*Edit in response to comments: I'm not asking "What is the number of publications n of quality q1 such that anybody who has n many publications is guaranteed to get a job at a school like Y?" There is no such value of n. What I'm asking is, "Is there a number of publications n, of some quality q such that without n many publications of quality q, one will likely not get a job at a school like Y?" I realize the title is misleading.

This is in response to a conversation that developed in this thread.

I would like to hear from academia.SE members who have been search committee members on a junior search. How many publications, and of what quality would be required to get a job at different kinds of universities?

Let's say for the purpose of this exercise that we are in the U.S. and that there are five kind of universities.

  1. 2 year community colleges with incredibly heavy teaching expectations (4/4+)
  2. 4 year public or private colleges with heavy teaching expectations (3/4)
  3. Elite small liberal arts colleges with moderate to light teaching expectations (2/2 - 3/3).
  4. Non-elite state universities with graduate programs and light teaching loads (2/2).
  5. Elite universities with little to no teaching (1/- or 1/1).

It would also be helpful if respondents would identify which discipline they are in.

  • 10
    Answering to "How much publication required" is so opinion based and varies from one to another. As, one person may have only one paper published in a journal with high impact factor and another has paid to publish more than twenty papers in very low quality journals. Can you compare these two? Your question, in my opinion is both opinion based and broad.
    – enthu
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 21:41
  • 3
    The quality of each paper and a person's resume is not a mathematical formula, each person should be assessed based on his own CV.
    – enthu
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 21:59
  • 2
    Elite universities with little to no teaching (1/- or 1/1). — There is no such thing as an elite university. There are only elite departments.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 1:12
  • 2
    nobody is evaluated neutrally, objectively or fairly — I agree with the first two, but strongly disagree with the third.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 1:26
  • 3
    "Fair" to me means only that all applicants are reviewed by the same criteria. Those criteria cannot be objective, because there is no objective standard for good research, even within a single subfield, and they cannot be neutral, because they necessarily depend on the needs and goals of each department.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 5:39

3 Answers 3


I'm the faculty search chair for a top-5 American computer science department.

How many publications, and of what quality would be required to get a job...?

This is simply the wrong question. To be considered for a position, you must have an independent research record among the very best in the world in your age cohort and subfield. The number of publications really doesn't matter, for the same reason grades don't matter for admission to a top PhD program; there are enough applicants with enough publications that we can afford to focus on more important features.

What matters more is the quality, visibility, impact, and reputation of your research. You must have a coherent and compelling research vision and agenda. You must have letters from the very best people in your field—people that the search committee already know by reputation, preferably not at your home institution. Those letters must say things like "major impact on the field" and "strongest student on the market this year", with specific, technical, and credible details to back up their opinions.

Moreover, the search committee must agree with the assessment in the reference letters. Without a champion on the search committee, you will not get an interview; there are simply too many strong applicants. Yes, we do read your statements, your papers, and other papers that cite your papers ourselves. We also call up colleagues in your field who didn't write you letters and ask them who the best people are in your field; they'd better mention you.

That gets you to the short list of people we are willing to interview. Unless it's a dry year, there are more people on this list than interview slots, so the recruiting committee has long discussions comparing the merits of various candidates and arguing about departmental needs/strategy. Sometimes enough clear winners emerge; more often, we just have to vote.

Once you are invited to an interview, your performance at the interview often becomes more important than your past record. Your talk must be compelling and polished. You must impress the faculty and students you meet with your breadth of expertise, your research agenda/vision, your likely success as an advisor, as a collaborator, as an instructor, and as an intellectual leader.

In short, it must be clear that you will get tenure.

Inevitably, more people will "pass" the interview than we have positions to offer. So there is another long and wide-ranging discussion among the faculty, comparing the merits of the various top candidates and arguing about departmental needs. Sometimes clear winners emerge; other times the faculty deadlock and the department head has to make the call.

I have seen candidates with 2 or 3 groundbreaking papers get hired (and later get tenure). I have also seen fresh PhDs with 20+ papers in top venues that were not even considered for an interview, because their work was judged incremental or narrow. The number of papers is simply not the right metric to care about.

  • 7
    The OP's question, in addition to being the wrong question for the kind of school you're at (the OP's category #5), is also the wrong question for the kind of school I'm at: a community college. Of course we don't care about research. What we do care about is the attitude displayed in the question, which is that teaching is a burden to be avoided.
    – user1482
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:43
  • I'm surprised to see an "attitude toward teaching" being imputed to my question. I don't rank the kinds of universities in terms of desirability. There's no judgment made or even implied in my question about the different kinds of schools or different levels of teaching responsibilities a candidate might find at them. The only language I used above that could even plausibly be construed as evaluative is my calling a teaching load greater than 4/4 "incredibly" heavy, which doesn't seem unfair.
    – user10636
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 21:06
  • 1
    I think the attitude toward teaching is displayed in the framing of the question. "How many publications do you need to get hired at a community college?" ignores the most important requirement for being hired at a community college—evidence of teaching excellence.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 0:46
  • Hiring decisions are based in teaching, service and research. Asking about expectations along one axis at a certain kind of school doesn't tell you anything about the other axes. I know teaching schools care a lot about teaching. What I want to know is how much do they care about publishing? "They care about it less than they care about teaching" is perfectly true, but not especially informative.
    – user10636
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 2:33

Here's an answer for philosophy, based on anecdotal experience seeing my friends CVs and how they fared on the job market.

  1. No expectations of research. Tenure, if it exists, is going to be on the basis of teaching and service.
  2. Here you need to have published something, but it isn't terribly important that it be in a very high-profile journal. To get tenure you'll probably have to get two to four things published, but quality won't matter very much.
  3. Here you'll need to have at least one very good publication under your belt in order to get considered and realistically probably more like 3-4 publications in top 20 journals for your field. these are desirable jobs and quality will definitely count.
  4. To get a job that involves grad teaching you are going to have to have a number of very high profile publications that speak to your ability to become a recognized leader in your field. I'd think you'd need 3-5 publications, some of which are in top 10ish places.
  5. To get the brass ring, you don't seem to need more than one or two papers, but they need to be in the very best places there are, plus you need to have a couple other papers in the works that your SC can imagine will land there too.
  • I should also add, I'm a post-doc. I haven't been a SC member, although I've seen a bunch of searches. Don't take my word as gospel here.
    – user10636
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 1:23

The answer we give at our R1 is "N+1" both in regards to hiring and promotion/tenure. That is, there's no safe bright line. Even if you had N publications, you would have needed "N+1" to get hired, promoted, or tenured. It makes for a lot of anxiety in the junior faculty.

Note: Been a search committee member on both searches within my department in the social sciences as well as interdisciplinary programs in the humanities.

  • Everybody I know is afraid of this too. I guess I'm asking less about a bright line that guarantees success than I am about the dark line that guarantees failure. Is there a minimum below which your application simply won't be considered? You can't have a bright line b/c somebody else could have simply done more than you. But you might notice a floor...
    – user10636
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:40
  • When I was at a SLAC, there was no floor. We hired people without publications. At my R1, for entry positions you need to give us something to read. A published journal article is best, but it can also be in galleys. At worst, we've read people's dissertations but that's always a bad idea. I don't think we've hired anyone who doesn't have at least one publication under their belt (ideally 2-3, with their dissertation monograph under contract for publishing, etc.) . This is in the social sciences, by the way. As always, your mileage may vary.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 3:13
  • 1
    BTW, the teaching load at my R1 is 2:2 or 2:1 depending on the department. The university itself prides itself on requiring everyone -- including the Famous People® with Nobel Prizes -- to teach the undergrads.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 3:15

You must log in to answer this question.