Officers of Instruction Titles

       There are three principal titles of appointment as research faculty:

  • Professors are scholars and teachers holding the doctorate or its professional equivalent who are widely recognized for their distinction. While they are ordinarily appointed for full-time service without stated term (i.e., with tenure), full-time appointments may also be made in certain instances at this rank for a stated term. Such appointments are renewable and are subject to the statutory limits on nontenured service. Appointments to this grade are made by the Trustees.
  • Associate professors are officers holding a doctorate or its professional equivalent who have a demonstrated record of scholarly and teaching achievement and show great promise of attaining distinction in their fields of specialization. Appointments in this grade can be made for full-time service with tenure. In some Faculties, it is also the highest grade attained by a full-time nontenured faculty member. It is then for a stated term, which is renewable, and subject to the statutory limits on nontenured service. Appointments to this grade are made by the Trustees.
  • Assistant professors are officers holding a doctorate or its professional equivalent who are beginning careers of independent scholarly research and teaching. They are appointed for full-time service for a stated term, which is renewable, subject to the statutory limits on nontenured service. When a person who has been offered a position as an assistant professor has not completed the educational requirements before assuming the appointment, the officer is given the title of instructor (which is limited to a maximum of two years) and is promoted to assistant professor at the start of the term following the receipt of the requisite degree. Proof of completion of all requirements for the degree, including, where appropriate, the deposit of the dissertation, may substitute for the actual degree. Appointments to this grade are made by the President.

University Professors are exceptional scholars with the highest distinction who have served the University extensively. Only eight professors may hold this title at the same time, except when a University Professor reaches the age of 70, in which case the Trustees may make an additional appointment in anticipation of the individual’s retirement. Candidates for appointment as a University Professor are nominated to the Trustees by the President on the recommendation of the Provost and with the affirmative advice of the tenured members of the Executive Committee of the University Senate. University Professors serve the University as a whole rather than a specific Faculty or department. Their course assignments, which may be within their own discipline or of a broader, interdisciplinary character, are determined by the Provost with the advice of the chairs of the departments in which they previously served and the appropriate dean or executive vice president. With the approval of the Provost, they may continue to hold named professorships to which they had been appointed prior to their being named University Professors.


Visiting Research Faculty. Appointments as visiting faculty are given to persons who are temporarily offering instruction at the University while on leave from other institutions. In rare circumstances, these appointments may be held by individuals employed by professional organizations. Appointments may be made in three grades depending on their qualifications:

  • Visiting professor
  • Visiting associate professor
  • Visiting assistant professor

Appointments in these ranks are for full- or part-time service for stated terms of one year or less. These appointments are renewable but may not be held for more than two consecutive years without the prior permission of the Provost.


Adjunct Research Faculty. Adjunct faculty are experts in special fields of knowledge who are appointed for stated terms to offer instruction part-time while pursuing their primary careers outside the University. With the prior permission of the Provost, these appointments may also be given to academically qualified persons holding full-time appointments at the University as officers of research (see Instructional Appointments), the libraries, or administration who are also teaching. These part-time appointments are made in three grades depending on the academic achievement of the officer:

  • Adjunct professor
  • Adjunct associate professor
  • Adjunct assistant professor

       Adjunct faculty are appointed only for the period during which the officer is teaching or fulfilling responsibilities connected to their appointment.  An appointment in an adjunct grade is never made with tenure.

       The programs in some schools require faculty who have substantial professional expertise but who may lack the scholarly training and credentials expected of the research faculty. Those faculty may be appointed full-time to one of the three grades as practice faculty:

  • Professor of professional practice in [department]
  • Associate professor of professional practice in [department]
  • Assistant professor of professional practice in [department]

Since practice faculty can only hold full-time appointments, visiting practice faculty are appointed to three full-time grades depending on an officer’s practice credentials: visiting professor of professional practice in [department]; visiting associate professor of professional practice in [department]; and visiting assistant professor of professional practice in [department].

       The professional qualifications of each correspond to those of the comparable grade in the research faculty. A school must obtain the prior approval of the Provost and the Faculty Affairs Committee of the University Senate to make nominations to the practice faculty. The number of such appointments in any school cannot exceed 10 percent of the number of faculty with unmodified titles.

      Members having titles as practice faculty are not subject to the statutory limits on full-time nontenured service. However, they may not be appointed for more than eight years unless they have successfully passed a major review (detailed below). A practice appointment is made for a stated term, which is renewable. Practice faculty are not eligible for tenure.

       The type of appointment the faculty member will hold is determined at the time of hire. Faculty may not switch between practice, unmodified, and/or special instructional (including in [discipline]) appointments or the reverse. Under extraordinary circumstances, transfers between these ranks may be permitted but only with the prior permission of the Provost.

       Faculty in the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health who have applied health sciences, educational, and/or investigational responsibilities but who are not principally focused on independent research are appointed with the at the Columbia University Medical Center (at CUMC) modifier. Within the Faculty of Medicine, these appointments may be made only in the clinical departments except under extraordinary circumstances and with the prior approval of the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences.

       Full-time faculty with the at CUMC title are principally appointed in seven grades, depending on their qualifications:

  • Professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Associate professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Assistant professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Instructor in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Senior lecturer in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Lecturer in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Associate in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center

       These appointments are for stated terms of one year or less at a time and are renewable. Within these ranks, faculty work in one or more of three areas: research, education, and applied health care and public health interventions. Find further information on advancement and promotion in these ranks online.


Visiting at CUMC Faculty. Full-time visiting at CUMC faculty are individuals who are temporarily serving at the University while on leave from another institution. They are appointed for stated terms of one year or less. These appointments are renewable for one year, but may not be held for more than two consecutive years without the prior permission of the Provost. Such faculty are appointed to three grades depending on the officer’s credentials:

  • Visiting professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Visiting associate professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Visiting assistant professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center

Part-Time Faculty at Columbia University Medical Center. The University has four different series of appointments for part-time clinical faculty.​​​​

  1. Part-time officers who are conducting research, teaching, or participating in patient care are appointed as:
  • Professor of clinical [department]
  • Associate professor of clinical [department]
  • Assistant professor of clinical [department]
  • Instructor in clinical [department]
  • Associate in clinical [department]
  • Assistant in clinical [department]
  1. Part-time faculty whose responsibilities consist primarily of patient care and teaching are appointed as:
  • Clinical professor of [department]
  • Associate clinical professor of [department]
  • Assistant clinical professor of [department]
  1. Part-time officers holding appointments at Weill Cornell Medicine in the ranks of professor of clinical [department], associate professor of clinical [department], and assistant professor of clinical [department] can be appointed as adjunct clinical faculty with a title that includes the adjunct modifier:
  • Adjunct professor of clinical [department]
  • Adjunct associate professor of clinical [department]
  • Adjunct assistant professor of clinical [department]
  1. The fourth part-time clinical series at the Irving Medical Center is given to officers in Columbia University’s physician and dental networks who are engaged in clinical care but whose level of involvement with the programs at the Irving Medical Center does not merit an appointment in one of the other clinical series. This series consists of the grades:
  • Senior affiliate physician/dentist
  • Affiliate physician/dentist

Such an appointment is made for part-time service for a stated term of one year or less and is renewable.

Faculty who conduct legal clinics for the Columbia Law School and give clinical instruction to its students are appointed for full-time service, depending on their qualifications, as:

  • Clinical professor of law
  • Associate clinical professor of law
  • Assistant clinical professor of law

A clinical faculty member in Law is appointed annually or for a stated term of years, which is renewable on an annual basis, for full-time service. Clinical faculty of law cannot receive tenure and may not be considered for an instructional appointment with an unmodified title (e.g., professor, associate professor, or assistant professor), either with or without tenure. Exceptions to this policy require Provostial approval before any discussion with the faculty member can occur.

       Faculty can be recognized for unusual academic distinction by an appointment to a named professorship. Named professorships are usually supported by an endowment, and the nomination is made by the dean or executive vice president of the school or division of the University in which the incumbent holds an appointment. The appointments, which are approved by the Trustees on the recommendation of the Provost and President, are on terms specified by the donor in the gift document. They can be with tenure or nontenured. Once the Trustees approve an appointment to a named professorship, the faculty member ordinarily retains that appointment until they resign, retire, or their nontenured appointment ends. Depending on the terms of the named professorship, the incumbent will be promoted with the named professorship when they receive a promotion in their generic appointment.

       After they retire, faculty who held appointments as full professors, typically for at least a decade, may be awarded the distinction of professor emeritus/professor emerita in recognition of eminence in their fields and of length of service. The emeritus designation may also be conferred on faculty holding the title of professor of [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center, professor of professional practice in [department], and clinical professor of law. Part-time faculty holding the title of adjunct professor, professor of clinical [department], or clinical professor of [department] may be nominated for this designation only under special circumstances, and this requires the prior approval of the Provost.

       Nominations for the emeritus distinction originate from the retired faculty member’s chair and/or dean and require the endorsement of the Provost. This distinction is bestowed by the Trustees on the recommendation of the President.

       Officers whose responsibilities are limited to offering instruction or who are otherwise participating as instructors in specialized programs:

  • Senior lecturers are officers of instruction with substantial experience and accomplishments who possess the doctorate or its professional equivalent.
  • Lecturers are officers holding the doctorate or its professional equivalent.
  • Associates are officers who do not qualify for the title of lecturer but have a special competence in a given field and are the instructor of record.
  • Associate IIs are officers holding the degree of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, or a more advanced degree, who do not qualify for the student officer rank of teaching assistant II because they are not enrolled in the University’s graduate programs (e.g., students enrolled in graduate programs at Teachers College or other affiliate institutions of the University; alumni of the University). Associate IIs may not be Instructors of Record.  They direct recitation, discussion, or laboratory sessions offered by an instructor of higher rank, and may grade written work.
  • Associate IIIs are officers who do not qualify for the student officer rank of teaching assistant III because they are enrolled as undergraduates at Barnard College. Associate IIIs may not be Instructors of Record.  They direct recitation, discussion, or laboratory sessions offered by an instructor of higher rank, and may grade written work.
  • Special lecturers are retired Columbia University faculty who, because of special competence, are appointed for part-time service, when they are actually teaching.

       Appointment to the first three grades may be for either full- or part-time service. Full-time appointments in these grades are subject to the limits on nontenured service in the University Statutes. An appointment to one of the four grades is for a stated term of no more than 12 months at a time, which is renewable.

       Officers who meet a programmatic need for instruction in specialized fields that cannot be filled by members of the tenured and tenure-track faculty but whose qualifications do not warrant an appointment at a professorial rank can be appointed as:

  • Senior lecturer in [discipline]
  • Lecturer in [discipline]
  • Associate in [discipline]
  • Instructor in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Senior lecturer in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Lecturer in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Associate in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Assistant in clinical [department] - See Postdoctoral Officers of Research

       The qualifications for these appointments are the same as those for comparable titles without the in [discipline] or in [department] at the Columbia University Medical Center. A modified appointment in these titles is made for full-time service for a stated term of one year or less at a time, which is renewable, and is not subject to the limits on nontenured service. The assistant in clinical title may also exist in a part-time status.

       Faculty holding in [discipline] titles are expected to be reviewed at designated intervals, with their continued appointment contingent on a successful review. They cannot hold an appointment beyond eight years without successfully passing a major review. A school must obtain the prior approval of the Provost and the Faculty Affairs Committee of the University Senate in order to make nominations for appointment in the three in [discipline] titles. The number of such appointments in any school cannot exceed 10 percent of the number of faculty with unmodified titles

Updated July 08, 2024