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I really love research. I started a research project in graduate school for my M.A. in English. My research topic is a very viable and interesting topic for a dissertation. I'll be 60 on my next birthday and I know that many Ph.D programs are traditionally geared toward younger students.I was wondering are there any programs that I can continue this research in without facing the issues of ageism in academia?

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I'll be 54 this year, and I'm doing a PhD. –  mhwombat Jul 9 '14 at 22:18
I'll be 52 when I get my M.S., and haven't encountered any ageism issues. –  Kathy Jul 9 '14 at 22:41
I'll be 58 in a month and I'm halfway through my DBA. "Doctor by 60" is my motto. –  No'am Newman Jul 10 '14 at 4:57
Are you sure you need a PhD for your research? At least in Germany you can work as a scientific assistent with just your Diploma/Master. A PhD is really time-consuming, not well paid and you may have to do a big amount of unrelated project work for the University. –  Konrad Höffner Jul 11 '14 at 12:05
There's a guy who lives here in my student accommodation doing a PhD. He's about 70. –  lemon Jul 11 '14 at 17:34

9 Answers 9

My father got his Ph.D. (from a highly respected department at a major university) in his late fifties. I brought my regalia to his graduation. There were also two grad students in their fifties in the same program I was in. One was puttering along at his own pace and on his own funds, but the other had a funded position and was working under the same time pressure as the rest of us.

Some departments may effectively limit funded positions to younger applicants, but there is no magic number after which people won't accept you.

If that is what you want to do, then do it.

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When I was in grad school I know a professor has a student with double age than him. –  xis Jul 10 '14 at 0:54
Dad was near the end of a long and prolific industry career and found himself in the position of being the chairman of a conference session that his adviser wanted to give a talk at. –  dmckee Jul 10 '14 at 1:13
I wish one day I can have the same experience like your dad :) –  xis Jul 10 '14 at 1:46

A guy at my old department had just started his PhD when I left. He retired from his old job, travelled from the USA to New Zealand with his wife, and started his PhD. He is about your age.

Granted, I don't think he intends to try an academic career. That would be difficult. But there's no such thing as too old to start your PhD.

A professor who judges you solely on your age is one you don't want to work for. If you're in the Arts, funding is always tough so don't be disheartened too quickly. If you are able to fund yourself, you'll probably have the luxury of being able to study for your PhD almost anywhere and under whichever professor you want.

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Here are some statistics on Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities in 2009:

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from Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2009:

Data presented in Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2009 were collected by the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). The survey is sponsored by six federal agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Education (USED), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This year's edition of the report presents the summary of these survey data in new online and print formats, and the report title has changed slightly. Previous reports were titled in the series Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: Summary Report


Since the NSF often blow their links, data back up as CSV:

"TABLE 24.  Median age of doctorate recipients, by broad field of study, sex, citizenship, and race/ethnicity: 2009",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
"Field of study and 
demographic characteristics","Median age
at doctoratea (years)",,% distribution (in age),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
,,,All,25 and under,26–30,31–35,36–40,41–45,Over 45,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
All fieldsb,32.2,  ,100.0,0.6,38.9,30.4,13.5,6.0,10.5,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Life sciencesc,31.3,  ,100.0,0.4,45.9,32.0,11.1,3.9,6.7,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Physical sciencesd,30.2,  ,100.0,1.3,56.7,29.0,8.2,2.6,2.2,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Social sciencese,32.4,  ,100.0,0.4,37.5,32.6,15.1,6.0,8.4,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Engineering,30.5,  ,100.0,1.2,54.0,30.3,9.1,2.6,2.7,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Education,40.5,  ,100.0,0.1,10.1,21.4,20.2,13.6,34.6,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Humanities,34.5,  ,100.0,D,21.0,37.7,19.1,9.0,13.0,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Other non-S&E fields,36.1,  ,100.0,D,18.0,31.2,20.7,11.6,18.1,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Male,32.0,  ,100.0,0.7,40.5,31.9,13.8,5.7,7.4,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Female,32.6,  ,100.0,0.5,37.2,28.7,13.1,6.4,14.1,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
U.S. citizen or permanent resident,32.7,  ,100.0,0.6,38.0,26.3,13.6,7.1,14.4,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Temporary visa holder,31.7,  ,100.0,0.7,41.0,39.7,13.2,3.6,1.8,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
"Race/ethnicity (U.S. citizens and 
  permanent residents)",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
American Indian/Alaska Native,38.0,  ,100.0,D,23.6,20.8,17.4,8.3,29.2,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Asian,31.8,  ,100.0,1.1,40.6,32.0,14.0,5.9,6.4,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Black,36.7,  ,100.0,D,24.3,22.6,18.5,10.7,23.7,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Hispanicf,34.1,  ,100.0,0.3,29.3,30.9,15.2,7.7,16.6,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
White,32.3,  ,100.0,0.5,39.7,25.6,12.9,6.8,14.3,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Two or more races,32.3,  ,100.0,0.8,40.8,27.9,13.3,6.2,11.0,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
D = suppressed to avoid disclosure of confidential information. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
a Includes only doctorate recipients with a valid year of birth.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
"b Includes those of unknown citizenship, unknown race/ethnicity, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders not shown separately.",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
"c Includes agricultural sciences/natural resources, biological/biomedical sciences, and health sciences.",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
d Includes mathematics and computer and information sciences.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
e Includes psychology.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
"f Persons reporting Hispanic ethnicity, whether singly or in combination with one or more races, are included in the respondent-selected Hispanic ethnicity 
"NOTE:  Due to rounding, the sum of percentages may not equal to 100. ",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
"SOURCE:  NSF/NIH/USED/USDA/NEH/NASA, 2009 Survey of Earned Doctorates.",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
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Why doesn't this answer get more upvotes? –  Taladris Jul 12 '14 at 16:42
@Franck Dernoncourt: Are these ages when people completed the PhD? Or when they started? –  user19508 Jul 12 '14 at 20:41
@dmcr_code Age at completion. –  Franck Dernoncourt Jul 12 '14 at 20:54
@FranckDernoncourt: so for example it says in US 29 .0 percent completed under age 31-35 in computer science right? –  user19508 Jul 12 '14 at 20:56
@dmcr_code Yes (physical science actually). –  Franck Dernoncourt Jul 12 '14 at 20:57

In my opinion, there is no age limit for doing academic research. As far as it seems you have sufficient academic background, so prepare your resume and send your request to the universities. Do not prejudge your application.

By searching the admissions pages of the universities' websites, I found that the only age limit may be that some applicants under a specific age are not accepted, for instance, students younger that 16; but there also some exceptions exist.

Further more, in the application pages, the applicants with disabilities (because of age, accidents, born with disabilities, etc.) still have the chance to apply for their desired programs and their disability does not prevent them from doing his research. In our university, I have seen two or three blind students doing MSc research. So, you see even that these rare problems do not affect applicant chance as they have strong education and research background.

Examine your chance and let the admission committee decide to accept you or not. But first work a little on your research topic which you are interested to work on and prepare a proposal or something expressing the things in your mind. Then prepare your resume and gather all your work and research background in. After all, be realistic and choose the university program which suits you more. If you can provide financial support for your PhD, this may boost your chance up. Furthermore, based on your research proposal; choose the university in which the professors are working in your field. That is why I am saying be realistic. Choose the programs wisely that are not far from your research interest.

There are good answers in this question Will my age affect my chances of finding a funded PhD position?, but I do not think that your question is a duplicate of that one.

Also, in this post, you see that the age may not be the first concern of the admission committee. This is part of the writer's answer to a question which is almost near your concern.

[...] Frankly, though, I don’t think this is a first-order concern for an admissions committee, who are mostly concerned with your raw intellectual potential and ability to produce distinguished research.

In the other part, the writer says:

[...] If someone is 28 or older, with a previous career, an admission committee will probably reflect on whether that experience is going to contribute to or detract from the person’s research potential, and what the career switch says about a person’s focus. So a lot will depend on your specific story and experience.

Also, in the page Should You Take Time Off Before Applying to Graduate School? you can find good advices on your question.

The only problem you may face because of the age may be the chance of applying for a fund may decrease but I have no citation for this and because of your high level of academic background, you may face no problem for fund or scholarship.

I am writing this part after a while:

I was searching the Academia website and found many questions in which users have talked about the similar questions to yours. I am not saying that yours is a duplicate of them, but I think that reading those questions and answers may help you to better shape an answer for your own question.

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This. English is surely one of the disciplines in which life experience is and should be presented as an asset, not a liability. –  Keith Jul 10 '14 at 0:37
Did I misunderstand you, or did you mention "age" as a disability? I ask this b/c a 50 yera old friend of mine who graduated last year with her MS, told me that "age" is now considered a disability and it was her opinion that her age actually improved her prospects for admission. –  Gremlin Brenneman Jul 11 '14 at 16:05
@GremlinBrenneman I did not mention age as a disability; I was saying that, even there exists some disabilities because of aging (like problems in walking or weaknesses), if they do not interfere with the person's ability to do his research and study, it will not logically affect his chance for admission and apply. Even, I have seen many blind classmates, who were able to do research and study and they all were accepted for MSc and PhD degrees. –  Enthusiastic Student Jul 11 '14 at 16:21

I completed my Ph.D. in computer science at UCSD in 2009, when I was 60 years old. I don't think being a few years older than that would have made any difference.

The only problem I had in the application process was a limited space for the statement of purpose that was also required to contain a list of every job I had held since getting my bachelor's degree - in 1970. I was able to use my industry contact network to get to talk with three of the faculty before my application went in. I don't know whether that helped.

I felt a little bit disconnected from the social life of my fellow students, not just directly because of the age difference. Many of them had recently moved to San Diego, and so only knew other students. I had been living in the area since 1975, and had an established network of friends who share my non-technical interests. Most of them were living in dorm rooms or shared apartments, on or near campus. I had a home about 10 miles from campus. I went to a few parties, but mainly continued my pre-student social life.


I think I included above most of the information about my experiences that applies to this question.

I had entirely different reasons for doing a Ph.D. I was already doing work of comparable difficulty and creativity to a doctoral dissertation project, but in an environment where the result was patents and products, rather than papers. I had had to choose between an academic and an industry career when I was about 25, and had picked industry. After selling some stock options in 2000, I realized I had the option of trying out the other path.

After completing my doctorate, I took a year off to celebrate, and enjoyed it so much that I decided to retire permanently. I did not seriously consider continuing an academic career. If I had looked for work, it would have been a pure technical job. My industry employers, at least since I moved to California in 1975, had each had a technical promotion track, parallel to but separate from the management track. As far as I can tell, universities require professors to do teaching and administration, as well as research.

Although I picked an entirely different subject for my dissertation, my long term field of interest is the logical design of multiprocessor interconnects. Critical technical work for a large server design cannot be done half-heartedly - it requires an intense commitment to spending whatever time and effort it takes to get the product working and into customers' hands. I'm enjoying luxuries like time for travel, horseback riding a couple of days a week, crafts and hobbies...

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May I ask you to complete your answer by adding what happened after you finished your PhD? In particular, did you continue reseach? On your own or financially supported by an institution? It may help the OP since the title of the question is "I want to do research..." not only the PhD. Also, you mentioned industrial contacts to connect to professors. Could you expand on this if it is relevant to your PhD/research experience? –  Taladris Jul 12 '14 at 16:27
Actually, I am interested in the same question posed by @Taladris. I am going into statistics (at the old age of 52) and see consulting as a good career option. I see a great deal of technical work now being "farmed out" to contractors and I think this type of work as maybe better-suited to an older person. –  Gremlin Brenneman Jul 13 '14 at 14:01

I received my PhD last year at 54 years old. It took me eight years part time while I worked full time. I had taken classes in the 1980s at Drexel in Philadelphia and remembered a 60 yr old PhD candidate. So Drexel seemed 100% friendly. I also did not want to be favored and they did that well also. I was in engineering and the main focus was to publish. I suspect various schools will gladly meet with you in info meetings and in person (as they did with me). You are basically offering free hard labor for them. There will be some who will be happy to work with you if you focus on the work and publishing (co-author). If you publish, then you are probably "in" and the work counts. I know little about English and similar majors but I think this applies. BTW: it was very hard.

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Note that the OP never said he wants to offer "free" work. –  Taladris Jul 12 '14 at 16:30

Platitudes and hope are nice, but the reality is that the outcome of your situation depends on many variables: your field, your experience, your financial situation (can you support yourself?), the institutions to which you are applying, and your current set of skills (which go to your preparedness for a PhD level program). Any one of these factors can significantly impact your chances for admission. Unfortunately, in your case, you have to add to that mix, age discrimination, which does exist. Given the glut of very qualified international students in the sciences and budget cutbacks in this arts, this is something to be aware of going into the admissions process. Because there are not that many +50 yr old adults going back for their PhD, there is not as much data to go on, just a lot of anecdotal evidence (that doesn't contain most of the people who didn't make it). But age can be an advantage if you can show that it has translated into maturity, seriousness of purpose, and a true love of your discipline. Proper preparation demonstrates this to the admissions committee.

First, research those schools of interest to you. I'd look at whether they have older grad students and if there is a concentration of profs in your area of interest.

Second, contact the professors personally and talk to them. Making a personal connection can be an important in your application process: you are not just candidate X, but that nice person from so and so who drove all the way out here to get more information and see if they were suitable for our program. Professors higher up on the food chain improve your chances. Are they currently interested in taking on students at this time? Are they still doing research in this field? Do they seem to like you and have an interest in potentially having you as a student?

Third, prepare as much as you can. If you need to get a good GRE score, make sure you put in the time and money you need to prepare sufficiently. Take upper level courses at a local university: you can get references from those profs and this provides evidence that you can endure a PhD program. If you can squeeze in some teaching experience, consider doing so. Volunteering to help tutor or participating in English related activities (like debate team) at a local high school broadens your network,shows you enjoy helping students, and gives you experience on your resume. Even being an online tutor for 5 hrs/week may help.

Fourth, be persistent.If you don't get in this year, do more to prepare yourself better and apply next year. Persistence is a key attribute of a true researcher and does not go unnoticed.

That being said, I'm starting my MS at 52 and will probably go on for a PhD, but I think it takes some planning on your part to insure you will get into a decent program.

Good Luck!

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I did some, but not all, of the things listed here. I had a very demanding full time job I was not going to quit unless I was admitted, so tutoring or taking courses was not possible. I did spend some time on GRE preparation, but very little money. I contacted professors, starting high up the food chain, through a colleague. –  Patricia Shanahan Jul 12 '14 at 4:38
Of course, these are good things for any graduate applicant to do, and everyone can modify them to their specific situation. But I do think that older applicants, esp in the hard sciences, do have a harder road to hoe. If I was a professor, esp at a group I/II school, and I had 2 applicants of equal quality, but the one was 25 and the other 50, the thought would definitely come to my mind that the younger candidate had the advantage that he would more likely have a longer career and be able to contribute more (let alone the fact that he would be a more viable candidate for a univ position) –  Gremlin Brenneman Jul 13 '14 at 14:07
In at some ways, age made it easier. I had peer contacts who had peer-to-peer relationships with high ranking faculty, which would be unlikely for a 20-something. I believe the 40 years during which I had been reading college-level material in a wide range of topics made the verbal portion of the GRE general test much easier for me than for most young computer science graduates. I did not need financial support. –  Patricia Shanahan Jul 13 '14 at 17:06
You had a lot going for you. FWIW, I'll just close by adding that if I were to give generic advice to a 50's something PhD applicant, I would say two things: first, be able to prove you can handle the coursework and quals and secondly make contacts with profs in your area. Profs with weight make entry to grad school a breeze. –  Gremlin Brenneman Jul 13 '14 at 17:24

I think that is absurd! Age is nothing but a number.

Who is to say that you are too old? The other students? The faculty? Who are they to make that distinction? You are the only one who lives your own life and who makes it out to what you want it to be. If you want to pursue a Ph.D. at 60, that is nothing but honorable and it will only make your life better by allowing you to do what you want.

Hey, maybe you are at just the perfect age, and all the other kids in your program are too young?

Personally, it just pains me very deeply when people limit themselves because of some imaginary "social norms". Some routine self-destructive lifestyle justifications that people love to give, such as

"I am going to stay in this terrible marriage, because divorce is frowned upon"

"I hate medicine, but I am going to become a doctor anyway, because that will allow me to become a respectable member of this society as well as appease my parents"

"I want to buy a dog, but am unsure how will my neighbors react"


have no effects on peoples' lives other than wreckage, with the sole purpose of appeasing the opinions of others (with (note!) absolutely no benefit whatsoever for themselves). No one out there will live your life for you (I am sure you understand that by your age). "Social norms" were established to maintain order and create imaginary boundaries; for example, the core historical purpose of politeness (in the form of respect for a person who is of a higher social rank than you) is simply to make sure that the peasantry "knows their place"; self-deprivation measures, such as the all-glorified "self-control" and "moderation" among the wealthy, were also put in place to keep the upper classes on a pedestal (and thus prevent the possibility of them, for example, appearing drunk in public, etc., so that the lower classes would look at them as betters instead of equals). It's nothing but social engineering at its finest (perfected over millennia).

Now, where do you fit into this whole picture? Are you really going to sacrifice your own happiness because someone out there said that you are too old to do what you want? Because you are "too old" to be happy? Who are they to have the authoritative word? Maybe you feel that they are too young to be happy... Why does their word weigh more?

I once read a beautiful story about an 80-something-year-old woman who realized that throughout her entire life, she despised the career that she had. At 80, she decided to forget all social stereotypes, and enrolled into a university to get her bachelor's degree in something that she always wanted to do. She succeeded, and spent a few years doing something she dreamt of since her childhood (I forget what the exact field was, and I forget the name of the woman; I'd be happy to look it up if you are interested, though).

As a matter of fact, there are plenty of 70-year-old hippies and 50-year-old clubbers out there, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if that is what makes them happy. Society can judge all they want... People will always judge. Because that is what people with too much time on their hands do. They sit, and judge. Because they are so unhappy with their own lives. And frankly, if everyone listened to them, no one would ever be happy and no one would ever achieve anything.

It is absolutely never too late to do anything! Don't let some crowd's musings, let alone something as superficial as some imaginary "social norms", dictate whether you have a right to be happy. You have a right to be happy and pursue any purpose you wish. It is your inalienable right.

You are only given one life. And its yours, no one else's. We all write our own book. Make yours out what you want it to be. After all, it's only the best that any of us can really do. At life's end, all social norms, material wealth, and others' opinions and judgements, will not matter. The only thing that will matter are the memories that you created and the moments of happiness that you enjoyed; that's really the only thing we can take with us to whatever is next (and if there is nothing next, than at least it is something we can cherish it and bask in on our death beds). It's the only thing in this world that is truly ours. Don't ever let anyone take that away from you.

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I don't believe that 60 is too old to study for a doctorate - or anything else for that matter. While I don't know your situation personally, I'd suggest that most 60 year olds are better placed in life to commit to a PhD than younger people are because generally a 60 year old is more likely to have the necessary financial wherewithal to do it.

You are unlikely to face ageism in most programs of study in my experience.

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This is a comment rather than an answer. –  user102 Aug 21 '14 at 10:21
There, I've re-worded it to make the answer I was giving more explicit. You may not like my answer; you may not agree with it; but it is an answer. It's very telling that you are willing to turn a blind eye to users with more Reputation than I doing exactly the same thing. –  Jonathon Cowley-Thom Aug 21 '14 at 10:39
You don't support your answer with anything. There are plenty of answers to that question which are only anecdotical (which is rather bad, and which I have down voted), but you don't even provide that. This is a nothing to do with reputation. But if you see other bad answers, please feel free to down vote and/or flag them. –  user102 Aug 21 '14 at 10:52

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