In U.S., Canadian and European universities do new professors have to pass a drug test before starting their career? Or is it only required when they are promoted to full-time tenure professors?

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    Every country is different. Every university is different. – JeffE Jul 27 '16 at 12:08
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 Jul 29 '16 at 7:07
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    Voting to close because this question is attracting a lot of junk, in particular the apology of psychotropic drugs use which is not what this website should be archiving in my opinion. – Cape Code Jul 29 '16 at 12:19
  • @CapeCode voting to reopen because there are good answers. Vote down the junk, not the question. The answers effectively cover the breadth of the question, and also some interesting details. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 29 '16 at 23:45

In the academical sphere, I never heard any similar. I know only Middle Europe, but multiple countries there.

Its reason isn't that the Profs here would be addict, but its exact opposite: it is unthinkable on such a level, that nobody thinks it would be needed.

The wider context:

The long-term mental harms of drugs would make you probably ineligible to fulfill a full-time academical job.

Most of the drugs have a time until they are emptied from your body. You can google for that on the net. After that, the test will be negative. But it would be much better if you wouldn't need such tricks, i.e. you could simply pass the test without any problem.

Employers often have similar traditions, for example they can wish some papers from the police that you aren't an offender.

Considering things like these are in our cultural circles nearly unheard, it is really no more as a tradition. Maybe it could serve as a little positive psychological effect to show for everybody, that your university/company is perfectly "pure". Although knowing, that everybody laughs on this little ritual behind your back, can cause maybe more harm.

I suggest don't play the idealist liberal, allow them this show. They need it for the feeling that they are "clean", it doesn't cost for you anything, and they are your employer. There is no real reason to reject the test.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 Jul 29 '16 at 19:27

Is this a serious question? I would refuse to work anywhere where my employer would require me to do such a test. It is simply none of their business.

I am actually not aware of any (European) university that would require anyone to take a drug test. In fact, it would be illegal in many countries to do this (or at least, there are very strict rules about the circumstances in which it would be legal).

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    This is absolutely a serious question. For many types of jobs, in many parts of the world, drug testing is nearly universal, or even required by law. Not everyone's willing to starve for the sake of high moral principles like you are. It so happens that this doesn't apply to academic jobs anywhere I know, but how is someone to know that unless they ask? – Nate Eldredge Jul 27 '16 at 15:42
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 Jul 29 '16 at 19:31

In Germany you will be subjected to a medical examination if you become a civil servant. Full professors (W3) are typically civil servants. The levels below that (W1 and W2), are typically also civil servants, though not permanent and the examination tends to be a bit easier. Post-docs (TVL 13 or 14) are typically "normal" employees, and those are not subjected to the examination.

I believe that it is in principle possible to refuse the civil servant status and become a professor as a normal employee, and thus avoid the medical examination. However, I don't know of anyone who has done so voluntarily as the financial benefits of civil servant status are substantial (job security, lower tax rate, better pension).

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    Does the medical exam include drug testing? – StrongBad Jul 27 '16 at 13:53
  • It involved a urine sample... – Maarten Buis Jul 27 '16 at 14:28
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    @MaartenBuis the urine sample is probably for sugar/protein in urine, not for drug testing. – CMaster Jul 27 '16 at 17:13
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 Jul 29 '16 at 19:29

While drug testing is very common in the USA, this is not the case world wide. In the UK it is rare. The uk government advises

Employers should:

  • limit testing to employees that need to be tested
  • ensure the tests are random
  • not single out particular employees for testing unless this is justified by the nature of their jobs

Workers can’t be made to take a drugs test but if they refuse when the employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action.

Part of the difference is that trade union membership is much higher in Europe, particularly in white collar jobs, such as teaching.

The Trade Union congress notes that it drug tests are rare in the uk, outside of transport and energy generation.

It further notes that in many European countries, pre-employment testing is not allowed, however in the UK the law is less clear. Employment tribunals have established that possession of drugs outside the workplace cannot in itself be grounds for dismissal. There must be evidence of impairment.

This implies that a university lecturer would not be asked to provide a sample for drug testing prior to employment, nor during employment nor prior to gaining promotion, since a univiersity would not be able to convince an employment tribunal that such testing is needed.


I did some web searching. I found cases in the US where primary and secondary teachers were subject to pre-emplyment drug tests. I found cases in the US where student employees at a university were subject to drug tests. I found cases in the US where those in "high risk" jobs at a university were subject to tests. But I did not find blanket drug tests for prospective university faculty.

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    What are "high risk" jobs? – Kimball Jul 27 '16 at 13:26
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    @Kimball High risk jobs are typically jobs where you have to manipulate hazardous materials, operate machinery etc. Every job where you can cause damage to people if you are in an altered state. – Massimo Ortolano Jul 27 '16 at 13:32
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    @MassimoOrtolano Oh, thanks. I was thinking positions which have a high-risk of drug use, and then I thought, teaching freshman calculus engenders a strong desire for mood alteration, but it can't be that... – Kimball Jul 27 '16 at 13:38
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    @MassimoOrtolano in the US "high risk" jobs/jobs requiring drug testing are jobs that require a commercial drivers license. The US department of transportation requires drug testing for CDL jobs. – StrongBad Jul 27 '16 at 13:55
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    While likely an outlier, faculty positions at USUHS are usually (possibly always) classified as test designated positions. It wouldn't surprise me if the same policies applied to the US military academis. – StrongBad Jul 27 '16 at 14:10

For the N=1 data point of a newly hired assistant professor at a U.S. state university: Nope.

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    -1 This is a Stack Exchance site, not a survey. – David Richerby Jul 27 '16 at 20:33
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    @DavidRicherby Technically, a single negative data point is an answer of "No" to the question, as it is implicitly asking about a universal policy. – Fomite Jul 27 '16 at 20:34
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    Such questions are usually taken as asking if something is usually true, not universally. For example, if I asked you "Do Americans eat pizza?" are you seriously saying that your answer would be "No", on grounds that there is at least one American (say, a new-born baby) who does not? – David Richerby Jul 27 '16 at 20:57
  • @DavidRicherby The way the question is worded clearly makes it sound like the OP thinks it's a job requirement (see also the "or" part of his question). – Fomite Jul 27 '16 at 21:36
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    @DavidRicherby To use your example, the question is more like "Do Americans have to eat pizza, or do they only eat it if they move to Canada?". The have is an important word in the OP, and one where a counter example is perfectly valid. – Fomite Jul 28 '16 at 3:28

The City Colleges of Chicago are one of the largest community college in the US and they require a drug test for new employees including professors or adjunct, so I think it's not that uncommon in the States.

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    On the other hand, the actual largest community colleges of CUNY in New York do not require that. – Daniel R. Collins Jul 29 '16 at 2:14

You ask a very broad question covering the US, Canada and Europe. I (obviously) don't know the law and practices in each and every country but note that drug tests are extremely uncommon and widely considered unacceptable in most of Europe (cf. Damian's answer, which seemed unrealistic to many US commenters but shows how this sounds to European ears).

To give you an idea of the way this is perceived, the European Court of Human Rights heard several cases pertaining to drug testing at work. It did allow some in the end but only in very limited cases (think a ship's captain who is suspected by his employer of putting many lives in danger, not routine screening prior to employment). Very often, a test would be performed when an employee holding a job with particular security implications already seems to be intoxicated and the employer needs some hard evidence to initiate disciplinary action (and, again, not for prospective employees).


Another data point: In Finland, I think there is a drug test for persons managing research-purpose drugs, who are sometimes also professors. So the answer could be yes for some particular positions. Though, I am not sure if this practice is shared by all Finnish universities.

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    This is clearly an edge case, and does not tell you much about the average professorial post. – jwg Jul 29 '16 at 8:11