Obtaining a tenure track faculty position is the same thing as obtaining a position as an assistant professor. The position does not have any guarantee of future employment, as it is a contract position. Upon being hired you are on a track that will lead to tenure, which means you have a permanent position at the university. Newly hired professors do not immediately qualify for tenure as it usually takes five or six years to reach this stage of your teaching career.
If you are hired in a tenure track faculty position, you will teach classes to undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, you will have to conduct research on topics pertaining to the discipline you teach and publish scholarly writings on these topics. This is prerequisite for being promoted to the rank of associate professor. The qualifications needed to obtain this type of position include holding a doctoral degree. The first contract offered is usually for a three – year period and can be renewed for a further three – year period. This is termed a probationary period.
At the end of the probationary period, the academic department reviews the evaluations of your work in the tenure track faculty position. The panel will review the record of service looking at such things as how effective your teaching skills have been, the type of research you have been involved in, and the type of service you provided to the department. The amount of weight each of these qualities carries depends on the nature of the university and the type of courses it teaches. Associate professors involved with you, as an assistant professor, provide recommendations to the academic department as to whether or not you should be awarded tenure.
If you are not successful in receiving tenure when in a tenure track faculty position, you will still be able to continue in your position at the university for an additional year. This is to allow you time to obtain a position as an assistant professor at another university. At some of the universities in the country, the awarding of tenure occurs so rarely that it is no disgrace to not receive tenure at the end of your contract. Therefore, it does not mean that you have not been doing a good job. As a rule, though, 50% of the assistant professors are awarded tenure after their sixth year working in a tenure track faculty position. The number of tenures awarded is low in such disciplines as the natural sciences, but may be high in other disciplines such as Education.
Once you receive tenure, you have a permanent position at the university. In order to be removed from the position, the university has to show just cause, such as proving that you are guilty of misconduct. It is a lengthy process and takes several years to bring such allegations to a satisfactory close. There is also no age limit on when you must retire, once you receive tenure, so if you like the university, you basically have a job for life.