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At what age is it too late to pursue graduate studies? Does age matter in graduate application? How would potential supervisors think of candidates who are older than themselves?

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If you are old enough that the time for your degree, post-docs, and tenure track would put you close to retirement age, noting that academics retire rather late, then some advisors would be skeptical of taking you on. Investing a lot of effort in training somebody who can’t have a maximally canonical academic career might turn them off. But there are many examples of successful graduate students, by any measure, starting in their 30s and 40s. There are less examples of older students going on to have full and illustrious research careers, but if you are middle aged and want to do a PhD more for your own passion than to spend your golden years moving all over the world and fighting for tenure, then this is something that happens reasonably often. You might just not be able to work in the “hottest” labs.

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    Note that "passion" PhDs are more common than some subjects than others, particularly subjects that don't have "labs". Further, older PhDs researchers, just generally, are more common in arts, humanities, and social sciences. I've had graduate students (mostly master's level) the age of my parents and that was fine and not particularly weird. Apr 7, 2022 at 6:49
  • @GrotesqueSI Thanks. It makes sense that fields where a PhD is more about writing a monograph than about running huge experiments or developing tech to spin off into a startup are more open to older students. Apr 7, 2022 at 18:00

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