Professor job titles FI vs US

2010/01/15 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

Professor job titles

This article presents an overview of how academic career as a professor evolves in Finland and in United States. Article is co-authored with Professor Jason Lavery.

The Finnish university system has until 2010 been using a professorship scheme distinct from North American ones. This is illustrated below:

Career paths for professors in Finland and abroad

Description of different steps along the career:

  1. Doctoral degree is the first step on university research professionals career in both Finland and US. It leads to a position of a post-doctoral researcher.
  2. Qualification : research. Adjunct professor in Finland is an academic available through application. It distinguishes and requires scientific achievements and publications. Finnish adjuncts become affiliated with the university but are neither employed by it nor do they have responsibilities for university. They can organize teaching according to their own aspirations.
  3. Employment by university in US can start from short-term employment as an adjunct professor. This commonly involves teaching mandatory courses.
  4. Tenure track opens a fixed term contract for an assistant professor (apulaisprofessori in Finnish). The fixed contract maybe later on converted to permanent one.
  5. Employment by university in Finland for a permanent term primarily happens by becoming a professor. The application process is laborious and competitive. Most professors start with a five years fixed term, after which it can be made permanent. Sometimes the permanent professorship requires additional application round.
  6. Various qualifications may lead to a promotion as a professor in US universities. Long university career, administrative qualifications, scientific achievement or even acquired funding may facilitate the opening.
  7. Retirement in Finland is mandatory by 68/70 years, in US professors can keep up working as long as they like.

The purpose of the figure is draw attention to the different position of adjuct professor in these two schemes. This was recently emphasized by Lavery (2009), who drew attention to the fact that finns commonly fail to grasp the American system, with all its different professortitle (junior, adjunct, assistant, associate, emeritus).

In Finland, this confusion will hopefully settle with the new tenure track taking place in Aalto university, which planned to employ a tenure track system. The draft (as of Nov 2009) of the five step system is described below:

  • Assistant professor (apulaisprofessori) first term, 3 years
  • Assistant professor (apulaisprofessori) second term, 4 years
  • Professor, level 1 :associate professor
  • Professor, level 2 : professor
  • Professor, level 3 : distinguished professor

Ideal and prevalent academic career development in US and in Finland

US Finland
Early career (maximum first ten years after doctorate)
Ideal type of employment: Tenure track professorship Multi-year postdoctoral grants, short-term replacement university positions, work in scholarly institutions outside of the university (archives, etc.)
Most Prevalent type of employment Tenure track professorship
Less common types Multi-year postdoctoral grants, terminal teaching positions Permanent or multiyear terminal positions in the university
Desired minimum outcome for advancement Tenure Docentship
Mid-career (two decades after ending early career phase)
Ideal type of employment: Associate Professor Professor
Most Prevalent type of employment Associate Professor Same as for early career with increased possibilities of achieving professorship
Less common types Very few researchers who are active in mid-career who are not associate professors Same as for early career
Desired minimum outcome for advancement Professor
Late Career (five to ten years within retirement)
Ideal type of employment: Professor Professor
Most Prevalent type of employment Professor Professor, other permanent university positions
Less common types same as for mid-career same as for mid-career


Jason Lavery, Yliopistolehti 12/2009, Akateeminen valuutanvaihto (p. 35) [intranet]

Related content:
Going abroad as an Aalto employee - practical guide for researcher exchange, 2012/04/11

Selection of freeware questionnaire building tools, 2010/01/18

No comments for this page:
Add comment | Show all comments

Your email will not be shown publicly or disclosed to third parties, it is used to validate messages
Location (City, Country):
* This information must be provided

Keywords: [university] , [organizations] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2010/01/15
Modified: 2010/01/15
Published: 2010/01/15

This document's permanent URI (linking):

© Lassi A. Liikkanen 2010 - 2021. All rights reserved.
^Top of the Page^

*Change layout:
Printable printable
Large text


@lassial Twitter feed: