I see many STEM professors work well into their 70s, 80s, and sometimes even into their early 90s - mostly in teaching, but their research careers were outstanding. One of them that I spoke with told me that he hasn't done research in many years - though he teaches a class every semester.

Do STEM professors "retire" from research at age 65, while continuing to teach and enjoy their tenure? Or are many professors still active in research past retirement age?

I'm asking primarily about US universities.

  • Certainly some remain research-active beyond that age; I know a few personally. I don't know if there are any statistics on this, however. Feb 24, 2018 at 2:20
  • 2
    In my experience it is more common to retire from a faculty position, stop teaching but continue to be active in research. Feb 24, 2018 at 3:44
  • I know two mathematics professors who retired (when they could have continued working) explicitly for the purpose of devoting more time to their research. Feb 25, 2018 at 5:16

1 Answer 1


This is very much a function of the regulations of the institution in question, and the health and desires of the faculty members in question.

I have known a number of faculty members who start to wind down their research groups at age 65 or even a little earlier, while others wait until about age 70. I also know of schools that don't allow faculty members over 65 or 70 to bring on new students, thereby effectively "shutting down" the groups. But I do know a handful of faculty members who were active as researchers into their 70's and even into their 80's.

In countries other than the US, policies are much stricter. In Germany, for instance, professors must retire at 65 unless their successor allows them to continue to supervise students and conduct research.

  • Depending on the type of research and the resources needed, it is also possible to remain research-active even after having officially retired from one's faculty position. In this case I don't think the institution's regulations would have much bearing, as presumably one can do as one pleases in retirement. Feb 24, 2018 at 2:38
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    the part about the German regulations is not correct (at least it is incomplete). One can opt to work longer, there is the status of an Emeritus (if you were retireing before the 1980's), and the successor is not formaly the one who decides (at least to my knowledge) but the university can define regulation based on the (slightly different) state regulations.
    – OBu
    Feb 24, 2018 at 8:29
  • @OBu My answer about Germany is based on direct observation in NRW. It’s up to the successor to allow Doktorvater arrangements to continue.
    – aeismail
    Feb 24, 2018 at 11:32

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