When corresponding with administrators and/or academics regarding graduate school/PhD applications, are there any guidelines about which e-mail address to use (personal vs. professional)?

In the non-academic world, it should be fairly obvious that you shouldn't use the address of your current employer to look for a new job, but this doesn't necessarily translate to academic positions.

On the other hand, an address associated with a position with hard time constraints (such as an address at the university you're doing your Bachelor's/Master's at) seems like a no-brainer, because the people at your department probably hope you get a job somewhere else.

However, what about positions with "soft" time constraints, i.e.: "If we manage to find money for you by date, we might take you on"?-- On one hand, everyone knows that your future is uncertain and so constantly being on the lookout for future opportunities should be understandable if not even supported... but on the other hand, it entails you don't have "faith" that you'll get an extension at your current place... which means you either don't have faith in your own ability, the ability of the department to get funds, or the ability for anyone to get funds (e.g. in times of general cutbacks).

Lastly, irrespective of whatever stigmas (incorrectly) using one's current professional address may be, using an address at a well-respected organization does have an impact in the academic world over compared to using a personal address despite that academic quality should be based only on its own merit.

4 Answers 4


There are professional email addresses that have no connection with a place of employment. In many professions you can have an email address at your professional society, which serves both purposes. It shows a separation of your professional and personal life, does not link you with your employer, and also shows you to respect your profession enough to use the appropriate professional body.

In the case of computing the ACM and the BCS (in the UK) offer email addresses to members, which can then redirect to your personal or employment address.

I am not sure how many professional bodies do this, but this would be the proper way to go.

I have a number of email addresses, each one associated with a different aspect of the many roles that I play as an employee, a professional, an officer of my professional body, a parent and a private individual. I use the relevant address as appropriate in each situation. Just having two addresses is just not enough for busy well connected professional.

When I see applications to university I certainly note if inappropriate addresses are used. Inappropriate addresses are more usually seen in undergraduate applications that postgraduate ones, but they do make indications of professionalism in the subject.

  • This definitely seems like the "cleanest" way to go, but, sadly, are those memberships not often pretty expensive for people not affiliated with some big organization? Commented May 31, 2016 at 8:25
  • P.S. However, at least in the case of the ACM, it seems to be free even without paying membership dues. Commented May 31, 2016 at 8:47

I am not aware of any guidelines on this, and doubt it will have any impact whatsoever (after all, your current position/university should be clear from your CV). However, there is another reason for using your personal email: access. If you apply for a job somewhere else, there is a good chance you will eventually lose your current professional email adress. And this type of correspondance can be useful to hold on to.


It's not clear what you mean by "professional" email address - are you saying, should you contact universities you're interested in applying to using your current work email account?

Generally no, both for the reason @ipoga stated, but also because that's not "your" email account, and you should have no expectation of privacy. If it's public knowledge at work that you're applying to grad school then perhaps it's a non-issue, but we've heard of at least one case where an applicant's plans to go back to school were "outed" by an IT administrator who was looking through his emails, and told his manager.

Also, if you're using your work email to do personal stuff, most would assume you're using work TIME to do it, and that's considered stealing.

Maybe I've misunderstood the situation completely though.

  • Yes, you have... sorry. See paragraphs 2-4. Nevertheless, the privacy bit was interesting. Commented May 22, 2016 at 3:19

Does your academic institution provide alumni email addresses?

That would be a good balance of emphasize the credibility of your academic institution while ensuring your permanent access and control over the email account.

  • That would be a great solution if it were available... Commented May 22, 2016 at 16:09

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