I wanted to know if there are (potentially unofficial) limits about biological age in order to get permanent positions.

For instance let's say that you started your 3 years PhD about 27 (where people usually start it on their 23-24), for a comparable post-doc experience (quality of research, years of research), will the person that started "later on" its academic carrier be disadvantaged for permanent position recruitment?

For my example, I started 4 years "late" because I was a bit hesitatant about what to do for the future so that I completely switched of fields during my graduate studies.

Possibly in an unofficial manner?

  • 1
    While I entered graduate school straight out of undergraduate, a substantial portion of that incoming class had work experience. Now 35+ years later, looking back, I don't see any different outcomes broadly speaking. Four years just isn't particularly relevant.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 16:33

3 Answers 3


In my experience the short answer is it shouldn't.

This could be considered anecdotal evidence but in my experience with companies in Western Europe and the UK age is typically not even considered unofficially when screening for permanent positions, unless it is of serious concern, for example if they are due to retire very soon and the position requires a candidate to stay for much longer. Not to mention that it is illegal to favour someone for a position based on age in many countries.

I will say that 4 years extra experience is something that could be considered even if not entirely relevant, though.

The longer answer is that this is very different across the world. I know for a fact that in certain countries starting 4 years later may have an impact in your likelyhood to be hired. From my understanding this is partly due to cultural influence where working for a boss who is younger than you is considered unfavourable. I'm not entirely clear on how much of an impact this has in 2021 and what the laws in those countries stipulate, but it is something to consider when looking for information on this.

  • Thanks for your answer. When you are talking about companies I guess you mean the private sector (or maybe I misunderstood) ? My concern is for academic positions. As those are "rare" to obtain I wondered if for two equal candidate, the one older would have less chances.
    – user47115
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 22:00
  • @StarBucK My reply was primarily from the direct experience of someone in private sector work, but I do have indirect experience from friends and family working in the academic sector and from what I've seen its a similar case. At least in the UK it is, in theory, illegal in both sectors to show preference based on age assuming candidates are equivalent otherwise. Plus as the other answers mentioned, 4 years is not a lot of time especially at such a young age so while in theory perhaps there is a chance of bias towards a younger applicant I dont think it would apply to you either way.
    – yuuuu
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 22:26

Four years isn't very long, actually, so I doubt that there would be much of any effect. However, you can't rule out implicit bias of individuals independent of policies (or the lack) concerning age.

However, you will be judged on what you have done with your time. Changing fields is perfectly acceptable and people recognize that takes time. But the quality of your work and the recommendations of your professors will far outweigh any issues about age for most people. There is no accounting for jerks, of course.

But if people who have worked with you can honestly predict your future success, then you should be fine.

  • Thanks for your answer. My guess was that as the positions "rare" to obtain they might favorise younger people (assuming the candidate are equivalently good). That is actually some rumor I heard which I wanted to check. But maybe even if that is the case as you said 4 years is not very long (I don't know from when it would be considered as long)
    – user47115
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 22:01

I know professors who got their PhD at 40 or nearly 40. Not only they are great professors, but you can’t even tell the difference - in terms of publications/citations - as compared to their peers.

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