Say a Phd student spent 3 years doing systems, somewhat unsuccessfully (no publications since projects were not well picked..). Now this student switches to theory and ML (within its own department), so he pretty much begins his Phd from the beginning (e.g needs 5-6 or so years to graduate). Assuming this student will do well in his new area, will his initial Phd "history" affect his employability? E.g if student will graduate in 8 years or even 9 years, having 3 or so years of work in irrelevant field (although without any publications...), will he have equal chances to get employed in academia e.g tenure-track as his first year peers that joined when he decided to switch areas?

I understand it might be highly subjective. If person gets to publish some field changing work in those years then I understand it will not matter, but let's assume nothing extra special happens during these years and his number and quality of pubs is average among his peers.

It would be great to hear this opinion from professors or postdocs or anyone who participated in hiring tenure tracks.


  • 4
    Brian May completed his...
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 17, 2018 at 8:55
  • 2
    @SolarMike And indeed he did not get a tenure-track position. Another one bites the dust... Dec 17, 2018 at 10:55
  • 2
    I've generally heard people care much more about how many years it's been since your PhD ended. People can get their PhDs late for all kinds of reasons.
    – knzhou
    Dec 17, 2018 at 11:58
  • @FedericoPoloni If he got one, what would he play in his office " I'm going slightly mad"...
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 17, 2018 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


If you want to do the doctorate, then just do it. Never mind about the rest. While a few people might question the time, I think most realize that there are a lot of reasons that it can take longer than expected. Everything from funding to supervisor issues, to health reasons. Changing universities or programs.

It is what it is. There are so many more things that can effect "employability" that it shouldn't be a consideration. The general state of the economy in the years after you graduate has a much bigger effect, I think.

  • 1
    'you'? I thought we were talking hypothetically here ;-)
    – Strawberry
    Dec 17, 2018 at 13:50

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