I am interested in a PhD program and would like to work with a particular advisor. He is 69 years old now, and I am wondering whether he will retire soon, but I am not sure whether this is not a bit rude to ask. What can I expect, generally speaking? Shall I email him and ask him directly?

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    I think it's okay to ask directly, since this is a matter that has professional implications outside the professor's personal life. I'd advise talking with the professor in person rather than email.
    – Drecate
    Jan 7, 2017 at 18:42
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    Yes, ask directly. Do you plan to retire in the near future? In-person just as stated as well. Jan 7, 2017 at 19:02
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    Having recently turned 69, I suppose I'm an authority on this subject. Sure, go ahead and ask. I've occasionally been asked in an indirect form, like "will you still be accepting new Ph.D. students next year?" If I were planning to retire soon, I'd have to answer that negatively. Jan 8, 2017 at 1:12

2 Answers 2


By asking, "are you accepting PhD students in the coming academic year?" you will find out not only whether they are openly planning on retiring soon, but also critically whether their docket of students is full. You can do this via email without risking offending them. In your email, also justify why you are interested in working with them.

I personally have experience with this, and unfortunately the person I contacted was retiring in the next year, and they told me so when I emailed them.


Feel free to ask.
You might get a specific answer like "in 2 years" or "when my retirement condo is paid off", or they may not know.

They might want to keep going until they can't any longer. This is quite common.

Unless they say something like "at the end of this year", then work with them if they are willing to work with you.

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