Career ladders

June 6, 2023
Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research, 2013–2024 | Ramona Allen, Vice President for Human Resources |

Dear research scientists, research engineers, and research associates*:

We are writing to provide an update on early steps we are taking to create a new job classification structure that reflects the extraordinary variety of ways you each contribute to research excellence at MIT. As we described in our first update, in September 2022, this work stems from the recommendations of Task Force 2021 and Beyond.

The task force, as part of its charge, considered the career advancement opportunities of several key groups of professionals at MIT. Regarding research scientists, research engineers, and research associates, it found “strong support for creating more granular career progressions with clear responsibilities and privileges.” We are committed to supporting your ongoing career development by establishing clearer expectations and paths to advancement.

The job structure today

Currently, the 600+ research scientists, research engineers, and research associates at MIT constitute a single classification of employees who “contribute significantly to the design and execution of experiments in research projects.”

When hiring new staff or conducting performance reviews, a challenge for managers has been to define and differentiate among these research jobs that are classified as equivalent yet vary greatly in their expected responsibilities. We also know that, as an employee, you want to feel that opportunities for growth and development are available to you at MIT.

The task force recommended we implement a new career laddering model to better classify these jobs Institute-wide. Our efforts to date have focused on refining a model that will fit the full range of research groups.

Implementing the new approach

With the support of the school/college deans, we are now beginning to implement the new model. During the next six months, managers across MIT will report the scope of responsibility of each research scientist, research engineer, and research associate whom they supervise. Your manager will use clearly prescribed criteria, in close partnership with local HR leads, to assign each position to a job type and one of three levels. The resulting set of assignments will be reviewed by your DLC leadership for consistency.

To be clear: The job you perform will not change; it will simply be labeled in internal HR systems with a more specific classification. This approach will indicate the responsibilities of the position you now hold, and should clarify the expectations for career advancement. For more information on what to expect, we have compiled a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

We expect the implementation to be completed at the end of this calendar year, following review and analysis by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Human Resources Department. Please also note that while most salaries will not change as a result of this classification project, the normal merit increases for sponsored research staff will occur on schedule, taking effect as usual on January 1.

Our intent in sharing this update is to let you know that we remain focused on implementing the recommendations of Task Force 2021 and Beyond. There is no need for you to take any action, and we will provide a further update later this year. In the meantime, if you have any concerns or questions regarding this process, we encourage you to consult the FAQs on the VPR website or reach out to


Maria T. Zuber
Vice President for Research

Ramona Allen
Vice President for Human Resources

*Note that Lincoln Laboratory has a separate job structure and is not in scope for this project.