I have read the questions in this website regarding age and PhD. But I couldn't find on age limit for specifically for pure mathematics and for an academic career (research position / postdoc / ...).

My questions is that I am 35 now and I am going to finish PhD in age 39-40; even if I would have good published papers by age 40, wouldn't that age be too old for research position or postdoc? I stress on the word pure mathematics because employers (universities, ...) are looking for young minds in hope of better research (and high creativity).

Thanks a lot in advance for your help.

  • 4
    If your work shows that you are creative and productive, I would not expect a problem.
    – Boris Bukh
    Jul 30, 2015 at 14:32
  • 5
    In many countries, it would be illegal for an employer to set an explicit age limit for a job. Jul 30, 2015 at 16:16
  • 9
    Yes, I understand that it is possible that there could be bias against older applicants. But I wanted to point out that you will not, in the countries where it's illegal, find an explicit age limit. Jul 30, 2015 at 16:28
  • 5
    When my department evaluates postdoc applications, the age of the candidate doesn't matter; I don't think it's even on the application form (on MathJobs), though I confess to rarely paying attention to all the stuff on the form (I've developed reflexes for focusing on the important parts). What is relevant, though, is how long the person has had the Ph.D. Some of our postdoc positions are limited to people who got their Ph.D. within the preceding two years. Jul 30, 2015 at 18:08
  • 2
    In summary, it's time since PhD that matters (and some postdoc adverts include an explicit limit like 5 years), and that you've done good work. Aug 1, 2015 at 11:58

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments, the answer is that there are typically no age limits. What postdoc positions occasionally limit (e.g., NSF postdocs) is the number of years since you've gotten your PhD, and there is often a preference to hiring recents PhD, which is what we mean typically mean by "young mathematicians." (We usually look at dates of degrees rather than age specifically when reviewing applications.)

Many mathematicians started off in other fields first, and there are quite a number of successful mathematicians who have gotten their PhDs in their 30s-40s. See this MO question for examples. Also, here is a related MSE question.

To be honest, I haven't seen enough examples personally from the hiring perspective to know whether there is some bias against age in hiring postdocs or not--I imagine there is at some point, e.g. at 60 or 70, people may not think it's worth training someone who may not have any good years left and such a candidate would need to have done something truly amazing to be competitive. But at 40, this is not as big of an issue as it might have been in the past--many mathematicians nowadays do great work after 40 (including people on the MO list above) and are recognized as such. This is corroborated by the fact that research universities regularly hire professors who in their 40s and 50s (though it is rare to hire someone to do research someone who is already in their late 50s or 60s). So, I wouldn't worry too much about a bias against your age.

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