I am looking for a study on the career path of professors after they are denied tenure.

Specifically, what percentage of these

  1. get a tenured or tenure-track position at another institution?
  2. get a non-tenure-track position in academia?
  3. get a job related to their field of study outside of academia?
  4. leave the field altogether?
  5. other?

I am asking out of curiosity, so I'd be happy with answers that refer to a study in any context (country, field, etc.).

This is a question: I am looking for answers that briefly summarize the results of a study on this subject, with a reference to said study.

I am not looking for answers from anecdotal evidence not supported by a study or citation (we already have some of those here).

I am also not looking for answers explaining why such a study is unlikely to exist, or why it should not be trusted if it did.

  • 1
    I would split up (2) into "Get a tenured position somewhere else" and "Get a non-tenured, non-tenure-track position somewhere else"
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 7:22
  • 3
    In the US being "denied tenure" is complicated and only a fraction of the people who would be denied tenure actually as many of them are aware they will be denied and either leave or do not go up for review.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 13:19
  • In Italy tenure-track positions are a recent introduction so there are probably not yet enough data to have a study. However, from the way this tenure-track has been implemented, if one doesn't get the abilitazione there's almost no other choice than that of finding a job outside academia. Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 6:08

1 Answer 1


In the German academic system, assistant professor positions were introduced only in 2002. Recently, there have been studies evaluating how well these positions have been established, and how it affects the career paths of junior researchers. One example is a project by the Center for Higher Education (CHE), which is described here (in German unfortunately): http://www.che.de/cms/?getObject=260&PK_Projekt=1292&strAction=show. Scrolling down to publications shows references to articles where data from this study have been published (again only in German).

One difficulty in interpreting this data with respect to your question is that tenure track positions are rare in Germany (an estimate I remember, but don't have a reference for now, is that 10 % of assistant professor positions are tenure track). On the one hand, that means that "being denied tenure" is almost the norm for these positions. On the other hand, it's also possible that professors become tenured even though they haven't been on a formally tenure track position.

Also, the statistical population for this study are persons who have been assistant professors in the past, not only those who have been denied tenure. Thus, the study does not give directly the percentages for all the positions in your question, and some data (e.g. field of study) was not collected or published, but still, the results can be used to estimate some of these percentages. So let's get to the key conclusions that can be drawn:

  • For 1., 85 % of former assistant professors have a tenured professor position now (either through tenure track or at another institution)
  • For 2., 6 % of all former assistant professors have a non-tenured academic position
  • Summarizing 3. - 5., 9 % have a position outside academia.

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