In the School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P), faculty are by definition tenure-track employees. The following positions are the only positions that are on the tenure track:

  • Assistant Professor
  • Associate Professor without tenure
  • Associate Professor with tenure
  • Full Professor

Tenure is an appointment of indefinite duration relinquished upon retirement or resignation, or terminated for adequate cause as provided in applicable MIT Policies and Procedures. Appointments at the level of associate professor with tenure and full professor carry tenure. All other faculty must earn tenure. Non-tenured faculty are referred to as junior faculty, and tenured faculty as senior faculty.

The total period of employment as junior faculty, prior to receiving tenure, is called the probationary period. The maximum length of this period at MIT is eight years, regardless of the level of the initial appointment; that is, assistant professor or associate professor without tenure. If, at the end of the probationary period, tenure has not been awarded, the candidate’s faculty employment at MIT is terminated.

The tenure clock is the metaphor for the count-down toward tenure during the probationary period. For a complete discussion of the rules of tenure, see MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 3.0 Faculty Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Guidelines.

Appointments can be fully within one department or:

  • Joint (financial obligation is 100% in the home department/0% in other department/School—meaning they can contribute to the second department through teaching, research and other activities),
  • Dual (financial obligation and appointment is 50/50 split between two departments/Schools—meaning both departments are required to approve any appointments or reappointments),
  • Shared (which applies only to those appointments shared between SA+P and the Schwarzman College of Computing).

Assistant Professor

Appointments/Reappointments

An individual who shows strong promise for a successful academic career and eventual tenure may be appointed at the level of assistant professor. Typically, a person appointed at this level has recently completed the highest academic degree in her/his field, and may either have taught at the assistant professor level at another institution for a few years or have comparable applied or practice-related experience.

A search plan is approved by the dean and the department head, and includes a review by the SA+P Faculty Diversity Committee. An offer of appointment is contingent upon approval of the proposed appointment by department tenured faculty and by the Academic Subgroup of the SA+P School Council.

Assistant professors spend their beginning years establishing their research or practice direction and focus, building their teaching skills, developing course material, and laying the groundwork for tenure.

An initial appointment as assistant professor is normally four years. A reappointment review occurs during the third year. Assistant professors may be reappointed for a period of one to three years. The eighth year of the probationary period is normally reserved as a notice year for unsuccessful tenure cases, see Promotions to this Rank, under Associate Professor with Tenure.

The reappointment process is an opportunity to gauge an assistant professor’s progress toward tenure. If progress is determined to be sufficient, the department recommends reappointment to the dean. Otherwise, the department may choose not to reappoint the candidate, and employment ends with the current appointment.

Assistant professors who will not be reappointed must be given written notice of termination 12 months prior to the end of their current appointment.

Visa Concerns

An offer of appointment to any individual who is not a US citizen or permanent resident is contingent upon the candidate’s obtaining the appropriate immigration documentation. Candidates must have immigration authorization covering the full period of the proposed appointment and are obligated to provide this documentation before the appointment can become effective.

Annual Reviews

Assistant professors are reviewed by their department or program head on an annual basis to evaluate progress toward tenure and to provide career guidance. Assistant professors are expected to keep yearly records of teaching, advising, research, service, and professional activities for use in the documentation of future promotion or tenure cases, in particular, to maintain an updated MIT electronic Professional Record, see Appendix F: MIT electronic Professional Record.

Institute Junior Faculty Research Leaves

Assistant professors are eligible for one semester of leave, at full pay, to engage in research that will advance their careers and help them attain tenure. This leave may be taken during years two to six of the faculty member’s probationary period, and must be approved by the department head. Normally this leave may not be taken during the faculty member’s first year of appointment or the last year at MIT.

For information on other types of leaves, see MIT Policies and Procedure, Section 7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief A table summarizing all faculty leaves is given in Appendix A: Faculty Leave.

Outside Professional Activities

In general, participation in outside activities that enrich MIT’s educational and research programs is encouraged. However, it is MIT policy that officers, faculty, staff, and others acting on behalf of the Institute have an obligation to avoid ethical, legal, financial and other conflicts of interest, and to ensure that their activities and interests do not conflict with their obligations to the Institute or its welfare. Orderly procedures for reviewing and approving outside activities, which are essential to effectively administering this policy, have been put in place. These procedures include (a) disclosure to designated Institute officers of outside activities and interests, including financial interests, that might give rise to conflicts; and (b) advice and counsel that are readily available to individuals and to Institute department heads on any situation.

MIT’s policies on faculty and staff involvement in outside professional activities are fully and clearly stated in MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest, and Section 4.5 Outside Professional Activities.

Consulting Privileges. Faculty members are expected to devote the bulk of their professional energies and time to activities that directly contribute to the Institute’s interest. The obligation of full-time service is difficult to define since, in academic life, it means far more than a stated number of hours per week. This obligation, therefore, must remain loosely defined, depending upon principle rather than formula. When it has been necessary for practical reasons to be more specific, the Institute has generally allowed full-time faculty to devote an average of about one day per week to their outside professional activities during the academic year and when receiving summer compensation.

Annual Reports. An annual review of the outside professional activities of all faculty is held in May of each year for the prior academic year’s activities. This review helps show the general pattern of outside activities by members of a department, and aids department heads, deans, and the Provost in identifying potential conflicts with Institute policies. The annual review should not preclude the obligation of faculty to keep their department heads continually informed of their outside professional activities throughout the year.

Institute Family Care Policies

Parental Support. A faculty member who wishes to spend the majority of his or her time on the care of and responsibility for a newborn child or a newly adopted child will be released from teaching and administrative duties for one semester at full pay. Nonetheless, faculty members on such release will be expected to fulfill their thesis advising responsibilities and sustain their research programs. Faculty members on such release will not normally increase their usual outside professional activities, and the Institute rules on outside professional activities for fulltime faculty remain in force.

Faculty members can take advantage of this policy in any term they choose within one year after the arrival of the child. Faculty members seeking such release should notify their department heads in writing that they will spend the majority of their time on the care of the child over the period of the release. Faculty members have the responsibility to notify their department heads as far in advance of the leave as possible (normally one semester’s notification is required) so that steps can be taken to cover their teaching obligations.

This policy is gender blind.

For information on other types of leaves for faculty, see MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief. A table summarizing all faculty leaves is given in Appendix A: Faculty Leave.

Extension of Tenure Clock. In recognition of the effects that pregnancy and childbirth can have on a woman’s ability to perform all the tasks necessary and expected to achieve tenure, a woman who bears a child during her tenure probationary period will have that period automatically extended by one year. A second one-year extension for the birth of any additional child (or children) will be granted by the Provost upon request. As in all tenure cases, a tenure review can take place prior to the end of the probationary period and that possibility should be assessed annually.

Partners or adoptive parents who wish to request an extension of the tenure clock should submit their request in writing to their Department Head and Dean for approval and to the Provost for final approval. Only the Provost can grant the request. In their requests, faculty members should explain briefly their work and family situation, and describe how their involvement and responsibility for the care of a child during its first year with the family is sufficient to have a significant impact on their research.

Associate Professor without Tenure

Appointments/Reappointments

An individual who has made professionally recognized, distinctive, and original research or practice contributions to her/his field may be appointed at the level of associate professor without tenure. An individual with prior academic experience should have demonstrated excellence in both teaching (including course development and student supervision) and commitment to service.

An initial appointment as associate professor without tenure is normally for four years. Associate professors without tenure may be reappointed for a period of up to three years. The reappointment process of associate professors without tenure is the same as the process for assistant professors. Individuals hired as associate professors without tenure have eight-year probationary periods, just as if they had been hired as assistant professors. Therefore, one year prior to the end of their initial appointments, they would normally be reviewed for reappointment as associate professor without tenure.

Associate professors who will not be reappointed must be given written notice of termination 12 months prior to the end of their current appointment.

Visa Concerns

An offer of appointment to any individual who is not a US citizen or permanent resident is contingent upon the candidate’s obtaining the appropriate immigration documentation. Candidates must have immigration authorization covering the full period of the proposed appointment and are obligated to provide this documentation before the appointment can become effective.

Promotions to this Rank

Cases for promotion to associate professor without tenure are normally brought forward in the fourth or fifth year of an assistant professor appointment. This review is the first formal, thorough evaluation of a junior faculty member’s prospects for tenure.

The promotion from assistant professor to associate professor without tenure is based an individual’s professionally recognized, clear, and distinct research or practice contributions to her/his field. Contributions to teaching that have an impact on undergraduate and graduate students, and contributions that meet the needs of the department and/or Institute through service are also important factors.

Annual Reviews

Associate professors without tenure are reviewed by their department or program head on an annual basis to evaluate progress toward tenure and to provide career guidance. Associate professors without tenure are expected to keep yearly records of teaching, advising, research, service, and professional activities for use in the documentation of future promotion or tenure cases, and, in particular, to maintain an updated MIT electronic Professional Record, see Appendix F: MIT electronic Personnel Record.

Institute Junior Faculty Research Leaves

Associate professors without tenure are eligible for the same research leaves described for assistant professors above.

Outside Professional Activities

Associate professors without tenure are eligible for the same consulting privileges, and subject to the same responsibilities, as those described for assistant professors above.

Institute Family Care Policies

Associate professors without tenure are eligible for the same Institute family care policies described for assistant professors above. For information on other types of leaves for faculty, see MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief. A table summarizing all faculty leaves is given in Appendix A: Faculty Leave.

Associate Professor with Tenure

Appointments

An individual who has established a national and international reputation for her/his work and who is among the best in the world in her/his area of expertise may be appointed at the level of associate professor with tenure. An individual with prior academic experience should have demonstrated excellence in both teaching (including course development and student supervision) and commitment to service.

Department heads must request approval from the dean to initiate a senior level search. The dean must then request approval from the provost.

Visa Concerns

An offer of appointment to any individual who is not a US citizen or permanent resident is contingent upon the candidate’s obtaining the appropriate immigration documentation. Candidates must have immigration authorization covering the full period of the proposed appointment and are obligated to provide this documentation before the appointment can become effective.

Promotions to this Rank

Cases for promotion from untenured to tenured associate professor are normally brought forward no later than the seventh year of the probationary period. The eighth year is normally reserved as a notice year for unsuccessful tenure cases. Delaying a tenure review until the eighth year is strongly discouraged.

The tenure review process requires more information and evaluation about the individual’s teaching, research, service, and leadership than other promotion reviews. In particular it concentrates on the original research or practice contributions the individual has made to her/his field, and how these contributions have influenced the thinking or methods used by others in the field. The individual’s teaching and service are also an important part of this review. A judgment must be made about the far-reaching and long-lasting nature of the individual’s potential to continue on her/his current trajectory. Special attention is given to the individual’s scholarly contribution to date as well as her/his potential for continued intellectual growth.

Appendix D Case Preparation: What Does It Take to Get Tenure at MIT? (Under revision 2021).

Annual Reviews

It is recommended that associate professors with tenure are reviewed annually by their department head, who considers their research, teaching, and service progress and plans. Associate professors with tenure should keep yearly records of teaching, advising, research, service, and professional activities for use in the documentation of future promotion cases, and, in particular, to maintain an updated MIT electronic Professional Record, see Appendix F: MIT electronic Personnel Record.

Faculty Sabbatical Leave

The purpose of sabbatical leaves is to make it possible for members of the tenured Faculty to take time off from normal academic duties for scholarly research and study. The Institute’s plan is based on the normal expectation of a one-half-year leave at full salary, or a full-year leave at half salary, following six years of full-time service as a member of the regular Faculty. Implementation of this policy in a specific case may be limited by the responsibility of the departments to meet their obligations and the financial resources that can be made available. Years in which faculty members are on leave or have served in any rank of visiting professor are not counted in the six years. Years of service beyond the six-year requirement cannot be counted toward qualification for subsequent sabbaticals.

Faculty members must apply to their department heads a reasonable time in advance (normally one year) and describe their proposals for the use of the sabbatical. In considering whether the request for sabbatical leave can be recommended to the dean, department heads must take into account the commitments for teaching and research in their departments. The final allocation of sabbaticals is made by the Provost. See Section 7.5.1 Sabbatical Leaves for the Faculty.

Eligible faculty members are expected to report their outside professional activities to their department heads annually, as described in Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest and Section 4.5 Outside Professional Activities.

Outside Professional Activities

Associate professors with tenure are eligible for the same consulting privileges, and subject to the same responsibilities, as those described for assistant professors.

Institute Family Care Policies

Associate professors with tenure are eligible for the same Institute family care policies described for assistant professors above.

For information on other types of leaves for faculty, see MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief. A table summarizing all faculty leaves is given in Appendix A: Faculty Leave.

Part-time appointment with tenure. Normally, tenured faculty members, regardless of gender, who need time for family care (children, partners, elders) may request a reduced-time (but not below 50-percent time), reduced-pay appointment for one or more semesters up to five years, with possible renewal. Details of the arrangement must be made with the department head and require the approval of the dean of the School. Faculty will be asked to specify the nature of the family care that is needed. Sections 3.2.2 Part-Time Appointment with Tenure for Family Care.

Faculty who take advantage of this policy will reduce their outside professional activities proportionately.

This arrangement is limited to family care and does not apply to any other reason for requesting a part-time appointment.

Full Professor

Appointments

An individual who is an international leader in her/his field and professional circles and who is known widely for her/his seminal research or practice may be appointed at the level of full professor. Excellence in teaching, contributions to educational initiatives, and other service endeavors are important for candidates with prior academic experience.

Department heads must request approval from the dean to initiate a senior level search. The dean must then request approval from the provost.

Visa Concerns

An offer of appointment to any individual who is not a US citizen or permanent resident is contingent upon the candidate’s obtaining the appropriate immigration documentation. Candidates must have immigration authorization covering the full period of the proposed appointment and are obligated to provide this documentation before the appointment can become effective.

Promotion to this Rank

Promotion to full professor should come when a tenured associate professor has demonstrated substantial professional achievement, including (where appropriate) the fulfillment of promise demonstrated at the time of the tenure review. The individual’s place in the department and the Institute must be one of recognizable initiative and leadership.

Promotion to this rank requires that the individual continue to contribute to teaching, research, and service either beyond the levels demonstrated at the time of granting tenure or through major contributions in different areas than were evident at that time.

Annual Reviews

It is recommended that full professors are reviewed annually by the department head, who considers their research, teaching, and service progress and plans. Full professors should keep yearly records of teaching, advising, research, service, and professional activities and maintain their MIT electronic Professional Record, see Appendix F: MIT electronic Personnel Record.

Faculty Sabbatical Leave

The purpose of sabbatical leaves is to make it possible for members of the tenured Faculty to take time off from normal academic duties for scholarly research and study. The Institute’s plan is based on the normal expectation of a one-half-year leave at full salary, or a full-year leave at half salary, following six years of full-time service as a member of the regular Faculty. Implementation of this policy in a specific case may be limited by the responsibility of the departments to meet their obligations and the financial resources that can be made available. Years in which faculty members are on leave or have served in any rank of visiting professor are not counted in the six years. Years of service beyond the six-year requirement cannot be counted toward qualification for subsequent sabbaticals.

Faculty members must apply to their department heads a reasonable time in advance (normally one year) and describe their proposals for the use of the sabbatical. In considering whether the request for sabbatical leave can be recommended to the dean, department heads must take into account the commitments for teaching and research in their departments. The final allocation of sabbaticals is made by the Provost. See Section 7.5.1 Sabbatical Leaves for the Faculty.

Eligible faculty members are expected to report their outside professional activities to their department heads annually, as described in Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest and Section 4.5 Outside Professional Activities.

Outside Professional Activities

Full professors are eligible for the same consulting privileges, and subject to the same responsibilities, as those described for assistant professors above.

Institute Family Care Policies

Associate professors with tenure are eligible for the same Institute family care policies described for assistant professors above.

For information on other types of leaves for faculty, see MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief. A table summarizing all faculty leaves is given in Appendix A: Faculty Leave.

Part-time appointment with tenure. Full professors are eligible for the same part-time appointment policy described for associate professors with tenure above.