I'm an American postdoc working at a university in the UK, working in a mathematics department. I am planning on applying to jobs in both the US and UK, including smaller places, and SLACs.

I have the opportunity to supervise a master's thesis. In the grand scheme of things, is it worth it? My suspicion is that nobody gets a job for having supervised an MSc thesis, but on the other hand, permanent job applications do seem to ask about such experience.

What are the pros and cons of supervising students? Would the time be better spent on doing my own research?

3 Answers 3


If you are planning a career in Academia that includes any non-trivial teaching component, it would probably do you good to get some experience with this. Whether it is enough to compensate for the time is a judgement call.

But, one thing that you need to learn as a teacher is that other people don't learn like you do. Every student is different and each has a unique way of learning. Things that are easy for you may not be for others. This is more pronounced at the undergraduate level, but even at the MS level you will get a sense of the kinds of struggles that students have by doing some supervision.

The experience may also give you some insight into coming up with the sort of problems that are appropriate for MS students. Problems that are hard enough so that something can be learned but not so hard as to require years of effort. Having a lot of problems at hand can serve your own research interests well.

A more remote advantage is that some of these students will continue to a doctorate. When they do, they will form part of your academic circle with you as a "senior" member. This can open possibilities for collaboration later.

I think there are a lot of pros for this and few cons as long as you don't take on too much initially. Since there is only one such offer currently, it might be worth it to dip your toe in that stream.

  • Thanks for the convincing comment. I think that I will give it a go, and hopefully will come up with a good problem! Mar 9, 2019 at 15:10

The main pro is that you get to pass on your knowledge to a student and thus you serve science and academia. This is one of the key tasks of academia and is often a reward in itself.

Ask yourself: Do you want to do this? Do you have enough time/capacities for this? Are you able to interact with students? If yes, go for it -- regardless of whether or not this looks good on your CV.

  • Thanks for the advice. I agree that this sounds quite fun and rewarding. I did not mean to sound like someone who chases CV lines (I'm not); instead, it just recently occurred to me that I need to be a more strategic with my time if I want to ensure that I will have a permanent position at the end of my postdoc, so I thought I'd poll the academia public advice. In the end, my view is that it's probably worth taking this opportunity. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:17

If you're unsure, I'd say give it a go. My observation is that interacting with students is something you either enjoy or not. Until you try you won't be able to tell, and you want to know before you commit to a career that involves teaching. Then, even if you don't enjoy teaching all that much, you may want to do a bit of it while you're in academia, as it will strengthen your bonds with faculty and teaching assistants. Also, extra money does not hurt.

  • Good point. May as well figure it out now. Thank you for the advice. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:13

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