I am starting my PhD next year (2019), and I have some concerns.

I recall one of my Professors from my undergrad years was telling me that in my field (statistics), excellent Statistics PhD graduates are taken for a tenure-track Research Professor job directly after their PhD without having to do any postdoc. And I am hoping that I can secure a tenure-track faculty position directly after my PhD, because I will be around mid-30s by the time I finish my PhD (i.e. if all goes well), and I would like to land a good career by then.

What are the things that I should do during my PhD program to get a faculty position right after my PhD, and how can I accomplish them?

I will be taking my PhD in Statistics in Canada, but I want to get hired by research universities in US as a tenure-track Assistant Professor directly after my PhD, if I can.

Thank you,

  • It would help if you could say the country / continent where you will be doing your PhD, and where you want to work. Hiring practices vary substantially around the world. Also, "faculty position" encompasses a wide range of jobs; a big factor is whether you want a job that's more focused on teaching or on research. I'd suggest different strategies depending on your answer, though I also realize it might be too early for you to know. – Nate Eldredge Nov 27 at 22:33
  • Hello, Thank you for your comment; I have edited my post to include the information that you are seeking – jcho Nov 29 at 20:22
  • The first lesson of the academic job market is don't trust anyone (like your professor who got his job in 1987) who hasn't been on it in a while to tell you what it's like. You aren't getting the faculty job in statistics you want straight out of your PhD. You'll either have to do a postdoc or you'll have to move into a more data-science role in the working world (neither of which are bad options, btw). – CJ59 Nov 30 at 22:52
  • @CJ59 Actually there is a Statistics PhD graduate from my university who got hired at Harvard University as an Assistant Professor straight after his PhD; his name is Luke Bornn and he is now a Professor at SFU. – jcho Dec 1 at 0:29
  • @CJ59 and he graduated from his PhD in Stat in 2012 – jcho Dec 1 at 0:34
up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. Obtain experience teaching a variety of courses.
  2. Develop a wide network in the field. The better "known" that you are, the more likely a school is to consider you for a faculty position.
  3. Establish relationships with multiple people who will be able to write you strong letters of recommendation.
  4. Begin applying for grant money right now.
  5. Publish relevant and impactful research.
  6. Consign yourself to the fact that your friends in industry will make more money than you.
  7. Get lucky and find a tenure-track position.
  • 12
    Your #5 should be #0. PUBLISH! – JeffE Nov 26 at 15:59
  • 4
    Publish should be 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 – Thomas Nov 26 at 22:41
  • I'm not convinced that #1 should be a priority. In cases I know where somebody got a faculty position directly after the PhD (in applied math), teaching experience was not a significant consideration. More important was the perception that the candidate was already leading research, rather than just following an advisor. – David Ketcheson Nov 27 at 4:03
  • @Ketcheson Outside of a few top flight universities, every place will want some indication that you can be a quality teacher. At least in the US. Most places want a statement of teaching philosophy. These sound a bit hollow if you have never taught. – Vladhagen Nov 27 at 5:38
  • 1
    @JeffE: I actually disagree in this instance. Teaching-oriented schools are probably the best bet to get a tenure-track position without a postdoc, and for them, publication record will not be the most important factor. At least, I am at such a school, where we recently hired in statistics, and it wasn't the most important factor for us. If I have some time, I will try to add another answer where I flesh this out. – Nate Eldredge Nov 27 at 16:21

The most important thing is to be ahead of the publishing curve in your field. There is no better predictor of getting job interviews, job offers, and receiving tenure at research 1 institutes than being ahead of the publishing curve. If the average number of first author publications for new phd graduates is 1 and you come out with 4, you are WAY ahead of the game.

That does not necessarily mean publishing only in top tier journals. Publishing in discipline specific journals is also incredibly important.

That said, getting a publication in JASA is a pretty nice feather in the hat of a graduate student. That said, you don't need to hit home-runs in graduate school. A solid publication and conference presentation record will set you apart.

And for what its worth, there is nothing wrong with taking a postdoc after your phd, especially if its at an elite university. For example, you might want to get into bayesian statistics after you finish your phd. Well, a postdoc at the epicenter of bayesian stats at Duke would fit very well in that framework. Or maybe biostats at johns hopkins?

Postdocs also have the nice benefit of increasing your pedigree if you did not get your phd at an elite university. Research in hiring in academia strongly suggests that pedigree matters to hiring committees. If your phd is not at an elite university, a postdoc is a chance to add research at an elite institute to a resume.

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