I love pure math and currently I am at a very low ranked US math PhD programme. My area is Complex and Algebraic Geometry which I love it. But, after some semesters of being a TA, I realized that I detest teaching. Repeating and repeating again. And furthermore, having to deal with those annoying undergrads is horrible.

I really love my research subject, but since I am in a very low ranked US PhD programme at an unknown state university, with probability zero I will get a research job or even a postdoc. What non-academic options do I have after finishing? I do not mind going back to my homecountry, but the only alternatives I have there(Latin America) are working in a Bakery again, which I did during my undergrad, or sell drugs or being a smuggler. I will not even get a faculty position because I detest teaching and my PhD school is very low ranked. I could not get into a math PhD programme in my country nor Spain nor Brazil, so I got into my actual PhD school.

What should I do? Any advice besides learning programming or finance, well I may not have enough time since in my programme all TAs are overloded with work. Thank you very much.

The only reason I remain is for my own self esteem mostly and because I love pure maths; otherwise I would quit. Having said that, I have no issues selling drugs, it is just not to hurt my grandmother, who raised me, that I am looking for an alternative. She made a lot of effort and worked hard so I could finish High school. But I would do anything for not ending up as a lecturer in a crappy community college or another unknown state U or U in my country.

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    To a first approximation, research in pure mathematics doesn't happen outside academia. So you're going to have to learn something else if you don't want a career that involves teaching. Find the time.
    – user37208
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 21:21
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    Taking the opposite side of the coin from @user37208, one could contemplate the fact that many jobs have unpleasant aspects... and if we concede that your current work has little relevance outside academe, either consider the teaching to be the "down-side" of your job, with the "up-side" being that most parts of the day you get to think about complex and algebraic geometry. Even if you don't like teaching, it is not difficult to do an adequate job at the college level, simply by caring a little and being conscientious. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 21:47
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    probability zero I will get a research job or even a postdoc -- [citation needed] Publish. Collaborate with people who can write strong recommendation letters. Publish. Give talks at regional, national, international conferences. Publish. Sell tour research. Publish. Publish. Publish. Publish.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 23:05
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    @JeffE - I'm not sure that works so well in mathematics, particularly in "deeper" areas like complex algebraic geometry. Especially in some subfields, mathematics tends to prioritize graduate students having a single strong result over a larger number of more trivial ones. It can be hard to get an important problem along with good ideas on how to attack it as a graduate student in a weaker department. It's possible to overcome this if one is innately brilliant, but innately brilliant students usually (but not always!) get into better departments. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 23:49
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    @JeffE - The job market being what it is, I don't want to give people false encouragement. Hard work is important, but talent and where you're lucky enough to be already placed, which are not things an individual can affect much, also matter. If I'd been given the wrong false encouragement when I was younger, I'd probably be waiting tables while occasionally accompanying some violin recitals for peanuts and getting commissions of several hundred dollars for compositions taking two months of work, all in some expensive city - not a pleasant situation. Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 4:51

2 Answers 2


It might be too early for you to claim you detest teaching and believe this could remain for the rest of your life. Teaching does not only consist in "repeating and repeating again", and after a while you can find interest in teaching. Especially if you try novel ideas with your best students.

Part-time teaching can be an interesting way to stick to your field of interest, while doing something else.

Then, it is unlikely that you get paid for a very focused topic outside academia. Meanwhile, there exists a belief, summarized by E. Wigner in:

The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences

Many people outside academia have some fear of mathematics. Yet, it has found many applications. And those people need some fellow that master black magic. Topology has found applications in data science, algebraic geometry has potentials in cryptography or computer, and possibly other domains:

So why not invest time in applied sides, while keeping connexity to mathematics, at least closer that with dealing with white powder (I mean flour for bread of course)?

Finally, in some countries (like France), there exist research institutions where teaching is not mandatory (CNRS, INRIA). You could apply there, say for a post-doc position, and see what happens.

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    I would love going to France and work in a place like CNRS or INRIA, but remember, I am in a US low ranked crappy math department. Hence, with probability zero, I will het a position in CNRS or INRIA or a place like that. I am not a brilliant student, I could neither get accepted in a Latin America school like UNAM (Mexico) or IMPA(Brazil). I am asking for somthing real I could do. Not just that blah blah that maths have many application.
    – Marcelo
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 3:07
  • Take into account that firm research positions are like seldom, and a lot of people have funds for limited time, eg post-docs. A match between your interest and the offer could bypass average level or low-ranked math depts. Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 3:10
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    You keep claiming that being at a weak department will completely prevent you from getting a good research position, but that's just not true. Strong research results will create more opportunities for you. If you want to keep doing math, do good math.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 4:32

Have you considered working in other countries beside your home country and the US? Some developing countries in Asia or Africa would value your PhD degree and welcome you. Many lecturers there do not have a PhD degree, let alone a PhD degree from the US, regardless it is from a low-ranked programme. True, you would still be required to teach, but undergraduates' attitudes could be different there. Do not cross out these possibilities for the sake of aiming only for the top places. Otherwise, it can feel hopeless.

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