It seems that most of the job advertisements for postdoc positions in mathematics (in the US) on mathjobs are named positions (I.e. "Smith visiting assistant professor" or something like that), and each department offers a very small number of such positions (usually between 1 to 4). But when I check the webpages of the relevant departments, it seems that they usually have something like 20-30 postdoctoral researchers, and most of them are not named postdocs.

  1. What is the common way to apply for those ordinary postdoc positions? (I can't find them on mathjobs and I know that math postdocs in the US are usually not hired by a PI)
  2. When you apply for a named position on mathjobs, does it mean that the hiring committee will automatically consider you also for the ordinary postdoc position?
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    There are some postdocs funded by grants, where the hire is in fact made by the PI(s) (maybe with open applications, maybe not). There are also self-funded postdocs (NSF and similar) where the postdoc has their own funding from a grant or fellowship, and more or less just has to call up a faculty member and say "I would like to come and work there"; you won't see applications for their positions either. Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:26
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    But it is generally true that any postdoc position for which there is a "search" (i.e. anyone can apply) will be advertised on MathJobs. So the ones that aren't there need not really concern you. Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:29
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    Having 20-30 postdocs at one school is rare. What schools did you see that at? Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 4:07

2 Answers 2


I hope it is not true that most mathjobs postdoc ads are for "named postdocs", because these exist mostly at very elite places: I am not aware of more than a dozen of them altogether. Generally there are on the order of 100 postdocs you can apply for at mathjobs.

Anyway, mathjobs is quite good at separating out various kinds of positions. At my institution we currently have four different mathjobs ads including two different kinds of postdocs. Of course you need to read carefully and understand the differences among all these positions (not all of our applicants do so).

  1. I can go in and look if you insist (really; it's not a problem), but I strongly suspect that if you are only finding "named postdocs" then you are not reading carefully enough and missing the other postdocs offered by the same departments. The vast majority of math postdocs really are available on mathjobs; I can't even think of another place that advertises these positions in any quantity.

  2. It is possible, but I wouldn't assume so. Again, mathjobs allows you to tailor your application to multiple positions at the same place. For instance you may use the same recommendation letters but submit different cover letters, and you might submit a teaching statement for one position and not another.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask at the department of interest.

Added: Thanks to Noah Snyder, who pointed out that the "dozen" above is not accurate. In fact that is the answer to a different question, namely how many departments offer postdocs under the name "Firstname Lastname Assistant Professor". I would be interested to know which departments offer "named postdocs" of one kind or another. I think it is more than 12 and less than 50.

Actually, I just checked, and 36 out of the top 55 math departments have named postdocs. So probably there are about 50 altogether.

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    My department considers all postdoc applications together and decides separately which candidates should be offered the named positions (Hildebradt research assistant professor, which has a lower teaching load) and which should be offered regular postdoc positions. Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:47
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    Indeed, I just took a quick look, and found that mathjobs currently has 166 positions under type "Postdoctoral", mostly with generic titles like "Postdoctoral research fellow" or "Research associate" --- not to mention 124 non tenure-track faculty positions, some of which are possibly appropriate for a postdoctoral position. Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 22:13
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    I think you're mistaken about the number of "named postdocs." I can think of a lot more than a dozen off the top of my head. It's the norm among say the top 50 schools to have an "X assistant professor" position, where X is some professor from 50+ years ago. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 4:05
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    For some examples: Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, UCSD, Caltech, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesotta, Northwestern, Chicago, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State (two different names!), Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina... Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 4:33
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    @Noah: Clearly I am at least somewhat mistaken. I actually tried to look this up a while ago and didn't get as many names as you did. I don't think there are anywhere near 50 though (or I am still mistaken). Wait: I remember now. I was looking specifically for "Firstname Lastname Assistant Professor" postdocs, because the Assistant Professor is taken seriously by some departments when it comes to credit towards tenure. Thus for instance Texas has an "R H Bing Instructor", which doesn't count. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 6:07

My experience of applying for post-docs through Mathjobs was that the named positions and the un-named ones were often advertised and applied for together. Sometimes different eligibility criteria apply (for example some positions are only open to those who already have a connection with the US). Where there were different positions, a lot of ads would say 'applicants for X will also be considered for Y'. A few said 'applicants for X will not automatically be considered for Y'.

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