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Swedish Academic Job Titles Explained

4 min read · By Academic Positions

What's the difference between a Forskarassistent and a Lektor? What about a Docent and a Professor? While there will be some differences university to university, here's a breakdown of the most common Swedish academic job titles.

On July 6, 2017 the Swedish Government announced an change to the Högskoleförordningen to improve job security for young researchers, unify academic nomenclature, and create a tenure system.


A student working towards a PhD is called a Doktorand. Swedish PhDs take four years, although they can be extended to five if the student is also teaching as an adjunkt. Compared to a North American dissertation defence, a Swedish defence is more like a debate. The candidate discusses their dissertation with an opponent and then is questioned by their committee. The average age at the completion of a PhD in Sweden s 35.


After earning their PhD, researchers next do a postdoc. A postdoc offers advanced training to help the new researcher develop skills and become more independent. In Sweden postdocs can either be on a stipend/fellowship or have an employment contract with their university. Stipend postdocs are not entitled to the benefits that usually come with an employment contract (such as sick pay, unemployment benefits, pension, and paid parental leave), however their stipends are not taxed. You can be a stipend postdoc for a maximum of three years. It used to be possible to be a postdoc for up to seven years, but recent legislation is changing the maximum to five years.


This is a short term position that allows a recent PhD to continue researching to work towards qualifying as a docent. It is most similar to group leader or a non-tenure track assistant professor. You can be a forskarassistent for a maximum of four years. However, under the new legislation the position is being phased out and no new forskarassistent positions can be posted after April 1st, 2018.


Docent is a postdoctoral qualification. It is not a position, but rather an academic rank/title. It is similar to the habilitation qualification in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and kind of like the American tenure review, but it doesn’t confer a new position or the same job security. Docent is often translated as “Associate Professor” because of the status it conveys. Docents usually hold positions as lektorer or forskare (Reserchers).

Biträdande Lektor

The forskarassistent position is being replaced with biträdande lektor, which is equivalent to a tenure-track assistant professor. It is a position for an academic to develop as a researcher and gain experience as a scholar and teacher. People who have earned their PhDs within five years of the time of application are eligible to apply. The appointment must be for a minimum of four to a maximum of six years (with the exact duration decided on in the employment contract). These contracts cannot be renewed or extended. Each university and department will set promotion requirements for biträdande lektor that will be outlined when they are hired. All biträdande lektors have the right to be assessed and if they meet the requirements they will be promoted to lektor, which is a permanent position.


This is the most common Swedish teaching and research position. Lektor is equivalent to a tenured associate professor. It is a long term position that you can keep until the end of your career. In addition to researching and publishing, lektors are expected to teach and have certain teaching qualifications. They also supervise PhD students. You do not have to be promoted to lektor; it is possible to apply for the position directly.


This position used to be quite rare in Sweden as was only held by department chairs, but since 1999 it has become more common. Similar to a full professor in the US, Swedish 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. Qualified lektors can apply to be promoted to professors.


This is similar to the adjunct professor in the US, however it doesn’t require a doctorate. It is meant to fill a teaching need.  

By Academic Positions  ·  Published 2018-01-17
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