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Academic Career Structure



Competitiveness: the Canadian system is relatively open and competitive, in line with the Anglo-Saxon model.

Openness to non-nationals: the greatest barrier to access Canadian universities may be linguistic as, depending on where one seeks employment, the knowledge of English and/or French may be a requirement.

Postdoc: check different programmes funded by the SSHRC. Click also here for more information.

Entry positions: Assistant Professor is the entry position to Canadian academia. Many PhD holders serve as instructors or do a temporary postdoc on their way to becoming an Assistant Professor. Click here for more information.

Career requirements/progress: promotion to Associate Professor takes place after a probationary period. One becomes Full Professor after an evaluation of the candidate's scientific accomplishments. Click here to know more.

Temporary/permanent positions: Once tenure is achieved at Associate Professor level one has a secure job. Go to the job security section of this page.

Salaries: for figures and information on the salary structure of the Canadian academia, click here.

Gender: please contact us if you can provide relevant information.

Universities and research institutions: click here for a list of Canadian universities and research centers.

Job postings: click here for a list of websites with job postings.


Higher Education in Canada

There are 93 universities and university degree colleges in Canada. Each province and territory is responsible for their institutions and have their own ministry of education.

The provincial governments provide most of the funding for their public postsecondary institutions. Additional funding comes from the federal government, research grants, and student tuition fees.


Career Curriculum

1. PhD Researcher

2. Postdoc/Instructor

3. Assistant Professor

4. Associate Professor

5. Full Professor

The average age for finishing PhD studies in Canada is 36 (2005). For a portrait of an average post-doc in Canada in 2013, check here. The 2013 Canadian Postdoc Survey can be found here.


Requirements for Positions

The Canadian academic system is in many respects similar to the US system. Universities in North America lack the pyramidal hierachy that exist in most European universities, since in US and Canada there is no limit to the number of people who hold the higher ranks.

Assistant Professor is the entry position to academia. One can move directly from PhD Researcher to Assistant Professor but for many a step on their way is to serve as instructor or hold a temporary postdoctoral position.

The Assistant professorships are advertised and applied for in open competition. The position is generally not tenured, although in most institutions, the term "tenure-track" position is used; that is, the candidate can become tenured after a probationary period (usually 6 or 7 years). At the end of this period, based on the accomplishments in the areas of teaching, research, and service, the candidate is promoted to Associate Professor and receives tenure, a condition that provides employment for life. It is the individual universities who do the evaluation and promotions. In most places at least 50% of Assistant Professors obtain tenure and are promoted to Associate Professor after the sixth year.

Based on continuing accomplishments, an Associate Professor may be promoted to Full Professor (average time is about five years at Associate Professor level before being promoted to Full Professor). Promotion to the position of Full Professor requires the individual to demonstrate significantly more accomplishments beyond those that were required to gain tenure.

The typical time that elapses between entering graduate school and attaining the rank of Full Professor in a university is seventeen to twenty years. Promotion can also be granted through applying in open competition – most often at another institution than ones own.

The most important key to the academic job market is research. Research is mainly measured by number of articles in peer reviewed journals.


Research Career

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Barriers to Career Advancement

Universities in North America lack the pyramidal hierachy that exist in most European universities; in US and Canada there is no limit to the number of people who hold the higher ranks. This means that the barriers for career advancement are linked to ones individual accomplishments.

The time one spends as assistant professor is a time of uncertainty and evaluation. It is important to perform well and show good teaching abilities as well as prove research performance and not least take part in departmental issues. All these things are considered during the evaluations for tenure. The tenure review is the important exam of an academic career in Canada. It is important to mention that in most cases tenure is granted. Infact numbers from the University of Toronto show that from 1995-2003 only 3% were denied tenure (Of course this number does not take into account the ones anticipating a negative evaluation and thus leaving the institute before their review).

As in most other countries the proportion of women in academia decreases by rank. 41% of the Assistant Professors are female, 34% of the Associate Professors, while women account for only 18% of the Full Professors (numbers from 2003-04).


Job Security

Once tenure is achieved at Associate Professor level one has a secure job. The Assistant Professor position is usually a tenure-track position, meaning that when one can document the required skills in teaching and research you are eligible for promotion to the position as Associate Professor. The level of benefits vary from state to state and institution to institution. Generally all academic posts include medical and health insurance as well as pension.


Contracts and Duties


Instructors are either completing or have already earned their Ph.D., and are beginning their teaching careers. They usually spend about nine to twelve hours a week teaching.


A postdoctoral position is usually related to research projects established by departments or individual professors in the universities. They may also be more individually defined and allow time for ones own research.

Adjunct Professor:

An adjunct professor does not have a permanent position at the academic institution; this may be someone with a job outside the academic institution teaching courses in a specialized field; or it may refer to persons hired to teach courses on contractual basis.

Assistant Professor:

This is normally a 6-7 year probational position where both teaching and research are expected. Assistant professors teach nine to twelve hours weekly (or two classes per semester in average). They are expected to conduct research projects and publish. The position can be seen as a training period where assistant professors must work to develop a case for tenure.

Associate Professors:

Associate Professors spend fewer hours on undergraduate teaching (about 6-9 hours a week) and are likely to lead graduate classes and advise graduate students on their dissertation projects.

Full Professors:

Their teaching load is usually three to six hours per week. Full Professors take an active role in the research projects and dissertations of doctoral candidates. Further advancement opportunities include positions in administration such as department chair, dean of students, or college president.


Sabbatical Opportunities

The sabbatical system in most Canadian institutions is well organized. Newly appointed Assistant Professors are normally entitled to one semester of sabbatical leave after six semesters with full responsibilities (3-4 years). The general guideline is that one year of paid sabbatical leave is granted after seven years of meeting full departmental responsibilities. Sabbatical leaves are expected to be used for individual research or other work related activity.

Unpaid leave can be applied for individually.


Gross Salaries

Gross monthly salary levels at York University 2007.


Assistant Professor

3.887 €/month
(67.000 CAD/Y)

4.856 €/month
(83.698 CAD/Y)

6382 €/month
(110.000 CAD/Y)

Associate Professor

4.937 €/month
(85.095 CAD/Y)

6.096 €/month
(105.062 CAD/Y)

7.440 €/month
(128.220 CAD/Y)

Full Professor

5.997 €/month
(103.350 CAD/Y)

7.145 €/month
(123.152 CAD/Y)

9.250 €/month
(159.430 CAD/Y)

Source: Statistics Canada "Salary Scales of Full-time Teaching Staff at Canadian Universities, 2006/2007".

Salary structures at Canadian universities are the result of continuing negotiations between professors often represented by their union, and administrators acting on behalf of boards of governors ultimately responsible for the business of the university.

The Canadian salary system includes regular annual increases (or ‘increments’), spread over the course of the career. These are normally sufficient to ensure relatively high earnings after some years in academia, even though the initial salaries are low by labour market standards.


Number of Existing Positions

Number of existing positions

   All Disciplines

PhD Candidate








Assistant Professor




Associate Professor




Full Professors





Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Internal Recruitment

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Accessibility for Non-Nationals

Canada has English language and French language institutions with some universities offering instruction in both official languages. Depending on where you seek employment French and/or English will be a requirement.


National Universities


Research Institutions

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Academic Unions


Useful Websites


Info for History


Info for Economics


Info for Law


Info for Social and Political Science


Postdoctoral Information


Websites for Job Postings



Universities Canada

Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education/ La Société canadienne pour l'étude de l'enseignement supérieur

CAUT (2006) "Women in the Academic Work Force", CAUT Education Review, March 2006, Vol. 8 (1).

Chant, John (2005)"How we pay Professors and Why it Matters", C.D. Howe Institute Commentary.

[email protected]

StatsCan - Statistics Canada: "Salaries and Salary Scales of Full-time Teaching Staff at Canadian Universities, 2006/2007: Preliminary Report." 


Page last updated on 28 August 2018

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