The Role of Tenure and Why It Is Important

Updated June 24, 2022

Tenure can be a way for companies, universities and colleges to strengthen a bond between an employee and the organization. Although tenure may be a difficult achievement, it provides benefits and importance to both the employee and the employer. In this article, we will discuss what tenure is, why it’s important and how to become tenured as a college or university professor in academia.

What is tenure?

Tenure is a commitment an employer provides to an employee who has proved their worth in their job, or who has worked for an employer for a long period of time and built a lasting relationship with the employer. Many private institutions outside of academia provide long-term career commitments to employees, however academic tenure is the most popular industry to offer a tenure-track for certain employees.

Why is tenure important?

Tenure has many benefits and has an important role in the success of higher-education institutions. Here are a few of the benefits of tenure and why it is important:

Academic freedom

Academic freedom allows professors to spend most of their time conducting research, regardless of how potentially controversial the research topic may be. Professors can publish works that are more interesting and thought-provoking when they are tenured.


Tenured professors have a secured lifetime position with their higher-learning institution if they continue to follow codes of conduct. Stability in higher-education is important because the learning institution will have less turnover and will not need to focus its efforts on the hiring process and the employee doesn’t have to be uncertain about the prospects of their position at the educational institution.


Employees with tenure usually have more expertise in their positions than others. They also develop a broader and deeper knowledge within their fields of expertise. This benefits the students and junior professors since they can learn and develop from being taught by them. The expertise of an employee may also bring a learning institution praise or attention.

Improved and open learning

Tenured professors will likely use their research to provide an excellent open education to those enrolled in their courses. Research develops knowledge and opens discussion opportunities and applied learning for students. A tenured employee may use aspects of research development to encourage students to ask tough questions and truly think about possibilities.

How to decide if the tenure path is for you

The tenure process varies by field and depends on the requirements of the institution you work for. To become tenured, you will likely need to prepare yourself for a long educational commitment. Here are some general steps that can assist with your decision to become tenured at your academic workplace:

  1. Gauge your level of interest.

  2. Research.

  3. Consider your timeline.

  4. Identify your options.

  5. Do a cost vs benefit analysis.

1. Gauge your level of interest

Tenure at an educational institution can be a great opportunity however it is important to truly consider how interested you are in the field of higher-education and how dedicated you are to your chosen subject and research. In order to discover your interest level, you may try visualizing yourself 10-15 years from now. Write down where you are, what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Compare and contrast the items you wrote down with the benefits that tenure gives you 10-to-15 years from now.

2. Research

It is important that you research your current or future educational workplace institution to understand what they offer tenured professors, if they offer tenure at all. You should also research the application process and educational requirements to become tenured at the college or university of your choice.

Once you have researched thoroughly, you may also benefit by asking current tenured professors about their experiences and research. They will likely be able to offer you insight into the tenure track and which facilities or departments offer the best options.

3. Consider your timeline

It often takes a considerable amount of time to become a tenured employee. Assess your personal and professional timeline and compare how tenure will fit into the scope and focus of each timeline. This will help you to notice if the tenure track aligns with your goals and aspirations.

You may also consider the time it will take to obtain more educational credits, if needed for the tenure track at your chosen higher-education institution.

4. Identify your options

There are usually options and alternatives to consider when you are a professor who is interested in the possibility of tenure. You may decide you want to pursue a tenure track and apply, but it is possible you may be turned down because of the educational institution’s needs at the time rather than your qualifications. Consider what you will do if you are turned down or decide that tenure track is not for you.

For instance, you may try writing a pros and cons list for tenure track and for another alternative of your choosing. This way you have a clear idea of your options and objectives.

5. Do a cost vs benefits analysis

Pay may not be the most important thing to consider when you are deciding to enter a tenure track, but it is still important. Many institutions do not offer decent pay raises or any pay raises over the years for tenured employees. You are also usually required to stay in the same geographical location for a while unless you are on leave or sabbatical. This may be something to consider because of familial changes that happen over time that may require you to move to a different area.

Try analyzing your costs and the pay you may be offered as a tenured employee and write down the benefits to see if one outweighs the other.

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