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I have completed my master’s in pure mathematics in India. Though I am passionate about mathematics and would really want to do a PhD in pure mathematics, one thing I am uncertain about is how would my life turn out after getting a PhD in pure mathematics.

I checked the departmental homepage of some reputed institutes and universities in our country to gather knowledge about their past PhD students. I found that only a handful of them go to postdocs and a very few get recruited as assistant professors in other institutes. There is no information about the other students and I can't get any information about what they are doing.

My questions are:

  • Is there no guarantee to get a job after doing a PhD in pure mathematics?
  • Or it is that everyone will get a postdoc after getting a PhD in some institute?
  • Is a postdoc absolutely necessary after doing a PhD in mathematics?
  • Will I get a job after a postdoc in mathematics?

I am concerned because I don’t want to be among those who are without any work after doing a PhD.

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    There is no guarantee in any field that you'll get a job after getting a degree. There are very few faculty positions in comparison to the number of PhDs generated. – Austin Henley Feb 10 '18 at 15:43
  • Of course not. Not every PhD student from a reputed institute wants a postdoc! Some prefer to take up jobs in the software industry, or in finance, or in secondary education, or in government, or playing poker, or writing for television. – JeffE Feb 11 '18 at 4:01
  • Are you asking about the situation in India? Or somewhere else? – Tom Church Feb 11 '18 at 4:30
  • @TomChurch;I am asking about the situation in general because I will have to complete for a post-doc position with students all over the world – Learnmore Feb 11 '18 at 4:45
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    @New_User You might be surprised. A Ph.D. in mathematics says more than just "I know the stuff in my dissertation really well." It also says "I can perform well with poorly defined goals, can process complicated information efficiently, and can still push myself to succeed in the face of setbacks and failures, all with limited support and guidance". Research is riddled with failed efforts on things nobody else knows, and a significant fraction of your research time is probably spent frustrated and spinning your wheels. – zibadawa timmy Feb 11 '18 at 9:38
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There is a filter, surely.

Actually, at least in German system there are two filters: PhD → postdoc and postdoc → tenure/tenure-track.

But you are missing out one issue. Even if all people doing postdoc probably would like to get a tenure-track position (but do not), not all PhD students would like to get a postdoc. Heck, not all PhD students even finish their PhD! But the major point is: not all PhD holders want and do stay in academia.


Ok, you do want to stay in academia. There are three major issues:

  • Publications
  • Teaching experience
  • Funding acquisition.

The detailed answer is probably too long and too country-dependent, but typically you'd need these three major issues to be covered, if you want to land a tenure-track position.

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    I don't understand why would people do a PhD in Pure Mathematics to land a job outside academia as you say,is there any point of doing a PhD in Differential Geometry if you want a job in Industry – Learnmore Feb 11 '18 at 4:51
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    @New_User First, there are some job-relevant skills attached to doing a PhD per se. Second, people don't only optimise their lives for employability. Pursuing a significant intellectual challenge before facing the more mundane needs and perks of industry is a legitimate life goal. – lighthouse keeper Feb 11 '18 at 9:06

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