Just to re-iterate Bruce O. comment.
Back in the UK (in my day anyway), Professor was a distinction - we had 4 Professors at Reading - one in Organic, inorganic, and 2 in physical chemistry - the rest were lecturers. Reader was also an honary distinction (there was one).
In north america the titles basically measure the hoops.
Assistant - starting, not tenured Associate - tenured Full - top of the scale.
I agree with Peter, being an academic does not necessarily imply scholarly. I have come across some very good people indeed, but have also come across what I would term mediocre or dead wood, who have been carried by their post-docs (and grad students).