I'm in the market for math postdocs and was just offered some positions. Essentially my situation is as follows. I have two offers from AMS Group I universities. One has higher "ranking" and is in the top 15, and the other in the 30s. However, the lower ranked university has a great group and there is a greater potential for collaboration.

I'm concerned that if I go to a lower ranked place, faculty positions at a good institution will not be easy to find. How important is it to go to a famous university for you postdoc? I'd also like to hear about the experiences of mathematicians who didn't go to a top 10 university for the their postdoc, but worked their way up.

  • But I'm specifically interested in math postdocs and faculty positions. I'll try to migrate it there if it doesn't work out. Thanks!
    – user61891
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 13:16
  • Actually there are quite a few mathematicians there who offer really good advice. Congrats on getting the positions, and good luck at where ever you end up going!
    – Casteels
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 13:31
  • 1
    This question would be more appropriately placed on Academia.SE. Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 13:32
  • related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/16188/…
    – Aru Ray
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 17:06
  • My answer here should be relevant.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


I would suggest going where you think you'll be happiest and do the most productive and visible research, taking into account whatever factors of these places are relevant to you. Ultimately your chances at a faculty position will depend on the strength of your results and on your letters.

The advantages of going to a more prestigious place is that, in general, such places have a higher concentration of good mentors and collaborators. Such factors make it easier for most people to get good results and high visibility. But in your specific field, for your specific needs, a lower ranked department might be the better fit.

If you were saying you were considering department #100 over #5 (via some standard ranking), I might suggest you consider such a choice very carefully. However, a "30s" department might easily be a better choice than a "top 15".

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