I recently obtained my Ph.D., and I am looking in various states for an assistant professor or instructor position. Since I will be moving to another state, I would ideally like to find a tenure-track position. However, some of the jobs postings I found do not mention whether or not the position is tenure-track. They usually list the position as full-time 9/10 month, with no mention of a contract or fixed term.

Is it considered impolite to email the university's HR and ask if the position is tenure-track? If not, what would be the best way to ask?

  • What country? Do you mean US states? Apr 5, 2017 at 17:35
  • 4
    @dbliss: How can that be? You're supposed to offer jobs, to accept jobs, without the slightest clue what they are?? That's not "integrity"; that's lunacy. Apr 5, 2017 at 17:36
  • The main reason I would ask is because I am applying for positions across multiple US states. It would be nice knowing that my family and I would be moving to a more permanent location so we could buy a house, settle down, etc...without having to get up and move a few years later.
    – josh
    Apr 5, 2017 at 18:56
  • @BoundaryImposition You have now been introduced to sarcasm. Apr 5, 2017 at 19:39
  • @SashoNikolov: I invented it ;) Apr 5, 2017 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


In many cases, they might think it is clear from the job title. In the US, job titles with the words "Lecturer", "Instructor", "Adjunct", "Visiting", "Clinical" are almost always non-tenure-track.

The job title "Assistant Professor" is usually tenure-track, though with some exceptions: "named" assistant professorships like "John Doe Assistant Professor" may be effectively postdocs. But it does not hurt to ask for clarification.

As David says, talk to someone in the department instead of HR. The HR office is usually not closely involved in a faculty search and isn't likely to be the best source of information.

  • Thanks for the info. I ended up contacting the chair of the department for a position that didn't have anything listed regarding tenure. They replied and said their system does not offer tenure for instructors. Instead, they work under an annual contract system. Instructors are generally renewed unless there is a serious issue that constitutes a breach of the employment contract. They classified the position as a full-time permanent position. They seemed very enthusiastic that I asked, and I'm glad I did. I'm not sure if applying is worth the 95% job security though. Thanks again!
    – josh
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:27
  • @josh: Out of curiosity, what was the job title for this position? And what type of institution was it (private / public university, community college, etc)? Apr 5, 2017 at 14:29
  • It's an instructor title at a community college.
    – josh
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:41
  • @josh: Okay, so that fits what I said. Apr 5, 2017 at 15:03
  • That makes sense. I've seen some instructor positions listed as tenure-track, which again lines up with what you said. I'm just glad knowing it's not frowned upon to ask whether not a position like that is tenured.
    – josh
    Apr 5, 2017 at 16:08

It is not impolite to ask. Usually the tenure-track and non-tenure-track descriptions are a major consideration of academic job postings. I find it a little odd that any job posting would neglect to mention this.

Getting in touch with the department chair or search committee (or other responsible faculty member listed in the solicitation) might be a better option than contacting the HR department.

  • Thanks for the reply. I do agree, it is odd that these positions don't mention anything about tenure. I replied to Nate's answer with the department's response to this.
    – josh
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:29

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