I know some of you may say "it depends", but in the US is a lecturer position inferior to Asst Professor? I am in the job market and get lots of calls for adjunct or lecturer. In the interviews, it is emphasized that "you will be teaching large classes and your job will be just teaching". My question is that if I get into a lecturer position at the start of my career - will that be a bad thing? I do hope to keep applying for tenure track jobs, so will my lecturer experience be considered?


2 Answers 2


Generally, yes, in the U.S. "lecturer" is a lower-tier, non-tenure-track job, while "assistant professor" is tenure-track. "Inferior" in that sense, yes, although it does happen that assistant professors fail to get tenure and must leave, while lecturers go on and on... admittedly, often term-by-term.

I think that once-upon-a-time any job other than the deluxe ones would have been a sign that you'd already not "made the cut", but nowadays things are so much tighter that it is widely acknowledged that not managing a "research post-doc" or similar is not a disgrace, but as much just bad luck.

It is true that the same factors that push one to a certain threshold so that bad luck becomes the dominant factor will most likely still be in play, so hedging one's bets should take that into account.

Your experience in doing serious teaching will be taken into account in the positive sense that not everyone is able to cope with this, but it is very much the bread-and-butter of academic mathematics, no matter what anyone says. Not glamorous or heroic, no, but...

So when you ask "will my lecturer experience be considered", well, yes, that's legitimate work, and not everyone manages it. But/and if you're applying for somewhat-upscale tenure-track jobs (=assistant prof), those lecturer jobs are approximately neutral. The question will be about what papers you've written/published... given that you apparently pass the minimum threshold of not-awful/intolerable teaching chops.

The most awkward part of such situations is that, often, doing sufficient adjunct/lecturer teaching to make a living leaves insufficient time/energy for scholarship/research/thinking, and this is not usually taken into account formally...

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    "The most awkward part of such situations is that, often, doing sufficient adjunct/lecturer teaching to make a living leaves insufficient time/energy for scholarship/research/thinking, and this is not usually taken into account formally..." Your research productivity will be evaluated as if you had spent those years in a research post-doc rather than teaching a heavy load. Thus someone with two years of experience as a lecturer or visiting assistant prof with no publications will look unproductive compared to a new PhD or a research post-doc. Sep 3, 2015 at 23:45
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    Note that if you end up applying for a permanent tenure track position at a teaching oriented institution, then your lecturing experience may well be a positive experience. Sep 3, 2015 at 23:46
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    As @BrianBorchers notes, your experience may help you toward teaching-oriented schools, but I've had PhD students of mine not taken seriously at "little teaching colleges" because ... supposedly... they were not "sufficiently research-oriented". Whah? This after my recommending that they demonstrate that they could reach undergrads... That is, some little colleges are violently delusional. So one should try to test the waters. Sep 3, 2015 at 23:49
  • I second paul garrett's concern. There are lots of small teaching oriented place that still evaluate junior tenure track faculty hires largely on the basis of research, at least in my field (philosophy). The rationale here is: teaching isn't all that hard, but research is. So, if i know a person needs to publish to get tenure (which is true, even at teaching oriented schools), then I'm going to select people who I know can do the hard thing, trusting that they'll be able to pick up the easy one if necessary. Whether that's the right approach or not, it is common.
    – user10636
    Sep 4, 2015 at 13:05

I'm not sure about the U.S., but if your aim is to be a professor that do research, if you accept a position where you are not required to do research (e.g. lecturer), it will certainly not help. To get a professor position where you do research, you need to get some good publication record. If you are a lecturer and do not have enough time to publish and do research, then, yes, it could have a negative impact on your chances to get such position.

By being a lecturer, you would get teaching experience, which is worth somethng but for position where you need to lead a research team, your publication record is generally MUCH more important than teaching experience. In fact, for an assistant professor position, I have often seen universities hiring persons without prior teaching exprience (in Canada).

So in my opinion, it is better to do a post-doc than to be a lecturer if you want to get a professor position where you lead a research team. Being a post-doc will let you continue building your publication record. If you are a lecturer, what might happen is that you may teach too many courses and not have time to publish papers, and thus your publication record may even look worse because you may not publish for a few years, which may leave a huge gap in your CV, and as a result you may never get an assistant professor position.

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    A variant on this scheme would be to teach a part-time load, as an "adjunct", while continuing to build up your publication list. Sep 4, 2015 at 1:46
  • @aparente001 -- great advice. I've had several friends/jr. colleagues go this route with great success. It says that you can teach and are collegial while still allowing time for the research/publishing that will make or break a professorial position. (I'd add that if teaching is your main love, there are amazing lecturer positions that can be just as fulfilling as professorial positions). Sep 4, 2015 at 7:20

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