I will apply to both industry and academia while graduating with a PhD in math, but I'd prefer the industry.

The deadline to commit for the academia position is very early (end of Winter?). But one can apply for jobs in industry much later after that deadline, until graduating, which is until May-August.

There is this weird situation, where one can get an acceptance from academia, but decline it and later not getting any job in industry at all, and then it is late to pick up back the declined position from academia. On the other hand, accepting the position in academia, then getting job from industry and telling that "I changed my mind" must be highly unethical (and uncommon?).

These worries are partially based on the personal stories that currently international math grad student have much more chances to get a position in academia, then to get an industry job (any math related). Supposedly, the job market still didn't heal after the covid mess.

As an international student in the US, there is no chance to stay and keep applying to jobs after graduating. If you don't get anything, then you go home, and have very little chances to return. Is there any workaround on this? If I want an industry more than academia, do I have to risk not getting both or is there anything I'm missing?

  • 2
    Successful careers in academia and the commercial sector, for example, are quite different from each other. No one can predict the future, but this is probably a good moment to reflect on what you’d like to happen. Commented Apr 14 at 0:55
  • 3
    I would not recommend taking an academic job unless you're sure that's the direction you want to go. Very few people will actually be able to get a permanent tenure track job so if you aren't positive academia is something you want you shouldn't waste your time with the low salaries before you end up in industry anyways. Then your problem is solved.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 14 at 1:29
  • @BryanKrause If there are 2 choices: not applying to postdocs and not getting an industry job and having to leave the US, and doing a postdoc for a year and then finding an industry job in the US; then second option is more reasonable. But I want also to hear about the ethics behind. Salary is not a concern at all. I would do a food delivery as well, but the law prohibits doing non-(school major) related job.
    – anonym
    Commented Apr 14 at 2:22
  • @AzorAhai-him- I didn't know that. Fixed.
    – anonym
    Commented Apr 14 at 2:35
  • 1
    Graduation dates can often be moved out, relieving some of the pressure. Talk to your advisor.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 14 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


Many math PhDs leave academia and end up working in industry. The best approach is to first decide which type of job you want, then craft your job search (and your activities) to maximize your chance of getting such a job. If you are quite sure that you want a job in industry instead of academia, then I don't see much point in applying for academia jobs at all.

On the other hand, accepting the position in academia, then getting job from industry and telling that "I changed my mind" must be highly unethical (and uncommon?).

I think the main concern is:

  1. Try as hard as possible to not screw over the department that gave you a job by leaving them short-handed on teaching. If you left in the middle of the semester, it would be terrible. If you're thinking of leaving academia, talk to the department chair about this so they can line up someone who can step in and teach in case you leave between semesters. Try to give them as much heads up as possible.

  2. For a research postdoc, try not to screw over the department by telling them you're leaving so late in the hiring season that they can't hire someone else to take the spot they offered you.

We've had faculty leave to take jobs in industry. The chair was aware the person might leave in May. I think the latest we were ever told someone was leaving was March and it was hard to hire that late in the season to cover the fall teaching but we managed. Knowing in February would have been a lot nicer. The market for teaching instructors is a bit later than the market for research postdocs or tenure track hires.

Is there any workaround on this? If a person wants industry more than academia, does one have to risk not getting both or is there anything I'm missing?

I think a good workaround would be to apply to industry jobs earlier, perhaps even the year before you plan to finish your PhD. My students often make connections in industry, do an internship, and later get a job offer designed to start when they finish their degree. That's harder for international students because your visa might not let you take a summer internship, but you can still create a relationship with a company and line up a job to start right when you finish your PhD.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .