I'm a student at a reasonably prestigious, but not top, graduate program in mathematics. I'm happy here- I really like the professors in my research group, and I feel like I'm a pretty good fit for the program. I have a fantastic supervisor, and many of the other professors in the department like and respect me.

But sometimes, I really worry about my future in academia. I feel like I'm doing pretty well compared to my peers, but I'm just afraid that given the job situation I'm not going to be able to get a good postdoc, and ultimately not a good research position, because I'm not at a top program. Given that the people in my research group are well-regarded and a great fit for me, how much will the fact that I'm not at a top program affect my chances of getting a good postdoc in the future?

  • 6
    One of the deciding factors is how well-connected and well-respected your advisor is. Your advisor should be in communication with prospective future professors that you can work with. In addition to this, you should be networking on your own with people in your field. You can do this simply by email correspondence or meeting at relevant conferences, etc. If you don't have name recognition (meaning haven't made connections), a post doc will be incredibly difficult to get. If you're doing meaningful research, where you are doesn't matter nearly as much as name recognition a la the above. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 4:05
  • 6
    A first approximation is how well other students from your program have done in the past. If some of them have gotten the sort of job you would like, then you just need to do as well as they did (and comparisons with your peers can help you gauge your progress). If nobody from your program has accomplished this in recent memory, then you'll need to stand out as a real star. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 5:07
  • 3
    A few people from my program get fantastic postdocs (maybe once every 2 years or so), and a lot of them get postdocs that, to me, seem good. But it's kind of hard to know what happens to them after that.
    – anonymous
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 5:15
  • 4
    If they are working in academic math, googling their names together with "math" is likely to quickly find out the answer.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 11:00
  • 1
    It is natural to worried. "Good" maths postdocs are tough for anyone to get, even people in top schools. Try not to get bogged down with defeatist attitudes and focus on doing nice research, writing papers, giving talks, and so on. Your personal brand is ultimately much more important than where you studied, as mentioned by @CameronWilliams. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


Here is some relevant research that might actually help you estimate the probability that you will find a good post-doc, and after that, a good tenure-track job:

Their empirical data comes from Business, Computer Science, and History, but you can probably extrapolate to Mathematics.


You must log in to answer this question.

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