What is the initial process to become a Mathematics's lecturer at a University in London. I want to be able to lecture in a top university in the United Kingdom such as Kings College.

What is the academic ladder that I will have to climb?

Would my undergraduate program have to be from a good university or could I graduate from a mediocre university and then enroll in a masters program at a well known university followed by a PhD?

My goal is to become a lecturer and go into research in Mathematics.

  • General approach for what you ask: Masters+Phd. Participate in writing research grants, publications, post-doc/industry for a few years, lecturer, bliss. However, I know that some universities internally hire for research positions after a candidate completes her PhD. So the answer may vary with university/country but this would be my general approach.
    – dearN
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 16:24

3 Answers 3


First, let me point out that a career as you describe it not entirely plannable: There are many more who want it than who get it, and even if you are talented and work hard, success is not guaranteed.

It probably won't matter where you did your undergrad once you've received your PhD, although going to different universities could be beneficial, as it would expose you to more different academic cultures etc.

Once you have received your PhD, you'll want to do a good postdoc. Going to some top university abroad, or becoming a Junior Research Fellow in Cambridge or Oxford could be good choices. Make sure that you develop contacts at your desired university.

After some postdoc experience you can apply for eg a Royal Society Research Fellowship or an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship, to be held at your desired university. During that time, try to convince the university to offer you a permament position after the fellowship ends.

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    This point really cannot be emphasized enough: There is NO guaranteed path to a lecturer (≈US tenure-track) position in mathematics. There are MANY more qualified, talented, hard-working, productive, and successful mathematics PhDs than there are tenure-track faculty positions. It's normal for top departments to receive more than 1000 applications for each faculty position.
    – JeffE
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 22:03
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    @JeffE, 1000 applicants for each faculty position ? I think it too much. Where are those PhDs producing from ? For example, in Number Theory or Algebraic Geometry, I don't think so many applicants are there. May be I am wrong
    – learner
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 3:50
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    @MAS: According to NSF (ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21308/data-tables) over two thousand math and statistics PHDs were granted in the US in 2019; worldwide that number is probably closer to 5000. It costs absolutely nothing to submit a PDF to a web site. So why not apply to Oxford and Cambridge and Harvard and MIT and Stanford and Chicago and...?
    – JeffE
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 20:26
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    @JeffE, I said little different if you look at my comment. You said 2000 math and stat PhD in 2019 in USA including all disciplines in math (e.g., algebra, number theory, geometry, PDE etc) and stat. As far as I know in my country generally faculty posts are advertised mentioning the '"specialty". So I don't think a position for number theory or algebraic geometry would have 1000 applications for one position. At least from my math career, I am aware of it. Forget about Oxford/Cambridge in my country candidates don't apply in other parts of the country with at most 50 applicants for 1 post
    – learner
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 2:52
  • @JeffE, Let me clarify another aspect. If you talking about this data table002, then total number of math+stat Phds from 2014-2019 is the number 2012. So it includes all PhDs produced in 2015, 2016,2017, 2018, 2019 rather than 2019 only
    – learner
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 3:15

Do you need to get a PhD to be a maths lecturer at King's College?

In order to answer this question, you should take a look at the list of faculty of the King's College London Mathematics Department. Glancing through the list of titles ("Dr X", "Professor Y") suggests to me that all of the academic staff have a PhD.

Do you need to get a PhD from a good university to be a maths lecturer at King's College?

In order to answer this question, I humbly suggest that you can spend some time to look through the education history of some of the academic staff of King's College London. This will give you a sense of the type of universities which you would need to obtain your PhD from in order to be qualified to be a lecturer at King's College.

Do you really want to do a PhD in maths?

If I read your question correctly, you have not yet enrolled in college. It is good that you have a high-level idea that you want to be a maths lecturer. However, it is hard to know whether you are capable of being a maths lecturer and whether you would enjoy this as your job until you have taken many undergraduate and graduate classes in mathematics. Once you have taken such classes, if at that point you are good at maths and enjoy it, then it may be a good idea to apply for a PhD in maths.

My father's advice

My father got a PhD in mathematics from Berkeley and has been employed as a maths professor for over 25 years. When I was younger, I had wanted to be a maths professor just like him. However, he advised me against this, because the job market for academic math jobs is very competitive. In other words, there are many more maths PhD graduates who want an academic math job than there are academic math jobs available. As a result, if you aren't really really smart, it may be hard to get an academic math job. Some math PhDs may take a few post-doc appointments (which have low pay), hoping to find a permanent academic math job, but drop out and find some sort of regular job.

My father's advice was for me to study for a PhD in a related math-y field, e.g. applied math, (non-theoretical) computer science, operations research. In those fields it is easier to get an academic job. I did follow his advice, and am studying for a PhD in operations research. Most of the students who graduate from my department can get a tenure-track job, or those who want to work in industry can get good jobs in Google, LinkedIn, banks, consulting, etc. I would conclude therefore that most of the graduating PhD students in my department are happy with their employment opportunities.

Do your research

I would encourage you to find out more about the benefits and costs of an academic math career as you go about your undergrad studies. For example, talk to math professors to ask them whether they think you have the ability to be a maths lecturer. Also, talk to some current PhD maths students to find out how they feel about their job prospects. As Jesus once said, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?" So before you apply for a PhD, get a sense of what type of job you could get with the PhD, whether you want to spend 3 or more years of your life with low pay as a graduate student/post-doc in order to get the job, and what your chances are of getting this job.

Good luck!

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    "Do you need to get a PhD to be a maths lecturer at King's College?" Of course the answer is yes, but...who asked that question? Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 19:54
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    Thanks for the great reply. I am currently a second year student at London Metropolitan University. The maths is pretty easy here and I try to study it to a degree of being able to teach it to others in my course which I do at the moment and I enjoy the teaching aspect but I also research into my modules too and enjoy that aspect too. Research aspect as in reading further into my modules, understanding the whys and how's of it. My goal is at the moment to study masters in mathematics at kings college. I want to know about other applied maths fields but haven't researched into them. Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 21:11
  • The OP asked "I want to be able to lecture in a Top university in the UK such as Kings College... My goal is to become a lecturer and go into research in Mathematics." I took his question a little more literally as "I want to lecture in King's College in mathematics." Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 21:12
  • You're welcome! As JeffE mentioned in his comment, it is extremely difficult to get a maths lecturer position in a good university. Take some hard graduate maths classes, and talk to maths profs/TAs, to get a better sense of what maths research is like. If your main interest/gift is teaching, there are other opportunities: 1) to be a lecturer in a teaching college, but from heresay the pay can be low, you have to teach a lot of classes, and you don't do research. 2) to be a teacher in a high school. If your main interest is math, try more applied fields: CS, operations research, statistics Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 2:20

If you have done good research no one cares where you first degree is from. However, bear the following points in mind 1) it is hard to move up universities 2) it is hard to do a good PhD without a good supervisor and without a good research environment 3) it is very hard to get a good postdoc if you haven't done your PhD at a top university and it is hard if you have.

If you are really good at maths, one option is to try and go beyond what is taught at your current university to leave you well prepared. Then do Part III at Cambridge, if you do well there, you will be well placed to get a good phd place.

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