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As a faculty member at the Feinberg School of Medicine, it's important for you to know and understand the type of faculty appointment you have, as this determines the criteria you must meet to be eligible for reappointment and/or promotion. Your appointment type was communicated to you in your faculty appointment letter. You may also contact your department administrator to verify the type of faculty appointment you have. 

A summary of Feinberg’s faculty career tracks and appointment types appears below. For more information, view the Information Guide for Appointments, Promotion and Tenure (PDF).

Faculty Career Tracks

Feinberg’s core research and teaching faculty hold appointments in one of five career tracks, or occasionally start on an undifferentiated track, allowing selection of a track at a later time.


The Clinician-Educator career track is for faculty who contribute to the clinical, educational and/or research missions of the medical school but whose major effort is in the areas of clinical practice, practice-related activities and/or education. Clinical faculty who spend the majority of their time in clinical practice or practice-related activities, but also perform some clinical research, should also be appointed in this track. This is a non-tenure-eligible career track.

Faculty appointed on the Clinician-Educator track select two of the following five domain areas in which to specialize, and are evaluated for appointment and promotion based on their accomplishments and contributions in those domains:

  • Clinical impact and recognition
  • Education and teaching
  • Original research
  • Health services management
  • Community engagement


Faculty who spend the majority of their time in extramural-funded research with the intent to develop independent research programs are assigned to the Investigator track and appointed with the intention of promotion to associate professor or professor with tenure according to school policy. This is a tenure track, and faculty recruited for appointment at the level of associate professor or professor will normally have tenure at their current institution. Occasionally, based on unique circumstances, appointments of recruited faculty at the level of associate professor are made without tenure, allowing for tenure conversion at a later date.

 Team Scientist

The Team Scientist track is for non-clinical faculty who make substantial contributions to the research and/or educational missions of the medical school. Faculty members whose primary activity is in research will typically engage in team science. Their skills, expertise and/or effort play a vital role in obtaining, sustaining and implementing programmatic research.

Faculty on this track often have expertise in epidemiology, clinical trials, biostatistics, biomedical informatics, outcomes research or other qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and generally contribute to clinical studies, patient-oriented clinical outcomes research, community-engaged research, population-based studies and/or basic science research. Typically, such faculty provide critical expertise to a program or group of research teams as a co-investigator with contributions that do not necessarily require or result in independent grant funding, but some faculty on this track may serve as principal investigator on related research. Faculty on this track do not perform clinical work but do contribute to the education and service missions of the medical school.

While most members of this track make research the major focus of their activity, for some members of this track education may be the major focus of their activity. Faculty focusing on education are typically recognized as outstanding educators and contribute to course development, degree program leadership and other innovative educational products.

 Research Faculty

The Research Track is a faculty career track intended to increase the quality and productivity of research programs at the Feinberg School of Medicine by permitting appointment of scholars to the faculty on a non-tenure basis in order to participate in and cooperate with the research efforts of faculty with tenure-track appointments. Individuals appointed as research faculty should hold terminal degrees and intend to concentrate on research. They are not subject to teaching responsibilities, though they may participate in the training of students in an area of expertise in which they are uniquely qualified. They are not eligible for tenure and cannot participate in the governance of the University. Research faculty do not normally move to positions on the tenure-track faculty, and may do so only in conjunction with a national search.


 Health System Clinician

The Health System Clinician track is for Faculty who contribute to the mission of the medical school by practicing in affiliated hospitals or clinics. Health System Clinicians are typically employed by affiliated clinical entities such as the clinical practice plans of Northwestern Medicine, the Pediatric Faculty Foundation, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, or their hospitals, as they exist from time to time, but some clinicians may be in private practice. These clinical entities will provide oversight regarding the clinical performance of Health System Clinicians with admitting privileges.

These faculty support the clinical mission of our academic healthcare system and while their major effort is in clinical practice and practice-related activities, they may also participate in scholarly activities within their designated areas of concentration (education, research, health services management, community engagement). Departments will be responsible for evaluating the academic education and scholarship of their Health System Clinicians desiring promotion. Faculty in this track will complete annual conflict of interest surveys provided by the University as well as pursue continuing medical education, earning at least enough credits to maintain licensure. Health System Clinician appointments are unpaid by the University and non-tenure eligible. Faculty in this track will be titled using their rank preceded by the word “clinical”: Clinical Assistant Professor, Clinical Associate Professor, or Clinical Professor. 

For more information on recent changes to the HSC career track, please see the Health System Clinicians FAQ.

 Undifferentiated Track

Sometimes the career track (Clinician-Educator, Investigator or Team Scientist) to which a faculty member is most appropriately appointed is not evident at the time of initial appointment. To give such faculty time to determine their career focus, Feinberg occasionally grants non-tenure-eligible appointments on an undifferentiated career track, allowing the candidate to declare a track within the first three years of appointment or at the time of promotion to assistant professor, whichever is earlier.

Other Types of Faculty Appointment

Feinberg also grants faculty appointments to others who contribute to our academic mission.

 Adjunct Faculty

Faculty who hold a primary appointment at another institution or organization and remain based at that institution or organization but who contribute to the academic mission of the medical school will be appointed as adjunct faculty. If their appointments are paid, they can have a maximum effort of 49%. This is a non-tenure track.

Adjunct appointment typically involves a greater level of involvement at the university beyond scientific collaboration, including activities such as:

  1. Holding an active grant that is administered through Northwestern (this does not include holding a subcontract that is part of a grant awarded to Northwestern)
  2. Continuing to mentor a graduate student who was in the faculty member’s laboratory and is completing their training at Northwestern as opposed to moving to the faculty member’s new institution
  3. Actively contributing to the educational mission of Northwestern by filling a teaching need identified by Northwestern and approved by the Department Chair or her/his designee

For faculty members who are granted an adjunct appointment for the first two reasons, the adjunct appointment would typically end once the grant has finished or the graduate student has completed their training.  For #3, the appointment would typically end once the need for teaching has ended.

 Contributed Services Faculty

Historically, FSM granted contributed services faculty appointments, but no longer grants new appointments of this type. However, those who were initially appointed as contributed services faculty retain those appointments and are eligible for promotion. Contributed services faculty members are appointed to the Clinician-Educator track. They are clinical practitioners who typically are in the private practice of medicine and practice within the McGaw Medical Center. Contributed services faculty members contribute to the academic mission of the medical school without compensation by teaching medical students, residents, and fellows and performing other activities. Departments provide expectations for contributions to the academic mission by contributed services faculty.


 Coterminous Faculty

Coterminous appointments are courtesy faculty appointments, requested by a department chair and usually at the rank of instructor, for an individual who holds a training position or a limited term professional staff appointment in the VA or selected clinics outside of McGaw Medical Center. When the controlling position (fellowship, chief residency, etc.) ends, the faculty appointment automatically ends.


Lecturers are faculty whose primary responsibility is teaching. Lecturers do not have career tracks and are always non-tenure-eligible.  Types of lecturer appointments include:

  • Adjunct Lecturer
  • Coterminous Lecturer
  • Regular Lecturer
  • Visiting Lecturer

 Visiting Faculty

Visiting Faculty hold primary academic appointments at another institution, but are geographically based at Feinberg for a defined period of time.