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Finnish Academic Job Titles Explained

4 min read · By Academic Positions

What's the difference between a tohtorikoulutettava and a tutkijatohtori? What about an associate professor and a professori? While there will be some differences university to university, here's a breakdown of some of the most common Finnish academic job titles.


A student working towards a PhD is called a tohtorikoulutettava in Finnish. You must have a Master’s degree to apply for a PhD in Finland and can also do a degree of lisensiaatti (a two year pre-doctorate degree) first. If a PhD student already has a degree of lisensiaatti then their PhD will only take two years, otherwise a standard PhD is four years. During this time the PhD student completes coursework, develops independent and critical thinking in their field, and writes and defends their dissertation. The average age at the completion of the PhD in Finland is 38.


After earning their PhD, researchers next do a postdoc (tutkijatohtori in Finnish). A postdoc is a continuation of the researcher’s training that allows them to further specialize in a particular field to prepare them for an academic career. In Finland postdocs are expected to both teach and research. A Finnish postdoc position usually last three to five years.


Docent is a postdoctoral qualification. It is not a position, but rather an academic rank/title. It is similar to associate professor in status, but should be translated as “title of docent” in English. In order to be granted the title of docent at a Finnish university, the applicant has to show that they have several scientific publications with the quality and scope of a second doctoral thesis. They must also have good teaching skills. As a docent is not a position, a docent can work outside of a university full time. At a university, docents usually hold lecturer or senior researcher positions.


This tenure-track assistant professor position is relatively new in Finland. An apulaisprofessori is first appointed for a two to five year fixed term depending on their experience level. After this time, their potential for high quality research and teaching are assessed and they are appointed for a second term as an Assistant professor. Before this contract ends, their research and teaching progress is assessed again (through either a promotion review or tenure review) and they can be promoted to associate professor. The term lehtori (lecturer) used to be used for a similar position, but it has been largely been replaced by assistant professor


This position translates to university lecturer and is not part of the tenure track. It is a teaching-focused position and as such requires applicants to have more extensive teaching qualifications. University lecturers can also supervise graduate students and are still expected to do some research.

Associate Professor

There are two ways to become an associate professor: by promotion or by applying to a vacant position. These positions can either be tenured or tenure track depending on the tenure system of the university. If the position is tenured, then after X years there will be another review after which the associate professor can be promoted to professor. If the position is tenure track, after four years the associate professor will go up for tenure and if the review is successful they will be promoted to a tenured professor.


Historically there were a fixed number of professorships in Finland meaning it was only possible to apply for one when one is vacated or established. Thanks to the tenure system this is no longer the only way to become a professor-- though you can still become one by applying to a vacant position. Finnish professors have strong publication records, proven teaching skills, and have been successful as a PhD supervisor. They have usually established them as an international or national leader in their field and are expected to be an academic leader at their university. A professor is a permanent position.

Start your academic career today by searching all available positions in Finland.

By Academic Positions  ·  Published 2018-02-08
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