity with the US system, we have just adopted the labels. Promotion to full professor is substantially more difficult than it was when I became a lecturer in the mid 1990s (IMHO). May 8, 2022 at 15:32
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: that’s exactly why Full Professor maps to D/E rather than just E or just D. May 8, 2022 at 18:04
  • @AnonymousPhysicist: It is far from certain in my University. A really complicated process (till recently) with an uncertain result. I was the Chair of the promotional committee several times.
    – markvs
    May 11, 2022 at 11:18
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    @markvs: this is a question about comparing Australia to North America. Literally nothing to do with Oxford. May 11, 2022 at 14:04

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