I am a non EU PhD Student in Germany in Global Studies. I am now in my 8th year of a PhD program, which is quite dysfunctional. However, with a lot of difficulty, I am about to complete the PhD and hand it in. I am looking at post doctoral opportunities but am worried that the long time I took to complete the PhD would affect me negatively. I have published quite widely, presented work at international conferences, and am in my late 40s now. I began my career as an academic (masters in 2008) after a long career as a journalist.

  • Does it affect postdoc career prospects? Certainly, yes. Is it the only factor? Certainly no. Is it an important factor? Most likely no. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 13:23
  • If you have a good working relationship with your advisor, you should have a frank conversation with them about how they view this issue, how it will affect their letters of support for you, and so on. (If you do not have a good relationship, that may be a bigger issue to face than the length of your PhD.)
    – Spiny
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 14:02

2 Answers 2


The fact that you took 8 years for your PhD, the fact that you barely managed to finish it and also the fact that you are in your late 40s influence your chances of getting a post doc.
However, from the given information alone, it is not possible to tell how strongly.
If we assume about 5 years of study for bachelor/master/other and 8 years for PhD, there are still 15-20 years missing here to get you in your late 40s. What you did in this time might play an important role on your job search. Furthermore, it is important if you just wrote down something that was barely accepted as a PhD thesis, or if you took 8 years to work everything out properly and write the perfect thesis. I think the quality of your thesis will play a bigger role than the time you needed to finish it.


In Germany you can by law only be employed for 12 years as a PhD-student / PostDoc. So this leaves only 4 years to either land a professorship or move from one third party funded project to the next. Also a professorship typically means "verbeamtung" which gets harder the older you get.

The academic market in Germany is very unforgiving and you have to be careful not to end up in an impossible position where you are basically kicked out of academia, but at the same time have been in academia too long to be attractive outside academia.

I am not saying you shouldn't pursue your dreams. I am certainly not saying that the current situation in Germany is right (it is not). But I am telling you to be careful, and to at least have a plan B ready and not wait too long to activate that plan B.

  • I was not employed throughout. My funding ended in 2012. After that, I have been just a registered student. Does that count?
    – user78397
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 14:00
  • Hi, I was employed only till 2012. Since then I have funded myself through odd jobs etc. No academic position after 2014, but 2012 to 2014 was in the English department teaching English.
    – user78397
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 14:02
  • That depends on so many details, that is hard to say. You need to talk to the personal department at your university, to start figuring out exactly how much time you still got and what your options are. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 14:20
  • 2
    "In Germany you can by law only be employed for 12 years as a PhD-student / PostDoc." This statement as it is now is wrong. In Germany you can be employed at a university and similar for max. 6 years from direct state funding without a qualification change. PhD is a qualification change, habilitation is a qualification change, sort of (ask your department). Being funded from other governmental or private agencies does not count. Having children amends the deadline. I am quite sure that getting a PhD abroad does not count. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:34
  • Thank you Oleg. From 2008 to 2010 I had a grant, which I think does not count towards the limit. Then I was employed from 2010 to 2012. Then taught English at the University in a different department from 2012 to 2014. So is it four years of the 12 that I have used?
    – user78397
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 22:03

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