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Academic Career Structure



Competitiveness: in line with the Scandinavian model, the Danish academia is relatively competitive and open to external researchers, although informal contacts (with Danish insiders) are still important at the moment of getting a position.

Openness to non-nationals: the Danish system is relatively open to non-nationals although there may be barriers tied to the use of Danish. Researchers are also advised to get in contact with departments at which they would like to work before doing any application.

Postdoc: the Danish Research Council has different postdoctoral grants. Also the Carlsberg Foundation supports postdocs in the social sciences and humanities. Check also adjunct and postdoc positions at national universities websites.

Entry positions: PhD Candidate and Adjunkt/Postdoc are both educational positions. The adjunct position is constructed to make the candidate suitable to apply for the lecturer level. Click here for more information.

Career requirements/progress: to move to a Lecturer or Professor position one needs to provide evidence of publications and teaching experience. Click here for more information.

Temporary/permanent positions: PhD’s and most Adjunct/Postdocs are limited positions. Lecturer and Professor positions are permanent and thus entail full security. Click here for more information.

Salaries: for figures and other information go to the salaries section.

Gender: please contact us or post a comment if you can provide relevant information.

Universities and research institutions: see a list of both national universities and research institutions in Denmark.

Job postings: see the Academic Job Bank and Euraxess Denmark for job offers related to the Danish academia. Check also individual universities' websites.


Higher Education in Denmark

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is responsible for university education. Higher education institutions are publicly financed and state-regulated. The legislation covers the aims and framework of education, funding and in some cases curricula, examinations and staffing.

There are three types of institutions offering higher education, each with well-defined profiles: i) academies of professional education; ii) colleges; and iii) universities.

Academies of professional higher education offer 2-year academy profession programmes in fields such as business, technology, and IT. They combine theoretical studies with a practically oriented approach and are usually completed with a project of 3 months' duration.

Specialised colleges and centres for higher education/university colleges offer 3-4 year professional bachelor programmes in fields such as business, education, engineering and nursing. Theoretical studies, practical training through work placements and a bachelor project are always part of the programme.

Universities have a commitment to teach and do research at the highest international level. In fact, The University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University scored, respectively 51st and 63rd in the QS World University Rankings for 2009. 

In line with teh Bologna Process, Denmark has a 3-cycle system. Universities offer 3-year bachelor programmes (BSc/BA), followed by 2-year candidatus programmes (MSc/MA) and 3-year PhD programmes.

The universities have institutional autonomy, but must follow general regulations concerning teacher qualifications, award structures, study programmes and quality assurance.

As of 2010, there are 3 large universities, 5 smaller universities, and 3 relevant national research institutions in Denmark.


Career Curriculum

A revised job structure at Danish universities entered into effect on 1 January 2007. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation issued detailed brochure on academic staff at universities, which provides the framework for the positions (all employees are civil servants). The university management defines the specific job content and the related tasks.

Positions below the level of Assistant Professor (stillinger under adjunktniveau):

  • PhD Fellow
  • Undervisningsassistenter, equivalent to a Research Assistant
  • Eksterne lektorer, equivalent to an Assistant Lecturer or/and Part-time Lecturer

Positions at the level of Assistant Professor (stillinger på adjunktniveau):

  • Post-doc, which may or may not entail the possibility of teaching
  • Forsker, equivalent to a Researcher
  • Adjunkt, equivalent to an Assistant Professor

Positions at the level of Associate Professor (stillinger på lektorniveau):

  • Seniorforsker, equivalent to a Senior Researcher
  • Lektor, equivalent to an Associate Professor

Positions at the level of Professor (stillinger på professorniveau):

  • Professor med særlige opgaver (MSO Professor), which is equivalent to a Professor with Special Responsibilities
  • Professor, equivalent to a Full Professor

Danish legislation places special attention to employment protection. Abuse of multiple consecutive fixed-term contracts (twice maximum) is illegal according to the Fixed-Term Employment Act.


Requirements for Positions

Before 2007, there was no tenure-track in Denmark and one was not guaranteed a position after finishing her Post-doc or Assistant Professor position. Since January 2007, new types of contracts were established, thereby creating permanent posts also for lower faculty positions. Consequently, when the candidate is ready she may now apply for assessment and move a step up the career ladder within the same institution.

Assistant Professor/Researcher/Post-doc

Applicants must hold a PhD. These posts are either permanent or fixed-term (4 + 4 years maximum, which may become permanent) and may be full- or part-time - the university decides. In the former, the employee after maximum 4 years becomes an Associate Professor/Senior Researcher/Senior Adviser, if recommended for assessment and is deemed qualified. The assessment (maximum 2) normally takes place within the last 6 months of the appointment. If qualification is not granted, then dismissal proceedings are initiated.

There are some Post-docs that do not offer pedagogical and teaching experience and therefore do not qualify the candidate to move directly apply to higher academic positions.

Associate Professor/Senior Researcher

Applicants are assessed on the basis of the qualifications in the job advertisement. Appointment depends on the research carried out during employment as an Assistant Professor/Researcher/Post-doc. Applicants must have received supervision, pedagogical competencies and their teaching qualification. Other qualifications may be required (knowledge and technology transfer, patenting and cooperation with external partners). The post is normally permanent, but may also be fixed-term (visiting Associate Professors, special projects), it can be full- or part-time.

Professor/Professor with Special Responsibilities

Applicants for professorship are assessed on the basis of the job advertisement, need to show a high degree of original academic production at international level, ability to manage research and cooperation with the outside world. Other qualifications may also be required, such as knowledge and technology transfer, patenting and cooperation with external partners.

Qualification requirements for MSO Professors correspond to those of ordinary professorships. Emphasis is again placed on the potential to develop the discipline and on internationally-recognized original academic production. The special responsibility associated with the specific post is also top priority. 

During career advancement, the candidate has first to apply for the Associate Professor or Professor assessment. This application is evaluated by a committee, whose approval is necessary to apply for a vacant position in open competition with other candidates.


Research Career 

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Barriers to Career Advancement

The number of postdoctoral positions and funding options for young academics, who have recently finished their PhD degree, are rising. The main barrier for candidates in the social sciences therefore seems to be the step to move from the Adjunkt/Postdoc level to Lecturer. (Note that this is less true for historians than for other disciplines.)

At the postdoctoral level, it proves difficult for many to find enough time for individual research, although this is essential to obtain the publication record needed to apply for the Lecturer approval. Numbers from 2004 show that 31% who had a Postdoc level position in 2000-2001 had moved to the Lecturer level 4 years later. The rest were either still on Postdoc level or had started a career in the private sector; only 2% were unemployed. (It should be noted that these numbers do not differentiate between disciplines. In general, it is quite common in the life sciences to move and become researcher in the private sector, whereas researchers in the social sciences and humanities tend to stay at the universities.)

In a report from 2005 (Adjunkter paa danske universiteter), it is mentioned that many Postdoc holders believe there is an overproduction of researchers at the PhD and Postdoc level and not enough Lecturer positions to keep these researchers on an academic career track. It is also mentioned that the researchers at postdoc level believe clientelism is a major problem in Danish universities; to obtain permanent positions contacts seem more important than qualifications. This causes confusion about what the exact requirements are to be approved for a Lecturer position. This is not least the case for professor positions, where it is very uncommon for an outsider to be hired as professor in a department. The professor positions are few and the internal competition among lecturers is high.


Job Security

Even though most Post-doc and Assistant Professor positions are fixed-term, the 2007 reform allows for permanent contracts, if this is successfully negotiated and inserted into the employment contract. Multiple fixed-term contacts are strictly limited. Associate Professors and Professors have permanent contracts and thus enjoy full job security. Permanent university staff are civil servants. All academic positions, from PhD to Professor, grant pension insurance and allow for leaves of absence (e.g. in case of maternity).


Contracts and Duties

In theory, the tasks for academic positions are divided into 50% teaching, 40 % research, 10% administrative tasks. In practice, the division of tasks varies greatly depending on institution, discipline and contractual specifications.

Research Assistant

It is a fixed-term academic position of maximum 3 years, with no reappointment once the period is over.  The principal duties are research and/or teaching. A minor part may be spent on academic development. Applicants for the post must hold an MA.

Assistant Lecturer

The post is a fixed-term, part-time position with teaching duties that supplements teaching provided at higher levels. It last maximum 3 + 3 years. Assistant Lecturers carry out teaching activities according to the regulations of the institution and must have special permission to act as examiners.  The specific number of working hours is fixed for each semester.

Part-time Lecturer

The post is a part-time position with qualified teaching duties. Both permanent and fixed-term employment is possible. Part-time lecturers independently plan teaching activities, hold lectures, prepare and carry out examinations. The specific number of hours and participation in examinations is fixed for each semester. Applicants must hold an MA as well as additional qualifications, e.g. expertise or practical experience achieved through employment. Teaching qualifications are being assessed.


The post is a fixed-term academic position, heavily weighted in favour of research with limited teaching (the university determines the exact ratio). Since the position contains no pedagogical competencies, a post-doc alone does not qualify for appointment as Associate Professor/Senior Researcher.


The post is a further-education position, entailing research (publication and academic dissemination) and research-based Public Sector Consultancy. Teaching is limited and determined by the university. Supervision is provided, as well as the opportunity to enhance pedagogical competencies for later teaching qualification assessment. 

Assistant Professor

This is a further-education post, entailing both research and research-based
teaching (with examination duties), and limitedly other duties. The university determines the ratio between responsibilities, but a balance is needed for the Assistant Professor to improve her qualifications. Supervision is provided, as well as the opportunity to enhance pedagogical competencies for later teaching qualification assessment.

Senior Researcher

The post consists mainly of research (publication and academic dissemination) and research-based Public Sector Consultancy. Teaching is limited. Senior Researchers manage research, provide guidance and supervision of Assistant Professors and Researchers, they take part in academic assessments. The university determines the exact ratio between the duties.

Associate Professor

The post entails mainly research (publication and academic dissemination), research-based teaching and associated examination duties. In addition, the post may also include knowledge-sharing through participation in public debate, research management, guidance and supervision of assistant professors and researchers, as well as academic assessments. The university determines the exact ratio between the duties.

Professor with Special Responsibilities

The post involves fixed-term specific functions, associated with professorships. These last 3-5 years, with an extension to up to 8 years. Normally, the positions are established for talented, young researchers to develop a promising discipline at international level (so the area is usually a new field of research). The different responsibilities must emphasise the special character of employment, which may include research management. At the end of the period, the employee becomes an Associate Professor at the university.


The professorship consists mainly of research (publication and academic
dissemination), research-based teaching and associated examination duties. Research-based Public Sector Consultancy, knowledge-sharing through public debate, research management, guidance and supervision of Assistant Professors and Researchers as well as academic assessments may be required. The university determines the exact ratio.


Sabbatical Opportunities

Sabbaticals can be applied for at the individual institutions. They are rarely paid but funding can be asked for at the research councils.

Maternity leave with full pay is six months for women and 3 months for men. In addition, women can take up to six months of maternity leave with 80% of their normal pay.


Gross Salaries


PhD Candidate

2,942 €/month
(22,360 DKR)

3,152 €/month
(23,500 DKR)


4,104 €/month
(30,600 DKR)

4,560 €/month
(34,000 DKR)


4,963 €/month
(37,000 DKR)

5,499 €/month
(41,000 DKR)


5,658 €/month
(43,000 DKR)

6,974 €/month
(52,000 DKR)

Source: Dansk Magisterforening and internal database of the Danish Centre for Research Analysis.

Note: In Denmark taxes are approximately 40-50%, depending on income level etc. Salaries differ depending on duties and experience. On top of the minimum salary, a number of bonuses (related to seniority and experience) can be received. This is especially important for Lecturers and Professors, whose salaries may differ a great deal.

In general, the salary for academics at the universities is considered relatively low compared to international standards and to the private job market.


Number of Existing Positions

Existing Positions in Danish Universities, 2006 

 HumanitiesSocial SciencesTotal

















(Source: Rektorkollegiet 2006)

Note: The numbers show the academics holding positions in 2006. In addition there are a number of academic positions such as researchers, external lecturers, part-time teachers and academic assistants that are not included here.

In Denmark, humanities include history, anthropology, language studies etc. Social sciences include political science, economy and law.


Internal Recruitment

75% of academics hired for Postdoc, Lecturer and Professor positions in the years 2001-2003 were recruited internally from the university offering the position.


Accessibility for Non-Nationals

In theory, anyone can apply for both temporary and permanent positions in Denmark as long as the official requirements are met. The official national language is Danish, yet this is not a barrier in academia as everyone in academia speaks, reads and writes English. Many courses are given in English both at undergraduate and graduate level. In praxis though, mobility is low and especially for permanent positions it seems difficult for outsiders to gain access to the Danish academic world.

The international mobility is relatively high at PhD and postdoc level (temporary positions). In 2004, 26% holding one of these positions where foreign citizens, compared to only 6% in permanent positions at Lecturer and Professor level.


National Universities

Research Institutions

Each university hosts a good number of research institutes where academics are hired. However, it is difficult to do a pure research career in Denmark and promotions and career advancement normally happen in connection with a university appointment.

The most important national research institutes are:

Copenhagen Business School - CBS

Danish Institute for Human Rights - DIHR

Danish Institute for International Studies - DIIS

Danish National Institute for Social Research


Academic Unions

DJOEF (Economics, Law, Political Science)


Useful Websites


Info for History

Dansk Historisk-Faellesraad
Website for information on history related topics, museums etc. in Denmark. The site also provides special links for researchers in history.

WWW-Virtual Library: History, Denmark


Info for Economics

Centre for Analytical Finance - CAF

The main purpose of the CAF is to strengthen research in both theoretical and applied finance in Denmark. CAF also hosts the Danish Doctoral School of Finance for PhD students in Finance from the Business Schools and Universities in Copenhagen and Aarhus, and from the University of Southern Denmark. The departments collaborate on various doctoral activities, including the organisation of PhD courses and workshops, and supervision of PhD students.


Info for Law

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Info for Social and Political Science

Danish Political Science Association

Danish Political Science Research School
A cooperative network established for the scientific education of PhD students in Denmark.


Postdoctoral Information

The Carlsberg Foundation gives postdoctoral grants and funding for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Danish Research Council has different postdoctoral grants that can be applied for in economics, history, law, political science and other disciplines.

In addition, the universities post adjunct and postdoc positions on their individual websites (often in Danish and English).


Websites for Job Postings

See also the individual universities and research centres which advertise on their own websites.



Det Forskningspolitiske Raad (Dec. 2005), Hvordan goer vi en offentlig forskerkarriere attraktiv?

Langberg, Kamma (2005), Adjunkter paa Danske Universiteter, Dansk Center for Forksningsanalyse, Aarhus Universitet.

Ministeriet for Videnskab, Teknologi og Udvikling (March 2006), Forskning uden Barrierer.

Rektorkollegiet (June 2006), Forskningspersonale - Andel unge og udlaendinge, Danish Rector’s Conference, Copenhagen.

Rektorkollegiet (2006), Tal om de danske Universiteter, Danish Rector’s Conference, Copenhagen.

Rossing, M.R. (2006), Stillingsstruktur 2007 for videnskabeligt personale ved universiteter, Undervisnings og Bygningsstyrelsen, Copenhagen.

Staahle, B. (2005), En forskerstab i Forandring - Forskerpersonale og Forskerrekruttering paa danske universiteter 2001-2003, UNI C Statistik og Analyse.

Undervisningsministeriet (October 2004), Vejledning om lektorkvalificering og lektorbedoemmelse ved Centre for Videregaaende Uddannelser og andre institutioner for mellemlange videregaeende uddannelser , Ministry of Education.

Videnskabsministeriet (2006), Forskning uden barrierer , Ministry of Science, Copenhagen.


Special Thanks to:

Svend Ladefoged, Danish Centre for Research Statistics

Kamma Langberg, Danish Centre for Research Analysis

Daniel Madsen, Rector’s Conference

Anne Rasmussen, Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow 2006/2007, EUI

Page last updated on 28 August 2018

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