Currently, I work in a small regional university, in USA, and my department has no graduate program (at least no Ph.D. program).

On the one hand, I do not have to supervise graduate students, which can be stressful. On the other hand, there is little hope for academic "reproduction". What are the pros and cons for working in such a department?

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    On the contrary, by teaching well and inspiring undergraduates you may well end up with many folks crediting you for their career choices and success. What inspired you to get a PhD? I know my undergraduate professor who did, and still chat with them occasionally some 40 years later.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 1:27
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    I'm not sure whether vote to close for not having enough focus, or close for depending on depending on individual factors (your preferences!) Also, 'no graduate program' can mean an elite small liberal arts college that leads the US in percentage of undergraduate students who eventually get a PhD, or an open admissions university where, up to rounding error, no graduates are qualified to go to graduate school. Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 2:07
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    @AlexanderWoo, it is certainly a bit broad question, but it is meaningful, I think, and useful answers can be given... Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


If your personal focus is on research then there are a number of "cons". First, since the place is small, there is less opportunity for local collaboration. Then, both the teaching load and the expectations for what you do make any research more difficult except in a few areas. You will find external funding harder to get most likely and less opportunity to use it effectively. On the other hand, any research that you get published might give you a boost locally. A 60/20/20 balance in expectations for teaching/service/research leaves little time or energy for serious research. And even the "research" portion might be more "keeping up with the field" than it is "advancing knowledge".

If your personal focus is on teaching and living in an environment rich in ideas then there are few "cons", though the pay may be lower. I went to an undergraduate place where the graduate program was nearly invisible and non-existent in my field (math). I had a lot of teachers (not all) who were very interested in my progress, not their own. They didn't publish much, but had an excellent grasp of what an undergraduate in math needed to know and for most of them, how to impart the knowledge. They helped us get insight into the field. IIRC we were only three graduates in math in our class. All of us got doctorates from good schools. One of us returned as department head after working elsewhere for a while.

If classes are small then student/faculty interaction is natural, though not every place can make that happen.

Moreover, faculty at such places have an opportunity to interact with faculty from other disciplines, which can be a plus for a "well rounded" person. The "college" system at Cambridge, for example is another way to enable this and make it natural. After dinner "sherry" hour, for example.

There was a lot of opportunity for interaction with the faculty at such a place and most of them were more than happy to oblige. It was, in fact, a community of scholars and their mentors. So, the rewards are mostly personal at such places.

It is also possible that your institution has the objective of "moving up" in the world. You might get an opportunity to design and teach in a graduate program.

But my experience both as student and faculty was that you could have a "balanced" life. That can be worth a lot to some.

  • By “balance”, do you mean work/family balance? Or balance among different aspects of one’s professional life?
    – Bilbo
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 0:38
  • All of the above.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 0:45
  • Thank you. This breakdown is really helpful.
    – Bilbo
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 0:49

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