What is the difficulty of landing a tenure track professorship at a top 25 program nowadays? I am considering pursuing a PhD in mathematics (thinking applied or computational) and curious on what the market is like. For example, If I attended a top math program (just say Columbia), what are the chances of landing a professorship at a program like UCLA or UT Austin?

  • 3
    Attending a top math program is definitely far from sufficient to get a strong faculty position.
    – Thomas
    Jan 30 '18 at 2:33
  • 3
    You should go to the Columbia page (or similar) and see if they list recent placements.
    – Dawn
    Jan 30 '18 at 3:04
  • Do you mean a tenure track position or an appointment as a full professor? In the first instance, an outstanding thesis coupled, perhaps, with a postdoc should get you consideration. In the second instance, you better have established an outstanding career. Jan 30 '18 at 3:14
  • Following up on Dawn's comment, indeed they do, see math.columbia.edu/alumni/recent-phd-placement-data , though this doesn't directly answer the question because it only lists the immediate post-Ph.D. job, which is usually a postdoc. But you can then google a random sample of the people who graduated a few years ago to see where they ended up long term. You'll find a few great successes, but I expect that overall the outcome will be consistent with Stella Biderman's answer.
    – fedka78
    Jan 30 '18 at 5:04
  • The Mathematics Genealogy project can be helpful in finding a cohort of students who graduated from a particular math department in some year. You can then search for them in databases like the Combined Membership List to see what percentage of them ended up in tenured faculty positions at various kinds of institutions. This can be a very eye opening experience. Jan 30 '18 at 16:14

It is very hard.

A few years ago, a professor I had had told me that he advises students to aim to get a job at a school a tier or two below where they went to grad school, as a general rule. The reasoning is simply that there are far too few jobs. How many graduate students are in a cohort at Columbia? Now compare that to the number of new faculty they hire each year.

The math is straight forward: If every university hires one new faculty a year, that means that you need to be (on average) the best at your university to get a job at an equivalent institution. Most universities have more than 10 incoming graduate students. I don’t know how many new faculty top math universities hire on average, but I would be shocked if the answer was greater than 2.

  • Thank you, my advisor had mentioned that you typically teach at a tier below where you went to school, just didn't know if that was generally true.
    – KGS
    Jan 30 '18 at 13:45
  • 2
    @K.Seel Unfortunately it is. Honestly, that’s a major reason I work in industry. The job prospects are infinitely better, especially as someone who does combinatorics since that’s always in demand. Jan 30 '18 at 13:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.