Will a reference from a postdoc be considered less than a reference from a lecturer/professor? This is assuming that I have done a dissertation under him/her and that the postdoc is in his/her (at least) third postdoc position. It may be worth to note that he/she has graduated PhD for around 10 years.

3 Answers 3


Will a reference from a postdoc be considered less than a reference from a lecturer/professor?

As a general rule, yes, but it depends who the postdoc is, how strong (and effectively-written) their letter is, and what the letter is for. As an example, I am currently working with a smart undergraduate, and he got accepted to several very good graduate programs (US, mathematics) on the strength of his application, which included a reference letter from a postdoc he did a research project with last year. So such letters can certainly be effective and have value. It all depends on the context.

The main point is that the most important factor in how seriously a reference is considered is not so much the job title of the letter writer (although that is still a factor that has some significance), but their credibility and reputation in the research community. Certainly many postdocs already have high credibility and name-recognition, and a letter from them (at least for a grad school application and to a lesser extent for a postdoc application; less so for a tenure track job application) will be taken quite seriously.


I think that what matters is the academic reputation of your reference, and the extent in which he/she knows you. If your reference has published many high quality papers, then him/her not being a lecturer or professor may not be an issue.


According to my advisor, a reference from a non-faculty member is not worth much. (Field is mathematics.)

  • 1
    I know famous mathematicians who are “non-faculty members”, so this claim is factually false. Even if you were referring to postdocs specifically, in order to be helpful your answer would have to be a lot more nuanced than it is - whether a reference is “worth much” would depend greatly on who the postdoc is, what their reference says, and what the reference is used for. For example, for a grad school application I think it could well be worth almost as much as, or even as much as, a reference from a senior faculty member - again, depending on other contextual information.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 2, 2018 at 16:25
  • I'll be happy to remove by answer, should someone express an opinion to the same general effect with more details or nuance.
    – Tommi
    Mar 2, 2018 at 19:23

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