Classification of Ranks and Titles

Faculty appointments are classified into ranks and groups by title. These classifications have significance in regard to benefits and rights that may or may not pertain to each category or classification. The granting of Tenure, discussed in “Tenure and Promotion on the Charles River Campus”, is a separate guarantee that is not implied by any of the titles discussed in this section. The original letter of appointment and each subsequent salary notification or reappointment letter shall indicate clearly the title, nature, duration, Tenure status, and salary of the appointment. Each School or College should have clear statements of the expectations for faculty of each rank and type of title.

Unless otherwise stated, the titles and associated criteria described below apply to the faculty of both the Charles River and Medical Campuses. All persons receiving faculty appointments should have engaged in significant scholarly work or have notable professional expertise and achievement. The standard academic ranks are Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. The standard professorial titles (and where appropriate Instructor) are significantly altered by the addition of modifiers such as Emeritus, University, Clinical, Research, Adjunct, or Visiting. The standard lecturer ranks are Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and Master Lecturer.

Appointments with the standard professorial titles of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor may be Non-Tenure-Track, Tenure-Track, or Tenured. All other faculty appointments are by definition Non-Tenure-Track and without tenure.

A distinction is also made between full-time and part-time appointments. Full-time appointees are expected to give full-time service and allegiance to the University. No right of Tenure accrues to any person holding a part-time position regardless of title, rank, or cumulative length of service. The duties of and terms and conditions for part-time faculty shall be articulated in each letter of appointment.

A. Description of Standard Academic Ranks

The basic qualifications and standards established to identify the degree and types of achievement expected in each rank vary among the University’s Schools and Colleges, and the various programs within them. The general descriptions are as follows:

Instructor: At the Charles River Campus, an Instructor normally holds a minimum of a Master’s degree or equivalent, has completed most or all of the requirements for the doctorate or equivalent, and is expected to demonstrate effectiveness primarily as a teacher. At the Medical Campus, Instructor is the entry level rank for those who have recently completed their post doctoral training, residency or fellowship training. This rank is appropriate for new faculty, generally with M.D., Ph.D. or equivalent degrees, who have the potential for academic advancement. Medical Campus individuals at the instructor level may be in positions of advanced training prior to leaving the institution or being promoted to the assistant professor rank.

All full-time Instructors are entitled under the by-laws of the University to attend and participate in the faculty meetings of their respective School or College. If authorized by the School or College faculty, they may have the right to vote.

Assistant Professor: Generally, an assistant professor has been awarded a doctoral or professional degree or equivalent, exhibits commitment to teaching and scholarly or professional work of high caliber, and participates in University affairs at least at the department level

Associate Professor: Generally, an associate professor meets the requirements for appointment as an assistant professor, enjoys a national reputation as a scholar or professional, shows a high degree of teaching proficiency and commitment, and demonstrates public, professional, or University service beyond the department

Professor: Generally, a professor meets the requirements for appointment as an associate professor, and, in addition, has a distinguished record of accomplishment that leads to an international or, as appropriate, national reputation in his or her field.

B. Definition of Prefixes and Suffixes that Modify Standard Academic Titles

The standard professorial titles above and the title Instructor may be significantly modified by the use of prefixes, as follows:

The title University Professor is given to distinguished and exceptional individuals who are internationally recognized experts in their field, have demonstrated excellence in more than one academic specialty, who are qualified to lecture and/or conduct research in a particular subject, and who are appointed specifically to teach in the University Professors Program.

The prefix Clinical identifies appointments that primarily provide practical instruction and application of practical knowledge. On the Medical Campus, the title describes faculty whose primary activity is limited to clinical or public health practice and associated teaching. The duties, terms of appointment, and salaries (if any) of such persons are specified in the letter of appointment. In general, the applicable rank and any subsequent promotions should be determined by the relevant academic achievements, professional accomplishments, and demonstrated effectiveness of the appointee. A variety of titles are used to designate such positions including:

  • Clinical Instructor
  • Clinical Assistant Professor
  • Clinical Associate Professor
  • Clinical Professor

Associate Professors of the Practice and Professors of the Practice are officers of instruction who are or have been distinguished practitioners in their respective professions and whose primary responsibilities lie in teaching, mentoring, and service to the University.*

The “of the practice” suffix applies to a distinguished practitioner who through teaching shares his or her knowledge and experience in the profession. The prefix “Clinical” is used for certain faculty engaged in clinical settings with students. The teaching, supervising, and mentoring provided by clinical faculty is directly related to the practicum of the students’ programs.

The prefix Research identifies faculty appointments that are offered to scientists and scholars who fulfill the research qualifications of the standard professorial or Instructor ranks and who work for the University on research supported by external grants and contracts. The principal criteria for these titles are scholarly productivity and recognition of original work. Several titles are used to designate such positions:

  • Research Instructor
  • Research Assistant Professor
  • Research Associate Professor
  • Research Professor

Research faculty are eligible to give seminars and teach occasional courses. Teaching is at the discretion of the department. These titles may be used for appointments of one year or longer. Research appointments are for the stated term of the appointment with no guarantee or expectation of renewal. The timetables for notice of non-reappointment set forth in the section, “Appointment and Reappointment of Faculty on the Charles River Campus” and “Appointment and Continuance of Appointments for Full-Time Faculty on the Medical Campus” are not applicable.

The prefix Adjunct identifies a scholar whose primary place of employment is not Boston University or whose primary employment within the University is not in a faculty capacity. An Adjunct Professor is an expert in a special field appointed to give instruction on a part-time or discontinuous basis. These part-time appointments may be in the ranks of:

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor
  • Adjunct Associate Professor
  • Adjunct Professor

Duties usually include the teaching and advising of students but do not include service on departmental committees.

At the Medical Campus, standard professorial titles are given to faculty members teaching at Boston University affiliated hospitals. Adjunct appointments are appropriate if faculty have primary appointments at another university.

The prefix Adjunct Clinical is used for appointments of persons employed in a clinical setting where students receive clinical instruction. These appointments are usually without salary. The criteria for adjunct clinical faculty are the same as for regular faculty appointments of comparable rank.

  • Adjunct Clinical Instructor
  • Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor
  • Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor
  • Adjunct Clinical Professor

The prefix Visiting identifies a faculty member who normally teaches at another institution or possesses other professorial qualifications and is appointed to give instruction for a stated term, ordinarily of one year or less on a full or part-time basis. The titles used to indicate such an instructional appointment are:

  • Visiting Assistant Professor
  • Visiting Associate Professor
  • Visiting Professor

The prefix Visiting Research indicates that the purpose of the appointment is to facilitate collaboration with one or more members of the faculty on a specific research or scholarly project, for a stated period. The titles used are:

  • Visiting Research Assistant Professor
  • Visiting Research Associate Professor
  • Visiting Research Professor

The qualifications of teaching and scholarship for Visiting and Visiting Research faculty are the same as expected for professorial appointments of comparable rank in the University. Persons receiving such appointments are expected to comply with all University policies pertaining to full-time positions unless otherwise clearly indicated in the letter of appointment.

Emeritus: The Emeritus designation is intended to recognize professors for lifetime contributions to the university, to their field, or to both, upon their retirement. “Emeritus” status is available to tenured and non-tenure track professorial faculty, including those who hold titles modified by “Clinical,” “Research” and “of the Practice.” Please see “Emeritus Status” in the Faculty Retirement section for more detail.

Affiliated/Secondary Appointment: An Affiliated or Secondary title is given to full-time faculty as a means of formalizing an association with a department other than that of the primary appointment. The affiliation must be recommended by the department and dean following the procedure specified by the School or College, as approved by the Provost. Termination of the primary appointment shall automatically terminate the affiliated/secondary appointment. Voting rights are outlined in the terms of the appointment.

C. Definition of Standard Lecturer Ranks

Lecturer: A Lecturer is a faculty member appointed primarily to provide instruction for a stated term of full-time or part-time service, as specified in the appointment letter. The basic qualifications and standards expected of the lecturer vary among the University’s Schools and Colleges but the title reflects strong teaching ability and a relevant basis of scholarly work or professional expertise and achievement.

Senior Lecturer or Master Lecturer: Generally, a Senior Lecturer or Master Lecturer meets the requirements for appointment as a Lecturer, and has demonstrated excellence in teaching for at least five or ten years, respectively.

Adopted April 18, 2007, by the University Council.

Last revised on March 23, 2021, by the University Council.

*Creation of the modified faculty title “of the Practice” approved by the University Council, April 8, 2009.