I have recently been a admitted to a top 20 math Phd program at one of the schools I really wanted (woohoo!). The reason I wanted this school is because I have been really into a certain research topic and, after a lot of "stalking" I found a professor at this department who's research interests matched mine really well. Now that I've been admitted and am more seriously considering my working with him, I noticed that he's graduated seven other Phd students. After a bit more googling I realized only 1 out of these 7 got an academic job and even this job was as a lecturer at a small liberal arts college. The others got jobs in industry (rather high paying ones so good for them).

My question is as follows: Is this evidence that working with this professor would make me unlikely to get an academic job involving research (post doc, assistant professor, etc ..) after my Phd?

This guy's research is dope and I really want in on it, but I also have to take my future goals into account. I'm pretty ignorant on the process of getting academic jobs so any extra information or clarification of any misconceptions it seems like I have (in addition to an answer to the question) would be of help.

  • I suspect trying to guess what concerns this raises will be helped quite a bit by giving some idea of the field. For example, p-adic functional analysis and stochastic analysis are likely to lead to different guesses. Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 10:18
  • The area of research is harmonic analysis. Sometimes the research involves problems that are motivated by the field of signal processing.
    – Dan1618
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 17:05
  • Just a thought --- maybe you could look at the dissertation research of the former students (titles of their dissertations might be enough), and if the research is on the applied side (which your comment suggests -- I'm thinking of wavelets), then their placements might be what one would expect (and thus not a reason for concern), especially if the "small liberal arts college" person did a lot less applied research (e.g. harmonic analysis on locally compact uniform spaces). Thus, I'd recommend also taking a good look at the individuals themselves, not just their adviser. Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 18:53
  • 1
    Why don’t you just ask him?
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 20:15
  • "only 1 out of these 7 got an academic job" That might be a high rate. Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 7:52

2 Answers 2


The unfortunate reality is that it's very hard to get a job in academia, be that a postdoc or the even more elusive permanent position and if you do succeed, the jobs aren't particularly well-paid compared to industry.

So, the professor's former students may have not wanted to attempt the academic route, or may have wanted to leave to earn more money, or tried to get a postdoc and were unsuccessful. I doubt the professor himself had much to do with it.

A better way to determine what your PhD under this supervisor would be like is to find out how long each of the students took to finish and how many papers they published. If the professor is an organised and motivated supervisor he should help his students to plan their research and get results on a regular basis (uncertainties of research notwithstanding).

If you really want to stay in academia (and you may change your mind after doing a PhD), having a non-zero number of good quality papers from your PhD is essential, so finding out the publication histories of the professor and the former students is more important than their current jobs.


Perhaps the jobs they got are what they wanted to do - I doubt they were forced into them...

You will decide what jobs you will apply for which determines where you are likely to end up.

Are you using the term "dope" as in Dopey one of the seven dwarves or dope as in a drug ie not necessarily good...

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    You are not answering the question. It's self evident that I will choose which jobs I will apply for and that this will determine where I will likely end up as (I cannot get a job I don't apply for(in most cases at least)). Is the professors "record" evidence that it is unlikely that I will get an academic job under him? And dope means good lol.
    – Dan1618
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 8:09
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    I did answer, just that you did not understand - perhaps the field of research is partly responsible for the jobs his ex-students got... but I don’t think it is down to the professor themselves...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 8:12
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    You also realise that you won’t get many jobs that you do apply for.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 8:16

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