In India, a minimum of 3 years of work experience is necessary to be appointed as an assistant professor in any of the IITs. (Years during the PhD or master's are not counted, but any year spent outside university after bachelor's will count.)

Is such a work experience a necessity even in US universities? If yes, how much will this weigh towards selection? If the candidate has only a post-bachelor's experience, what should be highlighted from that so as to enhance this application?

  • I think you meant "associate" instead of "assistant" - the latter requires at least 6 years on the link! – TCSGrad Jun 20 '12 at 8:18
  • @shan23: Thanks, it was an error on the link. Have provided a new link now. – Bravo Jun 20 '12 at 8:23
  • Yes, it is called a post-doc. – bobthejoe Jun 20 '12 at 9:02
  • @bobthejoe: Post-doc and this necessity are not the same, but is post-doc compulsory? – Bravo Jun 20 '12 at 9:16
  • @Bravo - The first link was for IIT Chennai, while the new link is for IIIT (not of the same stature as the other IITs, IMHO). So, which requirement do we take to be more binding? – TCSGrad Jun 20 '12 at 9:25

There are no universal rules regarding employment status and being hired at US universities. In some fields, such as engineering, graduate students may be hired before they have completed any post-graduate professional experience. In contrast, in departments such as physics, it may be required to complete several post-doctoral appointments before being considered for faculty positions.

There are some general guidelines, however:

  • In less "applied" STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, more time is generally required in academic positions before earning a full-time faculty position.
  • In more "applied" fields, the time spent is reduced. Unfortunately, in some cases, although industrial experience is often seen as a good thing, it also has a tendency to make it difficult to jump back into a research field—unless one has been employed in an industrial research capacity.
  • In humanities fields, it's very difficult of to be able to continue to a faculty position after leaving academia.

I doubt the minimum is rigid and there is a room for lot of considerations. I'd like to point you to a specific example (IISc). Although the points are opinions of a single person, my conversations with people at IISc have yielded similar opinions.

Prof. Giridhar Madras(Did his PhD from TAMU in <3 years!) has an excellent blog dedicated to IISc/IITs and some excellent articles for prospective faculty.

He points to one page that he authored about recruitments in IISc from which I'd like to quote a few points:

  • Technically, there is no age bar and no limit to the experience a candidate may have, but with increasing years of experience, candidates must be considered for correspondingly higher appointments. Though IISc has recruited faculty from 27 to 37 years old at the assistant professor level, the median age of recruitment would be around 30.

  • Begin making your enquiries at least one year before you actually want to move. The time taken to acknowledge an application vary from department to department, depending on the chairperson. If this happens, find someone you may know in the department and request them to check with the chairperson of the department. After an application is acknowledged, try to arrange an informal visit with a seminar. You can indicate that you are planning a trip to India in the month of X and would be happy to give a talk/seminar at that time. In your conversation with the chairperson, state the time frame you want to join the institute. Normally, chairpersons will arrange your talk. Besides the talk, a visit with all faculty will also be arranged. Talk to all faculty and make your research sound interesting to them. Talk about your doctoral and postdoctoral research, your future plans and how you plan to distinguish yourself from your advisors. If possible, explain why you think you will fit into the department. Also, there is nothing wrong in stating that you have applied to more than one place and your preferences depending on the offers.

  • The suggested timeline is as follows: Apply to several institutes at month X. Follow up and try to get an acknowledgment by month X+1 or X+2. Then, send an email saying that you are visiting India in X+3 month and would like to give a seminar. Try to schedule as many seminars in many institutes in that month. After the seminar, inform them you are willing to return around X+6 months, which will require them to make a quick decision. You can return after X+12 months because the institutes will give you time to join. Please note that each department in IIT/IISc receives at least around 30 to 40 applications per position. Simply applying by email and expecting a detailed response is foolhardy. Unless the applicant shows repeated interest (followed by a visit to give a seminar), it is unlikely that the application will be considered seriously.

The Civil dept at IISc has an informal FAQ for it's recruitments.

  • Thanks for the links. I do think the rule is much stricter in IITs than at IISc. – Bravo Jun 21 '12 at 8:36
  • Yes. To be honest, I feel IITs and IISc are worlds apart in their approach to research, teaching and everything in general. – user107 Jun 21 '12 at 16:40

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