I am a longtime user of SE but posting as anonymous for the (not so) obvious reasons.

I am an early academic researcher (though I have been working in industry for a while prior to academia), and my PhD is in Information Technology, from a fairly high ranked university (Top 100 in my area). I have been offered two tenure track positions.

Position A: Large, established, and high ranked research intensive university (research focus but limited options)

Position B: Small, young, and low ranked university (some alignment with my existing research, university is not research intensive but teaching load is attractive, some interesting research projects going on).

Salary, benefits, and package in general is almost equal. I have a good publication pipeline, and both universities are aware that I will focus mostly on my research.

My main question is, for early researchers, how does the ranking of a university where one begins the career relates to a future career in high ranked universities?

If I accept position B, would my affiliation with the low rank university affect my future progress?

Another related question is, are there any pros and cons of joining a small and young university (for early researchers such as myself)?

UPDATE: This is supposed to be comment. I don't strictly intend to use a tenure track job as a stepping stone to a more prestigious school, but as an early academic, in the initial two years if there are opportunities in more prestigious school then I would like to move (I know many people do, I don't see why this is seen as a negative thing)

  • 5
    I'm not sure I understand the question. You intend to use this tenure track job as a stepping stone to a job at a more prestigious school?
    – Jeff
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:15

1 Answer 1


Let me tell you what I told a friend who was struggling with a decision between a great department without people in his area and a good department with people in his area (including collaborators):

Go to the better school. They're not in the same league, and you may have a chance in the future to get more people in your area. You can still travel to the other school to collaborate, but you'll get much better students and postdocs at the better place. You'll be in a better environment exchanging ideas with top people.

This answer of JeffE to a related question discusses the "better environment" aspect more.

He did in fact go to the better school, and afterwards was happy with his decision. One thing he remarked was just because of the what university it is, they had top people coming in all the time and he got to interact with so many of them in a year, which wouldn't have been possible at the other school.

While I won't say this is universally what you should do (there may be other factors that matter to you here), I don't see much advantage of B, unless the people at B are truly top people in the area (in which case they might leave soon) that you want to work closly with, and wouldn't be likely to if you went to A. Since you say University B is not research intensive, you may not have as much time as you would for research at University A (e.g., the teaching expectations might be much more per class, or more administrative duties). Note there can also be tension in a department when part of the faculty is research active and part is effectively not.


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