I am planning to apply for a PhD programme (probably in the UK). I have two solid sources for academic letters of recommendation (my Director of Studies and my Master's Project supervisor. Now, some places I'm applying to require three letters of recommendation and here I have a dilemma: I could go for a generic academic reference from a random professor or strong reference from my Technical Authority at work.

Due to several random factors, I have not managed to establish a particularly strong connections at my university(ies) with anyone apart from the two people I already mentioned. I've worked with some people personally but I know if I ask them for a letter I shouldn't expect anything more than "SaladButt had been a good performing student, he grasped things fast and got good grades THE END". Being one year out of school does not help. On the other hand, I could ask my Technical Authority at work to write me one. I know it would be a solid letter as I have already seen the feedback she wrote me for annual reviews. On top of that I'm pretty convinced my field (engineering/robotics) values hands-on experience and that I could prove with my work history.

I have seen many people here say that letters from academics always win over ones from employers. Do you think it also applies in this case?


No, actually, in this case I think that the strong reference from work would strengthen your application. (It would be different if you didn't have two strong academic references.)

I took the approach you propose.

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