I am currently a graduate student (hopefully) in my final year. I am applying to the NSF postdoc program in mathematics. As part of this application, I need to fill out an application form and a biographical sketches form.

On my Biographical sketches, I listed that I am expecting to receive my Ph.D. in 2021. As of right now I only have a masters in mathematics. The problem is that I do not know how to indicate this in the application form, and right now I have it listing me as having a masters as my highest degree earned.

From the copies of proposals that people have made public, it seems like graduate students tend to put a Ph.D. as the highest degree earned. I do not know if this is appropriate/expected from people in my situation, but it seems strange to put Ph.D. when I do not have one yet. I tried looking in the PAPPG, but there was nothing in there about this. Does anyone know what I should put in these forms?

3 Answers 3


Your highest degree is a masters. You don't have a PhD until it is awarded. And that is only after you pass all requirements, which has not yet happened.

Of course, you can also say (if the opportunity exists) that you expect to be awarded a doctorate in 2021, but it isn't certain, and that will be understood.


I agree with Buffy, except that the position you are applying for (postdoc) requires a PhD. It is common for last-year PhD students to apply for postdocs or faculty positions (which require the PhD) before they have officially graduated, or sometimes even before they have defended their dissertation. When applying for such jobs, it is customary to list the PhD degree on your application with an expected graduation date in the future. If you are hired, it is often contingent on finishing the degree before the job start date.


Normally when applying to NSF grants you want to downplay your education as the standards move up the longer you're in academics. But since it's for a position which requires a PhD obviously you need to list PhD.

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