Question: What is the meaning of "permanent line position" within a large organization (+10K employees) the US?

I have searched online for a definition but have failed to come up with one.

More specifically, I would like to know whether a position described as:

  • "full-time"
  • "occupying a full-time budget line"
  • the first contract would last for 2 years; subsequent ones would have a 3-year duration
  • contract is renewable and there is no limit to the number of renewals;
  • available to me for the long-term, subject to satisfactory performance (this last point is not stated in the offer, but is a key point of how this position has been informally "sold" to me in verbal discussions from day 1)

would commonly be understood as a "permanent line position".

Context/reason for asking: I have been offered a position at a large organization (more specifically, a non-tenure track, teaching-focused faculty job at a university) and would like to develop my own understanding of whether I might be eligible for certain benefits based on the university's policies before bringing up this matter. The said policies use the term "permanent line position" to define the eligibility for several benefits.

  • What did the employer say when you asked them what this term means? – Masked Man May 2 '18 at 6:47
  • "full-time" - To answer this you need to look at your hours per week. Whether a position is permanent or not is a different aspect of your employment. – Brandin May 2 '18 at 6:52

For a faculty position at a university, a permanent line means that the funding for the position is guaranteed. Note, however, your position is not guaranteed because you are not tenured.

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, and thank you for contributing. Is there any way we could get you to expand on the answer to show other potential descritions and how they are different from the Permanent Line position? This may be more helpful to future visitors with similar questions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 2 '18 at 12:14
  • Thank you for this. So if I understand correctly, I am on a "permanent line position" if, should I lose my job, this position will effectively outlive my employment in the department/organization and a new person will be hired to fill it? – lara michaels May 2 '18 at 17:49
  • @laramichaels I think it means the position will always exist (because funding is permanent), but you may not be the one occupying the position though. – jcmack May 2 '18 at 20:46
  • Also just to clarify, "always" in this case is fairly narrow and is just meant to distinguish from the case of temporary positions based on some temporary funding, like a grant that only exists for 1-5 years. In reality, permanent jobs in academia come and go just like ordinary jobs in the private sector. – Bryan Krause May 2 '18 at 23:07

Although I agree with the other answers that this sounds like a "permanent" position in that it is not subject to year-to-year budgetary whims or a planned cancellation (for example, on return from sabbatical of a full-time person), I am less confident that the term "permanent line position" truly applies to this position for the purpose of benefits. However, there is certainly enough to guess that it might be which leads to the only sensible next step...

You will simply have to ask them, and there is no need to be embarrassed for asking if the answer is "no."

  • thank you for this. You are correct and I will have to do so at some point. I was just trying to get a basic understanding on whether the term might apply before doing so, since the organization's bylaws don't define it anywhere – lara michaels May 2 '18 at 23:36

@lara-michaels Yes, that is correct. There is a line for the position, but if you are not renewed someone else would be hired to fill it.

Similarly you might hear about funding lines in the States for things like "our department has four lines of funding for new PhD students this year."

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