What is ACRA?

The Academic Career Readiness Assessment (ACRA) rubric is a tool developed by the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) at UC San Francisco (UCSF) with a grant from Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The goal of this tool is to provide graduate students and postdoctoral scholars with the information they need to explore, plan for and apply to faculty positions at different types of institutions, regardless of their understanding of the intricacies of the U.S. education system and independently of the mentoring they receive. The rubric can also be used to inform faculty hiring practices and provide transparency in the faculty hiring process.


How was ACRA developed?

The ACRA rubric is the result of a study that involved interviewing eighteen biology and biochemistry faculty across the country who have experience participating in the hiring of new tenure-track faculty in their field (1). It aims to describe the qualifications (such as publications, teaching experience, or commitment to diversity) that contribute significantly to hiring decisions for life science faculty positions at three groups of institutions. Institutions were categorized using the 2015 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (2) as follows:

  • R group: research-intensive institutions with limited teaching requirements (R1 institutions, referred to as R institutions in this study, n=4 faculty representing 5 institutions)
  • RT group: institutions with both research and teaching requirements (including Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) and Liberal Arts Colleges (LACs), or RT institutions in this study, n=10 faculty)
  • T group: teaching-only institutions (such as Community Colleges, or T institutions, n=4)

In the October 2019 version of ACRA, we have included the responses of these faculty to a survey intended to confirm language used in the ACRA and identify minimal hiring levels for each type of institution (T: n=3, RT: n=12, R: n=3).

(1) "Faculty positions in the life sciences: Improving trainees' awareness of hiring criteria." J.B. Dorman, T.A. Nguyen, N. Saul, R. McGee, A.C. Goldfien, L. Clement. American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting. December 2016. Poster Presentation.


Contribute to our project

  1. We are currently conducting a large-scale faculty study to further validate ACRA and to identify the predictors to hiring decisions. By sending this survey out to faculty you know, you can help us improve the validity of ACRA:
  2. Using ACRA with trainees? Let us know - we are studying how ACRA can be used as an assessment tool for trainees when it comes to their readiness for positions, and the barriers they face to preparing for these positions.

How can I use ACRA as a student or trainee?

The ACRA framework can be used to:

  1. Explore faculty careers: The ACRA can be used as a tool to develop informational interview questions when exploring careers in academia. Find out more about our Exploring Faculty Careers workshop.
  2. Apply to faculty careers: The ACRA tool can be used to develop and tailor materials to different types of institutions. See samples of faculty application materials corresponding to the ACRA framework.
  3. Prepare for faculty careers: The ACRA can be used to define specific professional development goals, the first step to planning one's training. Download our list of evidence-based training goals for faculty positions. These goals can then be used to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP). For a great online resource co-developed by our office, visit the myIDP website.


How can I use ACRA as faculty?

As faculty, you may find the ACRA useful when:

  1. Developing an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with your mentees. The ACRA provides clear training goals for future faculty interested in diverse faculty careers.
  2. Hiring new faculty. The ACRA can be used as a rubric for evaluating faculty candidates.
  3. Developing new workshops for trainees. Our office has used ACRA to develop workshops to help trainees explore faculty careers and prepare their application materials.

If you are interested in using ACRA as a faculty member, let us know. Email Laurence Clement at [email protected].