job placement after phd

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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job placement after phd

Postby questionasker » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:45 am

hello friends,

how important is prestige of a phd institution when considering job placement in tenure track positions? let's say i want to obtain a tt position at a group 1 institution (as labeled by the ams). would it be difficult to land a position at a group 1 institution if one got their phd at a group 2 institution? despite having over 100 phd-granting institutions to choose from, many folks on this forum seem to have applied to primarily top 20 schools (most of which are group 1), so there must be some agreement of the "higher-ranked is better" mentality. some of the higher-ranked programs have very small departments so i would imagine someone would have to be fairly certain in their research interests to apply there. however, some of the applicant profiles listed have a mismatch between their research interests and the department's productivity in that field, so i can only imagine people are applying for the name. i'm definitely not proposing that this is a bad thing--i'm just curious to know if prestige makes a difference in job prospects (since i'm currently trying to decide between schools which are more/less prestigious but have better/worse research fits).

also, a quick side note: what is the general consensus on rensselaer polytechnic institute? it's listed as the only private applied math program under the ams's group 1 classification, but it doesn't even come up on the list of phd-granting institutions here: does it have a solid reputation? do their phd students find themselves in tt positions at research institutions? how does it compare to, say, cornell applied math and duke applied math?

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Re: job placement after phd

Postby misterry » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:14 am

For landing a research position right after graduation prestige of the school matters a lot. At this point you haven't really had a chance to make a name for yourself (unless you're exceptionally outstanding). If people already know other good students from your school, or in other words are aware that your institution produces quality students, then it's easier to find a position than if you're a really good student at a university that no one has heard of. Hiring a good student from a well known institution is simply lower risk than hiring a good student from an obscure university.

At the end of the day, however, the most important factor for landing a tenure track position is probably the measurable quality of your work, I.e. number of citations and prestige of journals published in.

Still, there's a high correlation between the prestige of universities where people got their PhD and the prestige where people end up as tenure track, if they do so at all. Most people who manage to get tenure track positions at research universities have PhDs from very prestigious universities. There are several reasons for this.
1. People with high potential as mathematicians tend to perform well as undergraduates, and get into prestigious graduate schools.
2. As mentioned above, those with PhDs from prestigious schools have an easier time landing good positions early in their career, while those from lower ranked schools are more likely to leave academia because they can't get a research position.
3. Those who attend more prestigious schools simply get a better education. Statistically, they will interact with better mathematicians who will have higher expectations of them, their peers will be more advanced, and they will be in a place where mathematicians from other schools come to present their newest and best results. Better education produces better mathematicians.

If you do your PhD at a lowly ranked school, it's not impossible to land a tenure track position, but it's going to be harder than if you do your PhD at a prestigious school, because the deck is stacked against you. Already, it's very hard for students even at well known universities
to land tenure track positions at any research university, even more so at group 1 universities. So it's going to be extremely difficult, and I would not count on it. But of course it is not impossible - just let your work speak for itself.

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Re: job placement after phd

Postby djysyed » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:57 pm

As misterry mentioned above, the quality of your work and the impact it has on the field of mathematics are the most important factors. Another important factor is connections via your thesis advisor. If your advisor is very well known and you do good work, you will have a good post-doc position. My faculty advisor has sent at least three of his PhD students to Harvard for a post-doc.

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Re: job placement after phd

Postby pyfgcr » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:52 pm

There is a nice discussion of this on ... -post-ph-d This first answer is by a computer scientist, but I think it applies equally well to math.

You ask "would it be difficult to land a position at a group 1 institution if one got their phd at a group 2 institution?" The answer is yes. You must understand that it is difficult to land a (permanent) position at a group 1 institution even if one got their phd at a top-10 school (really -- I would guess it is less than half). It is even more difficult if you start lower down the rankings. The academic job market is not good.

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