The Academic Career Path in Austria
What's the difference between a universitätsassistent and a lektor? While there will be some differences university to university, here's a breakdown of the most common academic job titles used in Austria.
Universitätsassistent is a four to six year fixed-term position during which the doctoral degree is completed. The dissertation project is usually tied to a professor’s research and students start working on their project immediately. In addition to the broad PhD, Austrian doctoral degrees (like German) can use specific latin designations for the field, for example Dr. rer. nat (natural and sciences), Dr. phil (humanities), and Dr. techn. (engineering). There are also postdoc Universitätsassistent positions available.
Before the Universitätsassistent contract ends, the researcher is invited to apply for a Laufbahnstelle, which is the start of the academic career path similar to the American tenure system. During this time the academic works as an assistant professor (Assistenzprofessor). At the start of the contract, a qualification agreement (Qualifizierungsvereinbarung) is made which sets out goals for the researcher to accomplish in the next six years. They could include things like the Habilitation (which is becoming less important in Austria), or establishing a strong publication record. These goals then become prerequisites for tenure/promotion to universitätsprofessur. If the researcher meets these goals then they progress to an associate professor (assoziierter Professor), which is a permanent position.
While the Austrian tenure system leads to a promotion to associate professor, it does not guarantee promotion to Universitätsprofessor (equivalent to a full tenured professorship). A researchers can apply to become a Universitätsprofessor through a special appointment procedure.
This is a non-tenured position equivalent to a part-time lecturer. They can be appointed for a fixed term, or permanently.
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