Last updated in May 2020. Email with comments or suggested additional questions.


1.1. AHR: Academic Human Resources

1.2. ASAC: Academic Specialist Advisory Committee

1.3. SPD: Specialist Position Description form


ASAC is the governance structure for the academic specialist community. ASAC consists of elected and appointed individuals from the academic specialist community. ASAC provides advice to AHR on matters of common interest. The operating principles and election procedures for ASAC are defined in the ASAC bylaws.
Each academic specialist is defined by four categories: functional area, appointment type, rank, and appointment term. Each category is independent from the others.
Functional area Appointment type Rank Appointment term
  • Advising
  • Curriculum development
  • Outreach
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Other
  • A combination of the above
  • Continuing (with probationary or continuing status)
  • Fixed term
  • Senior specialist
  • Specialist
  • Academic year (AY, 9 months from 8/16 to 5/15)
  • Annual (AN, 12 months)
Academic specialists who have a continuing appointment type and are awarded continuing status (generally after two three-year probationary periods) receive a $2,000 salary increase. This increase comes from central MSU funding, not from the unit budget, and was first effective on October 1, 2016 for specialists who were reviewed during the 2015-2016 academic year. Having continuing status also “assures that the academic specialist will not be dismissed due to capricious action by the University.” (Handbook 1.2).
Academic specialists who are promoted to the senior specialist rank receive a $2,000 salary increase. This increase comes from central MSU funding, not from the unit budget. The rank of senior specialist also shows that the specialist has developed in their field.
When transitioning to an academic specialist position, consider negotiating with your new supervisor about your prior years of service. Consider these negotiations especially if your job duties are similar or if you are transitioning from a fixed term specialist position to a continuing specialist position. In the past, academic specialists have negotiated to, for example, have one probationary period waived, be awarded continuing status, or be promoted to senior specialist. Consider these negotiations whether you are transitioning from a job internal or external to MSU (Handbook 4.7). Note that, except in unusual cases, academic specialists are not hired with continuing status or at the senior rank.
The SPD form is a document required by HR to establish an academic specialist position upon hire. The SPD form stays on record with your HR administrator within your unit as well as with AHR. You can request a copy of this document from your HR administrator. The SPD form should be reviewed by you and your supervisor at each annual review for accuracy. Updated versions should be filed with both your HR administrator and AHR.
General Benefits

Handbook 8

2.7.1. Vacation. Academic specialists on academic year appointments are not allotted vacation days. Academic specialists on annual appointments are allotted 22 vacation days per year. These days accrue on July 1 each year and should be used by June 30.

2.7.2. Sick time. There is no MSU policy on sick days for academic specialists unless your situation rises to the level of needing short-term disability or The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), mirroring faculty policies. Arrangements for short leaves for routine sickness and appointments are handled between each academic specialist and their supervisor.

2.7.3. Retirement. Retirement contributions are double matched (if you contribute 5% of your salary, MSU contributes 10%). For academic specialists with fixed term appointments, these contributions do not begin until you have worked for two years (24 continuous service months) unless you are coming from a similar institution or from another unit/job title in which you already had this benefit. (Retirement plan enrollment guide, page 6)

Questions about your appointment can generally be answered by either your unit HR administrator or your unit’s liaison to AHR (.docx).
ASAC runs an election every year in the spring to replace committee members whose three-year terms are ending. When needed, ASAC can also appoint committee members for a one-year term. ASAC can also use your help even if you’re not officially on the committee. Contact the current ASAC chair if you’re interested.


All academic specialists should have regular annual reviews whereas formal reviews apply only when (a) a continuing academic specialist is being reviewed during their first three-year probationary period, (b) a continuing academic specialist is being reviewed during their second three-year probationary period, and (c) when fixed term and continuing academic specialists apply for promotion to senior academic specialist.
Academic specialists undergo two types of reviews: regular annual reviews and, as applicable, formal reviews. Each unit is responsible for setting the timeline and procedures for their annual reviews. Units may choose to conduct annual reviews according to the calendar year, fiscal year, academic year, or any other 12-month reporting period. This timeline for annual reviews is separate from that which is mandated for formal academic specialist reviews.
Regardless of when your unit does annual reviews and regardless of when you were appointed, all units are mandated to follow the same timeline for formal academic specialist reviews. This timeline may feel particularly fast when continuing specialists are being reviewed during their first three-year probationary period. Probationary appointment periods are calculated from August 16 in the year that you were appointed (Handbook 4.8.1), regardless of your exact hire date. The review occurs during the second year so that the outcome of the review can be made clear in advance of the end of the three-year appointment. Should the outcome of the review be negative (that is, lacking support for a second three-year probationary period), this timeline leaves time for the specialist to find a new employment situation.
Your unit HR administrator should have all of your appointment materials on file, including your offer letter, SPD form, and all review materials both annual and formal. Per MSU’s personnel file policy, you are also able to request access to your personnel file through MSU HR.
(a) Academic specialists in the continuing system can be promoted from probationary status to *continuing status* after, generally, two three-year probationary periods. (b) Academic specialists in both the continuing and fixed-term systems can apply for promotion to *senior academic specialist*. To be eligible for this promotion, fixed-term academic specialists must have completed 5 years (60 full-time equivalent (FTE) months) of service, and academic specialists in the continuing system should generally have continuing status. Note that academic specialists with academic year (AY appointments earn 12 FTEs between August 16th and August 15th of the following year, assuming they are 100% employed. (c) Transitioning from a fixed-term to a continuing appointment is not officially a promotion (i.e., requiring Form C), however, some units treat this transition effectively as a promotion.


The Academic Specialist Recommendation for Reappointment, Promotion or Award of Continuing Appointment Status form, also known as Form C, is a document of professional activity that is required for formal academic specialist reviews. The name “Form C” is an artifact of AHR using Forms A and B for related information. Note that a similar “sister” set of Forms A through D exists for faculty in the tenure system. For academic specialists, Forms A through C are as follows:

4.1.1. Form A: Academic Specialist Continuing Appointment System Reappointment Recommendations. Form A identifies academic specialists in the continuing system with a probationary appointment that require a formal review in the current year.

4.1.2. Form B: Documentation of Academic Specialist Annual Performance Reviews. Form B is a list of all academic specialists appointed in the administrative unit, both continuing and fixed term, that require an annual review. The dates of annual reviews for each specialist are documented, and the form is returned to AHR prior to May 1 each year.

4.1.3. Form C: Academic Specialist Recommendation for Reappointment, Promotion or Award of Continuing Appointment Status form. Form C is used for formal reviews of academic specialists (see 3.1).

These forms are sent from AHR to unit administrators each year in the beginning of November. In addition to Forms A through C, unit administrators receive a list of fixed term specialists with 60+ full time equivalent (FTE) service months. Note that in an effort to streamline reconciling between annual and formal reviews, some units use Form C for unit-level annual reviews.

MSU’s Academic Advancement Network (AAN) provides samples of Form C (and other materials) on their website, here.