I am senior Postdoc in pure math about 7-8 years past the PhD. I am currently in a European country where it is not unusual to spend many years as a Postdoc and get hired on a tenured Professorship.

I have been applying internationally (mostly other European countries and the US) and am wondering how my academic age affects my applications and how to address or sell this. I am particularly interested in the situation in the US and the UK.

  1. As for the US: While I have more research/teaching experience than most applicants for an Ass. Prof. position, I guess chances are slim to get an Associate Professor position, right? My research record is very reasonable, but not stellar. Can I negotiate a shorter tenure-track time, and if yes, what are the pitfalls or problems? I have completed a Postdoc with teaching duties at a reputed university in the US.

  2. As for the UK: Similarly to 1), is there a problem when one applies directly for a Senior Lecturer or Reader position? I never understood the academic progression in the UK. For example, I know people in the UK who are Lecturers for a very long time (maybe forever), and from that perspective applying to a higher level seems problematic.

  • One question per post please, and if the question's about academic age, each country is a separate question. Dec 2, 2021 at 13:47

2 Answers 2


This is a US focused answer. There are specific age discrimination laws here and they may or may not apply to you. You might actually be too young for them to apply.

You are correct that, with the background you list, an associate professorship at hire is very unlikely unless you have some very specific skills that are needed but in short supply. And tenure at hire seems beyond reach.

On the other hand, negotiating a shorter tenure clock is possible, depending on your desirability. But the downside of that is that you will have less time to (a) improve your record and (b) establish collegial contacts with the faculty that will ultimately decide your tenure case. But if you are successful, it is also likely that you would, as is normal, get promoted at the point tenure is granted.

So, it depends a lot on your record and how much you can accomplish on whatever clock you have. And, it also depends a lot on how your record compares with that of the existing faculty at the same rank. If you would be seen as stronger than the average then it would be easier to achieve.

Also, the shorter the period (2 year) the harder it is than for a longer period (4-5 year), both to negotiate and to achieve.

  • I generally advise against negotiating a tenure clock that is less than 4 years (two years less than normal) for the reasons stated. Dec 1, 2021 at 2:42

Higher academic age may definitely be regarded as a disadvantage by some recruitment committees. But not all. Thus, you still have a fair chance of success.

As for negotiating a higher starting rank, in the US it seems very hard to me. In the UK you may try senior lectureship, but if you stipulate this from the start it will lower the pool of possible schools to which you can apply.

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