Due to my country's education (we finish high school later than other countries), a year off, doing master's degree, I am finding myself in my first year of PhD in States being 26 years old, possibly graduating when I am 30. I have recently become very anxious about my age, since scientific career has been always my goal, I feel like I am too old and behind everyone else. In Europe, where I am from, I have been told that age does not matter as much, and what matters is papers/scientific output, especially since the end of PhD, in support of me pursuing the doctoral degree in USA, where it takes longer. I am doing my PhD at one of the top tier schools in a very prolific group, where I am surrounded by people that got their PhD when they were 25... In addition I know from experience of me and others that in my field (physics) women are heavily biased against at all stages. Also, my field requires completion of usually 2 post-docs before applying for positions, which would take around 5 years.

I am looking for some input on this and how realistic my chances of staying in academia are, how much age matters when hiring for post-docs/faculty positions (in Europe) and how to cope with age related anxiety in academia.

  • This ground has been covered pretty thoroughly in the age tag.
    – ff524
    Jun 3, 2015 at 23:17
  • I am asking for advice about European job market, with USA-long PhD done later than most peers, and also about coping.
    – caitlyn
    Jun 3, 2015 at 23:20
  • @caitlyn If the question you want answered isn't covered by the prior questions, please ask a new one that focuses on the aspect that isn't covered. It will also be most likely to get a good answer if you ask each sub-question in its own focused question (e.g., one for the USA-Europe transfer, and a different one about coping).
    – jakebeal
    Jun 3, 2015 at 23:25
  • ok thank you! should I delete this one?
    – caitlyn
    Jun 3, 2015 at 23:35
  • @caitlyn No need: StackExchange typically preserves duplicates because they are often different phrasing of the question that still help to direct people who are searching for an answer.
    – jakebeal
    Jun 4, 2015 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


Probably, age at graduation is not the most important factor for a career in academia. But assuming it was, then according to your estimate (30), you should be rather competitive.

For the 2003 doctorate recipients, the median total time from baccalaureate to doctorate was 10.1 years, while the median registered time was 7.5 years and the median age at doctorate was 33.3 years.

Time to Degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients

(Being 33 and just about to submit my thesis, I'm right on target.) Also notice that with your pre-PhD degree, you are already looking back at a a few years of scientific education that your US peers lack, if they start grad school with a bachelors degree. Academic employers know this.

Maybe this is not a full answer to your question, but at least a consolation. Don't panic.

  • 2
    Watch out. I think that 10.1 years/age 33.3 is so high because of the humanities. Ph.D. in science and engineering is usually much less.
    – GEdgar
    Jun 3, 2015 at 22:49
  • 2
    @GEdgar "Doctorate recipients in the S&E fields typically earn their degrees while in their early 30s; the median for all 2003 doctorate recipients in the S&E fields was 31.8 years old. In comparison, age at doctorate was 34.6 years in the humanities, 37.2 years in health, 43.5 years in education, and 37.5 years in the professional/other fields category." Jun 3, 2015 at 22:51

In the US it is illegal to discriminate in hiring based on age (or on gender). So if your Ph.D. is superb, then you are in no trouble.

  • I want to go back to Europe after PhD. Also in my field people require 2 post-docs, which adds another ~5 years...
    – caitlyn
    Jun 3, 2015 at 23:13

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