Academic Hiring Manual

Process for Determining Tested Experience in Hiring Faculty and Academic Staff


The following policy was issued by the Office of the Provost with an effective date of May 11, 2019.

Michigan State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is a regional accreditation agency that accredits degree-granting institutions of higher education that are based in the 19-state North Central region of the United States. Institutions that HLC accredits are evaluated against HLC's Criteria for Accreditation, a set of standards that institutions must meet to receive and/or maintain accredited status.

HLC's requirements related to qualified faculty[1] seek to ensure that students have access to faculty members who are experts in the subject matter they teach and who can communicate knowledge in that subject to their students. When an institution indicates that a faculty member is qualified by means of an offer of employment, it is asserting its confidence in the faculty member's content expertise along with the ability of the faculty member to help position students for success not only in a particular class, but also in their academic program and their careers after they have completed their program.

HLC's requirements regarding faculty qualification state that qualified faculty members are identified primarily by credentials (minimum degree requirements). The HLC further states that institutions may consider other factors such as equivalent experience in determining whether a faculty member is qualified to teach specific subject matter.

When determining acceptable qualifications of its faculty, MSU gives primary consideration to the highest earned degree, which is a terminal degree in the discipline. In general, instructors are to possess an academic degree relevant to what they are teaching and at least one level above the level at which they teach, except in programs for terminal degrees or where equivalent experience is established.

This policy recognizes that in some instances, there may be a generally accepted standard with regard to some disciplines that allows for a faculty member's qualifications to be other than a terminal degree. Under the HLC's guidelines an institution may deem a faculty member qualified based on experience that the institution determines is equivalent to the degree it would otherwise require for a faculty position. This experience should be tested experience in that it includes a breadth and depth of experience outside of the classroom in real-world situations relevant to the discipline in which the faculty member would be teaching. Additionally, if a faculty member holds a master's degree or higher in a discipline or subfield other than that in which they teach are teaching, that faculty member should have completed a minimum of 18 graduate credit hours in the discipline or subfield in which they teach.

Departments utilizing tested experience in hiring qualified faculty shall develop clear standards, consistent with HLC policy, for determining "a minimum threshold of experience and a system of evaluation which could include the skill sets, types of certifications or additional credentials, and experiences that would meet tested experience requirements for specific disciplines and programs."[2] Further, these standards shall be applied consistently during the hiring process, included in the hiring documentation, and approved by the department chair/director/dean prior to making an offer of employment.

[1] This policy applies to all individuals who are employed with classroom teaching responsibilities. This includes faculty, academic staff, support staff and executive management. For purposes of this policy, this group will be broadly referred to as faculty.
[2] See HLC Policy number CRRT.B.10.020 (Assumed Practices) at: