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I just finished my masters studies. My question is, will my age (29) affect my chances of getting a funded PhD position? I finished Bachelor of Engineering when I was 24 (took 6 years to graduate, normally my program was 5 years). I worked as a Lab course assistant (teaching the practical part of the course at a local university) for 2 years before I started my MSc a bit late due to financial reasons. I started working in industry a year ago (for same financial reasons) in a computer science field but irrelevant to the research area. I know that most of PhD scholarship positions officially require the applicant's age to be under 35, but do not they prefer someone who is 25 rather than 34?

I have two conference publications, one in IEEE, and about to send the third for journal publication. My field is computer engineering with a focus on the software side and I am trying to apply in Europe mainly.

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    "I know that most of PhD positions officially require the age under 35, but do not they prefer who is 25 that 34?" Wow. As Parrhesiastes's answer states, in the United States there are no official age requirements whatsoever; including them would (I presume; I am not an attorney) be legally actionable. I am awfully surprised that European programs have this requirement: could you supply a citation? – Pete L. Clark Feb 26 '14 at 6:04
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    @PeteL.Clark Sorry, I did not clarify that is one of the requirement for most of the scholarships not generally applied – Hawk Feb 26 '14 at 6:19
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    hawk: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite parse your answer. I see you added "scholarship", but that does not lessen my surprise. (In my field, getting a PhD admission without a scholarship is almost meaningless.) Anyway, could you provide a link to some page which describes this requirement? – Pete L. Clark Feb 26 '14 at 6:59
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    @PeteL.Clark Some examples (I just collected via google) Germany (DAAD), Japanese, UK, China – Hawk Feb 26 '14 at 8:18
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    @PeteL.Clark: Europe is wildly different about age and family status in employment than the US. In Germany there's a maximum age at which you can be hired as a full professor! They can and will pay you more for having a spouse and/or kids. Furthermore, most European jobs ask for a photo along with the application! It's all very shocking as an American, but I'm sure there are things that we do that would be shocking to a European. – Noah Snyder Feb 27 '14 at 15:01
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The short answer is: no. Quite the contrary, many universities value the experience (preferably from industry) so it is beneficial. Also, your conference papers will be the most important factors in getting the PhD position and/or funding. I'd also emphasize that you should highlight the fact that you have a journal article (preferably A or A*) in progress.

I have not seen any such requirement which is restricting PhD or any academic degree to a specific age. In fact, doing so is illegal in most (read: all) European countries as it comes under age discrimination.

To narrow it down further, different funding bodies could impose their own restrictions per project, for instance DAAD's grant that you mentioned is "to promote and fund young artists" according to them, that is why it is restricted to a certain age group. A similar example could be feminist studies where it could be restricted to a single gender. Again, this has nothing to do with general conditions of admission.

  • I agree with you, but don't you think that professors (not officially) will prefer to choose younger researchers ? – Hawk Feb 26 '14 at 6:40
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    @hawk As far as institutional requirements are concerned, what is official is not open for interpretation let alone personal opinion. As I said, it is illegal as per European laws and universities can be penalized severally if proven. For instance, the EU directive explicitly covers access to university education as stated here on page 28. If you are still uncertain, refer to the EU Age and Employment regulations here. – OK- Feb 26 '14 at 7:56
  • In light of the links provided in comments, which describe some scholarships that are definitely age restricted (in European countries), would you like to amend your statement? – Nate Eldredge Feb 26 '14 at 14:33
  • The explanation already addresses the EU position i.e., DAAD. The rest of the links concern non-EU countries. – OK- Feb 26 '14 at 20:10
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In general, the idea of age restrictions is not to punish non-traditional educational paths, but to target "younger" professionals who are just getting started in their careers, rather than "returning" students. Thus, in some cases (including the DAAD link provided), you'll notice that there's a two-pronged requirement: either be under a certain age or have procured the degree within the last X years. This allows programs some flexibility while not excluding candidates who have made their way in a manner other than the traditional route.

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