This is a question about academic ranks or positions. I am interested in knowing the best equivalence for the Spanish 'Profesor Contratado Doctor' in English language (UK, US, etc.).

Description of 'Profesor Contratado Doctor':

  • tenured (i.e. permanent) position,
  • not a civil servant,
  • not an entry-level position to the tenured track,
  • is the previous position to 'Profesor Titular de Universidad' (which is sort of equivalent to the Associate Professor position).

So it is something between Assistant Professor (or Lecturer) and Associate Professor. Is it a sort of 'Non-civil-servant Associate Professor', 'Senior Assistant Professor', 'Assistant Professor with PhD'...?

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_ranks_in_Spain), 'Profesor Contratado Doctor' can be expressed as Associate Professor (but not a civil servant yet). I am writing the current question becauase I want to be sure about whether Associate Professor would be the best way to translate this Spanish position or not. I would like not to mislead anyone when I say I am an Associate Professor (meaning 'Profesor Contratado Doctor'). At least, I would like to mislead as little as possible.


I've seen in Wikipedia and also in this other thread here that mapping academic titles or positions from one country to another is really very difficult and there are too many particular cases.

So, maybe the point is finding a neutral, generic classification, something that can be understood for everyone. Therefore, assuming that we have the following kind of generic tenured positions (sorted in ascending order):

  1. Assistant professor (entry)
  2. Associate professor
  3. Full professor (top)

what would be a name for something between 1 and 2?


More facts:

  • In this WordReference thread they conclude that Associate Professor is the most appropriate translation.

  • This sort of official PowerPoint presentation states that 'Profesor Contratado Doctor' is equivalent to 'Assistant Professor (tenure track)'.

  • This report says that a 'Profesor Contratado Doctor' is a Lecturer.

  • Irrespective of what the best translation of this title should be, there is a problem with the way you are using the term "civil servant." I suspect you are using this as a calque of a term from another language like Spanish. In English (American English, at least), "civil servant" just means "government employee," although it is most typically used to describe people in permanent, mid-level positions.
    – Buzz
    Jul 27, 2015 at 10:43
  • 4
    @Buzz I do mean civil servant. In Spain, Full Professors and actual Associate Professors ('Profesor Titular de Universidad') are paid by the Government (and they have all the rights and dutties associated to being a civil servant). Unlikewise, 'Profesor Contratado Doctor' is a tenured position but it is paid by the University.
    – Vicent
    Jul 27, 2015 at 11:02
  • 1
    @Vicent, at public universities in the US, ALL the employees are paid by the university which IS an arm of the government. So everyone is a civil servant and paid by the uni. This may be a distinction of some importance in Spain, but it's not in the US. At private schools in the US, NONE of the employees are paid by the government, but all of them are still paid by the uni. That could make the title hard to translate exactly.
    – Bill Barth
    Jul 27, 2015 at 13:10
  • 1
    @BillBarth Here in Spain, (public) universities also get their fundings mainly from the government. However, there is a huge difference between being paid by the university or from the government itself (it is a different status).
    – Vicent
    Jul 27, 2015 at 18:06
  • 1
    Note that "lecturer" means different things in the US and UK. The UK meaning may be close to what you described; the US meaning is not. Oct 7, 2021 at 17:46

3 Answers 3


It is often difficult to map (academic) ranks between countries and languages. There might be subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences, that make a perfect mapping impossible.

I would write something like: "Associate Professor (Profesor Contratado Doctor)". In that way you provide your official title (no confusion), and a title the reader can relate to (clarity).

  • This is what I am actually doing, now that I've become a Profesor Contratado Doctor. Therefore, I mark it as an 'accepted' answer.
    – Vicent
    Sep 1, 2015 at 5:20

I occupy one of these positions, so I can explain it.

In the Spanish system there is no concept of tenure as such. There are two kinds of permanent profesorial positions, catedratico and profesor titular. Employment as either means that one is employed as a funcionario de carrera, which means a civil servant with all the accompanying civil service protections. In practice this is quite similar to tenure, but the manner of obtaining such a position is different, and as I remarked there is no accompanying notion of tenure. The relevant civil servant status is essentially the same as that of a postal worker.

A profesor contratado doctor is also a permanent position, and also a funcionario in the sense of being a public employee (but not a funcionario de carrera), but is technically different in that it is a laboral position, which in practice means that such a position is in principle susceptible to forming part of a layoff package (although I believe this has never been done with respect to these positions) and that the employment conditions are subject to collective bargaining as they would be for truck drivers.

Spanish administrative law treats the two kinds of position rather differently, and while in practice a profesor contratado doctor earns only slightly less than a profesor titular and has generally essentially similar working conditions, also in practice there is a hierarchical relationship and profesor titular is treated as above profesor contratado doctor.

None of these positions is susceptible to promotion in the usual sense. Obtaining any one of these positions requires competition against all qualified applicants.

In practice Spanish universities have used profesor contratado doctor positions more in recent years than in the past because austerity measures made offering civil servant positions more difficult and the laboral positions were easier to offer. The typical occupant of such a position has had several postdoctoral positions and is considerably more active in research than profesores titulares of the previous generation.

Such a position has no real comparable in the US system, but simply Professor probably comes closest in practice. Associate Professor has connotations that are simply not pertinent. In the UK system, something in the range Lecturer to Reader is similar, but again there is no direct equivalent.

In my opinion the best practice is to avoid translating the names of job titles. People who don't know what they mean shouldn't be judging curriculums anyway.


In the British system, Senior Lecturer would be the most likely equivalent. The teaching career ranking in the British system is Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor.

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