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At the institution where I earned tenure, the process was highly politicized. So I’m not saying it’s like this everywhere but it’s food for thought. Some scholars with poor cases for tenure (e.g. a few encyclopedia entries coauthored with their spouse and so-so teaching evaluations) earned tenure. However, soon afterwards they would be absorbed into administration. I discovered that this is how the admin converted academics with weak tenure files into enforcers, basically administrators who would bully professors into compliance with the administration’s dictates. They were offered a deal, tenure in exchange for a less-academically oriented role that involved more conflict with their former colleagues. So for the rest of us who earned tenure based on our strong publication and teaching records, it was a slap in the face. One, we knew tenure could have been earned with a much weaker case for it. Two, once we earned tenure we got the honor of being bullied by our less accomplished former colleagues, now administrators, who had received tenure without truly earning it.


A couple additions, though I think Marcus is right here (I'm the anonymous who wrote the comment he posted above): I think a fair number of R1s (including some very elite ones! I think the idea here is that they think they are the most competent people to judge someone's case...) also don't use external letters (he suggested in his initial comment on the other thread that this was mostly a SLAC thing); many R1s (I don't know much about non-R1s) have higher quantity standards than what Marcus describes above (e.g., at my R1 there is an idea floating around that we should all be averaging 2-3 publications a year, tenured or not); some R1s don't really care about "top" journals in the tenure process; some R1s basically only care about your external letters (and how much your dept likes you!)--you could have 2-3 publications, but if your letters all say that you are the best philosopher on earth, you will get tenure, and by the same token you could have 12 publications in top 5 journals and be denied tenure if your letter writers don't think the work is sufficiently original or good; some only care about whether you have papers in "top five" journals; some really care that you don't publish a single paper that they think is half-baked or not perfect; others want you to churn out as much as possible; and some require a book for tenure.

Additionally, some places have rules about how much non-peer-reviewed papers "count" towards tenure, others don't, etc...

Finally, I suspect things are a bit more transparent at non-elite/non-R1s--maybe others here can speak to whether that is true--but at places like the (well Leiter ranked and also a very elite university) place I work at, you won't have a hard and fast tenure standard that is given to you, because the university wants to protect itself in the case that, e.g., you technically meet whatever standard they tell you about and they don't want to tenure you.

(One related tip for people on the market: if you ask about tenure standards, or are given info about tenure standards at a fly out, WRITE DOWN THE INFORMATION, since it may well be the last time you get told anything at all!)


At my R2 state university it’s either a book or six articles, roughly. You might get away with fewer if you could make the case that they were high impact, or published in prestigious journals, or both. My impression is that venue doesn’t matter much internally, but the file is sent to six external reviewers and they often consider venue.

on the cusp

Hi, perhaps this discussion is relevant to my question (which may be in the queue or just overlooked).

Since there's such variation, assuming one is tenurable at one's home institution and the place one is applying may be presumptuous. At the same time, I know of assistant profs hired into associate positions who went through the tenure process elsewhere.

Can someone shine light on this process? It's opaque to me how job market at tenure-time goes.


on the cusp: I haven't been in this situation myself, but I've been on a few hiring committees, one for a senior position. I've never seen anyone discuss their readiness for tenure. (Though I have seen people indicate that it is their tenure review year in their cover letters--if that's what you mean you could do that.)

I think it's assumed that if you're applying for a job at the associate or above level, in order to be taken seriously, your file better show that you are tenurable at the institution if they are going to consider you. I don't see what you could say that would somehow make it more likely that they would take you seriously, over and above just what your materials are like. You should probably just let your file speak for itself. The only thing I have seen that might be useful to you is people who are clearly going up for tenure at their home institution indicating (for junior level jobs) that they are willing to take a job as assistant/untenured professor and work through a (shortened) tenure clock.

I guess I don't really understand your question, though. You're just applying for jobs. There's a sense in which assuming anything about your fit for a job is presumptuous, but we all still apply. If you're asking whether to bother applying to a senior level job given your publication record, I think that just looking at the c.v.s of people who have been recently-ish tenured in the department you are considering applying to can give you a sense of whether you'll be taken seriously. (Though I think it can be worth it if you have a slightly sparser publication record than those people, especially if you are a particularly good fit for the advertised area of the job--there are just way fewer tenured/tenurable people on the market than junior people, so if a place wants a particular thing and you are it, I'd say definitely apply.)

on the cusp

Hi anonymous, thanks for the reply. Yes, the question is about whether the file should speak for itself or if the letter should add context.

Since being tenurable at an institution is not merely a matter of x number of publications (given the conversation above, that is a defeasible guide), the file itself can't entirely speak for me. That is, as I understand the tenure process, it isn't (in most places) simply a matter of counting the number of publications, multiplying by some weighting based on publication location, and checking against a threshold to see if one has made it.

Given that, I was wondering if it made sense to explicitly note why an assistant professor is applying to an associate position, to cancel any inferences to being oblivious about details ("Oh, they just saw the AOS and didn't pay attention to the rank!")

It sounds like noting that one will be going up for tenure or are in the process is one way to communicate this. Thanks, and I hope this clarifies the motivation.


On the cusp: I went up for tenure at my old job last year while also being on the market, and was hired as an Associate into my new job (the tenure decision at my old job had not yet come through when I was offered my new job).

Here's my two cents: If you are willing to remain at Assistant for at least several years (and potentially begin the job clock again), and you are applying for Assistant level jobs, then I would absolutely note that you are going up for tenure but are willing to come in at Assistant. If you don't, I think they might well pass your application over either a) because they think you're applying because you're afraid you won't get tenure in your current job, or b) because they think that an offer to you could lead to a failed search if you weren't willing to come in at Assistant and they couldn't do Associate.

If you are applying for Associate jobs and are going up for tenure on a normal time frame (6-7 years, probably), then I think it's fine to note that you're going up for tenure, but that it's not necessary. Folks on search committees know how long it standardly takes to get tenure, and they know that people often apply out in their tenure year to try to find a better job. And at at least a good number of places, you'll have to go through a tenure process at the new institution too if you come in in tenure year (I did), and the committee will be looking at your record rather than whether you've jumped through the tenure hoop.

The only time I would absolutely note you're going up for tenure is if you're applying for Associate jobs while going up for tenure early (say, less than 4 years into a TT job). Here it might be helpful to note that while you're not a traditional Associate candidate, your colleagues believe that the broader field will think you're deserving of tenure early.


As already stated, standards vary widely. At my private R2, in my interdisciplinary department its 6-10 articles or a book and a few articles, and co-authored and pedagogically focused articles count, but many other requirements are left intentionally very vague. In the philosophy department the numbers are roughly the same, but there are more specific requirements for acceptable journals and presses, and I suspect that co-authored and pedagogical pieces wouldn't really count (they might make a shaky case a little more solid, maybe...). And of course, there is not magic number in any department on campus. The provost's office constantly says its about trajectory and pace and whether or not you are on your way to being a recognized name in your field. So wish in one hand and spit in the other...

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