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Princeton University
Office of the Dean of the Faculty

Rules and Procedures of the Professional Researchers and Professional Specialists of Princeton University and Other Provisions of Concern to These Personnel

Last printed Fall 1996; Revised October 2009

IV. PROFESSIONAL SPECIALISTS

A. Ranks and Terms of Appointments

1. Senior Professional Specialist

Appointment to the rank of senior professional specialist is reserved for individuals who have made outstanding achievements in their fields of expertise and/or who have been assigned major administrative responsibilities for technical efforts of their departments or programs. While they may be productive scholars, other responsibilities of their positions do not allow them to devote the majority of their time to independent scholarship.  An advanced or professional degree in the designated specialty is normally required.

Senior professional specialists who serve at this level because of their technical achievements have broad and intensive professional abilities that have made them innovators in their fields. They often share in the formulation of problems on which they work, and they usually determine the procedures used to reach solutions. They deal with novel and unusual problems whose solutions require the development of new techniques and procedures. Their advice may be sought by other members of the University community. They are given determinant responsibility for the technical progress of projects which cannot be completed without their contributions.

Senior professional specialists who serve at this rank because of managerial responsibilities are required to motivate and manage groups of professional and non-professional personnel. Under their supervisors (normally department chairs or program directors), they are given determinant responsibility for projects of small or medium size, or they share responsibility for the management of large projects.

Term of Appointment - Individuals promoted or appointed to the rank of senior professional specialist normally serve with continuing appointment that is, with the understanding of continued employment, with salary adjustments when appropriate, until retirement so long as (1) they are able to, and do in fact, perform satisfactory work, and (2) research within their departments or programs requiring their professional skills continues to receive external funding, and (3) the projects on which they are employed remain central to the interests of their departments or programs. At the time of appointment or promotion to this rank, the sponsoring department or program may request that the senior professional specialist be grant the right to serve as principal investigator for grants and contracts without specific approval of the University Research Board (see Appendix F).

2. Professional Specialist

Individuals are appointed to the rank of professional specialist because they have exceptional competence in their fields and/or have important managerial responsibilities. Normally they receive directions from their supervisors only about the results they are expected to achieve, and their efforts are essential to the progress of projects on which they work. In some cases, they may devote part of their time to independent scholarship.  An advanced or professional degree in the designated specialty is normally required.

Those who reach this rank because of their technical expertise have advanced professional knowledge and skills. They are expected to solve problems that require the extension of conventional theories or practices or the development of new techniques. They are normally given determinant responsibility for technical aspects of projects or parts of projects and consult with their supervisors only about unusual developments or problems in the progress of those projects.

Those serving at the rank of professional specialist because of managerial responsibilities have mastered the knowledge and skills of their disciplines and, in addition, have the managerial skills necessary to motivate others and manage the schedule for a group of professional and support personnel. They may also share the responsibility for fiscal management of projects.

Term of Appointment - A professional specialist normally serves at the pleasure of the University. Initial appointments may be made for specific periods of up to one year after which the appointment will be without specific end date. There is no limit to the amount of time an individual may serve in this rank.

3. Associate Professional Specialist

Individuals appointed at the rank of associate professional specialist normally have an advanced or professional degree in the designated specialty. In fulfilling the responsibilities given to them by their supervisors, they manage their own time, integrate their efforts with the efforts of others and normally receive only general directions about the results they are expected to achieve. Their work requires the substantial adaptation of conventional methods and procedures to obtain solutions of problems which are diverse, but have precedents. Their supervisors may give them technical guidance on unusual or complex problems. They may lead small groups of research and/or technical specialists or support personnel and/or have primary responsibility for the maintenance and operation of major pieces of equipment. Their work is central to the ability of departments or programs to meet deadlines or complete projects.

Term of Appointment - An associate professional specialist normally serves at the pleasure of the University. Initial appointments may be made for specific periods of up to one year after which the appointment will be without specific end date. There is no limit to the amount of time an individual may serve in this rank.

4. Visiting Senior Professional Specialist, Visiting Professional Specialist, Visiting Associate Professional Specialist

Individuals who hold positions at other institutions, in industry or in independent professional fields of endeavor and who visit the University to work for limited periods, either with or without salary, in positions appropriate for  professional specialists are appointed to the visiting rank equivalent to the regular rank for which they would normally be qualified.

Term of Appointment - Appointments of visiting professional specialists are made for specific periods of any length, not to exceed one year. Reappointments may be made for periods of up to one year, so long as the total term of appointment does not exceed three years for any individual.

Policy Concerning Notice of Termination

The University's policy is to provide notice and not severance pay for terminated employees. In the unusual instances where it is not possible to provide the required notice, pay in lieu of notice will be provided at the individual's base salary rate for the amount of time by which the actual notice period falls short of the required notice period. Time spent on temporary disability (or such benefits received) may count towards satisfaction of this obligation.

Except in the event of dismissal for cause, individuals in the professional specialist ranks whose appointments include a specific termination date will, unless reappointed, terminate at the specified date without further notice or severance pay. In the event that an individual on an appointment with a specific term is not to be continued after the termination date of his/her appointment, an effort will be made to notify him/her at the earliest possible date.

Except in the event of dismissal for cause, a professional specialist whose appointment does not include a specific termination date will be entitled to notice of termination of appointment of at least the following duration:

Rank Years of Service Notice Period
Senior Professional Specialist and Professional Specialist n/a Six months
Associate Professional Specialist Less than one:
One or two:
Three or four:
Five or six:
Seven or eight:
Nine or more:
One month
Two months
Three months
Four months
Five months
Six months

The same notice period will apply for reductions in duty time or other changes that substantially affect the conditions of employment.  Individuals dismissed for cause are entitled to neither notice nor severance pay.

Reviews for Continuation of Appointments, Salary Changes, and Promotions

The ranks and salary levels of individuals in the professional specialist ranks are meant to recognize their professional standing in their disciplines, their technical knowledge and skills, their creativity and productivity, and their technical and supervisory responsibilities. The performance and responsibilities of each professional specialist are reviewed at least annually, normally during the "merit review" each spring.

The purposes of this review are to consider continuation of appointment for professional specialists serving without the provision of continuing appointment, to ensure that salary levels and ranks of professional specialists are appropriate, and also to give a fair and frank assessment of his/her performance as judged by his/her supervisor and department chair or program director. The methods by which this assessment is communicated to each individual vary with different supervisors and departments or programs, but each individual is entitled to a statement of the appraisal of his/her performance that is submitted to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty as part of the annual merit review each spring. Individuals at the ranks of associate professional specialist and professional specialist may be reviewed for promotion concurrently with any annual merit review.

B. Responsibilities

Individuals in the professional specialist ranks perform professional work in the academic departments, institutes, centers, research programs, the Art Museum, the Library and other units of the University under the direction of members of the faculty, department chair, and/or unit directors. They may be engaged in work demanding special knowledge and training in any of a number of disciplines, including but not limited to scientific and engineering disciplines, research computation, and arts and letters. They may also be given responsibilities for managing, supervising, or advising other professionals, students, or members of the University's support staffs.

Individuals at the professional specialist ranks have normally completed an advanced (e.g., Ph.D., M.D., J.D., M.A., M.S.) or professional degree (e.g., B.E., B.Arch.) in a discipline relevant to their work. The descriptions of the three ranks (above) give minimum levels of achievement and responsibility expected of those appointed or promoted to each rank.

While encouraged to make original contributions in the area of research for which they are employed, those at the professional specialist ranks are less likely to have opportunities to pursue independent research work which might lead to publications than individuals in the research ranks (see Chapter 3). Consequently changes in salary and promotions are based chiefly on their contributions to the programs in which they work, rather than on their contributions of new knowledge in their disciplines.

In some instances those in the professional specialist ranks are called upon to instruct, advise, and supervise students in their areas of responsibility. However, any formal teaching assignment requires recommendation of the department or program and approval of the dean of the faculty.

C. Procedures for Appointments, Promotions, Terminations, and Changes in Salary

All appointments, promotions, terminations, and changes in salary for individuals at the professional specialists ranks are recommended by the chair or director of the appropriate unit according to procedures approved by the dean of the faculty.

Such recommendations are submitted to the dean of the faculty for approval. Recommendations relating to the rank of senior professional specialist will be submitted by the dean of the faculty to the Committee on Appointments and Advancements for the Professional Researchers and Professional Specialists for advice.

Except in rare and unusual circumstances, all recommendations for promotions and changes in salary are submitted during the spring as part of the annual review of rank and salary level.

In accordance with the University's commitment to equal opportunity and affirmative action, all initial appointment recommendations for the professional specialist ranks must be accompanied by documentary evidence (Affirmative Action/Search Report form) that a thorough search has been made to locate the most qualified applicant for the position. Departments, projects and programs are also urged to review their personnel for promotion decisions in the light of the University's commitment to equal opportunity/affirmative action principles.

D. Grounds for Termination and Other Disciplinary Action

The employment of any individual at the professional specialist ranks may be terminated prior to expiration of his/her term of appointment or subjected to other disciplinary action for cause, which consists of (a) continuing unsatisfactory performance after due notice; or (b) conduct which is shown to violate the University rules and procedures applicable to individuals at these ranks, or substantially to impair the individual's performance of his/her responsibilities.

E. Retirement

Retirement from the University is a voluntary termination. An individual at a professional specialist rank who wishes to discuss retirement should consult with his/her supervisor, the chair or director of the appropriate unit, and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. The individual should also consult with the Office of Human Resources for information on the status of his/her benefits upon retirement.