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I am a fresh Ph.D. scholar. I have applied for several academic jobs and recently I got acceptance for a Postdoc position in a university (world QS rank 71) and an assistant professorship offer in a university which is not among top 1000 university in the world but known as an average university in my subject area.
Being a fresh Ph.D. scholar what should be my priority?
For both positions, the contract is 2 years. Which job experience, postdoc or AP, will give me better chance to get a better position after 2 years?

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  • what is your subject area? – Krebto Jul 13 '17 at 7:10
  • @krebto Computer science – MBK Jul 13 '17 at 7:14
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    It's probably worth explaining what it means that the AP position has a contract of two years. Is it not a tenure-track/continuing position? You can't get good advice on the job titles alone; you have to consider duties (especially teaching), etc. – Ben Webster Jul 13 '17 at 12:12
  • @ben for AP the contract can be extended after every 2 years. It's a newly established department; HOD told me that besides teaching responsibilities I may expect a lot of administrative and managerial responsibilities. For postdoc position I will work on two projects along with 1 PhD and 1 MS student. – MBK Jul 13 '17 at 12:49
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    @MBK That sounds like a giant red flag to me. Unless that department is where you want to be forever, I wouldn't do it. – Ben Webster Jul 13 '17 at 18:26
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A good boss (both personally and scientifically) is everything. Try to find out where you will get the best (direct) supervisor/professor because that is where you will most likely be both happier and more productive.

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University ranking offers almost no information; you need to look at the quality and reputation of the departments that are offering you jobs. For the sake of answering the question, let's assume that you have a postdoc offer from a reasonably strong CS department (KU Leuven qualifies) and an assistant professor offer from a mediocre department. I also assume that you eventually want a faculty position in a strong department---neither of your current offers qualifies. Finally, let's assume these are the only two options you are willing to consider.

Take the postdoc.

First, moving from a weaker department to a stronger department is significantly harder than moving in the other direction. Hiring committees will make snap judgments about you based on the reputation of your current department; all else being equal, applications from stronger departments are more successful. (Of course, all else is never equal. And the fact that people shouldn't make snap judgments like this is irrelevant.) Same goes for funding applications and conference/journal publications.

Second, weaker departments (at least in the US) have less (or no) expectation of faculty research, and therefore provide fewer resources for research. Those resources include strong graduate research-active colleagues, and (most importantly) time. Weaker departments tend to have higher faculty teaching loads with weaker (or no) TA support, and you've already been told to expect a large administrative workload.

In short, if you accept a position in a significantly weaker department, you are likely to be less productive, and the research you do publish is likely to be valued less. This discrepancy will offset any benefit from accepting a faculty position earlier.

  • Downvoter: Care to explain your disagreement? – JeffE Jul 18 '17 at 10:48
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    I downvoted for many reasons. One is that you usually have more opportunitis to get grants and students as associate professor, leading to more papers, possibly some last author papers. And you get leadership experience. All of these are very important to get further grants and better jobs. So I think your idea of how hiring committees work is not right, and most certainly not true for many hiring committees. – louic Jul 30 '17 at 9:44
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    One is that you usually have more opportunitis to get grants and students as associate professor — Not in my experience, but this may vary by field. (My field doesn't have "last authors".) — I think your idea of how hiring committees work is not right — I've been on my department's hiring committee for about 15 years, including three as committee chair, and most of my former PhD students hold tenure-track faculty positions. – JeffE Jul 30 '17 at 17:52
  • In the hiring committees I have seen, people are judged mostly on their research output: the number of papers and the reputation of the journals. If you already got a grant this is a big plus. Some grants require people to have a permanent position. My personal experience is that a good boss massively increases research output, a top 10 university (I worked in 2 top 10 EU universities) does not. Especially as a young postdoc you need papers, not "university credentials without papers", hence my own answer and downvote of this one. I also think your bold "take the postdoc" is much too direct. – louic Jul 31 '17 at 14:01
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    (I worked in 2 top 10 EU universities) — Europe and the US have very different faculty hiring practices and politics. That said, I'm not proposing "university credentials without papers", but the exact opposite. Taking a faculty position with fewer resources and a higher teaching load means publishing less. Conversely, taking the postdoc means publishing more. – JeffE Aug 1 '17 at 0:59
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I think you should think about the final result that you plan to achieve at the end of this work. For example, the goal is to publish as many scientific articles in the best journals as possible. Then you must assess your abilities and resources to achieve this goal (based on your experience during PhD). If you think that you have enough strength to generate ideas and publish good articles in good journals, then professorship is for you. If you are not ready for an independend job and needs some supervision, then go for a postdoc.

  • @levgen Thank you for your answer. I can generate results independently. However, being part of a research group which is already producing good results will definitely increase my capacity to publish more. The question here is what is more beneficial for a fresh PhD? 2 years of AP experience in an average university (less publication but independent job experience) or 2 years of postdoc in reputed university (more publication but not an independent job experience) – MBK Jul 13 '17 at 7:38
  • @MBK Again, if you are sure that working as an assistant professor will not lead to a sharp drop in your performance, I would choose a professor. If there are doubts about the ability to work completely independently, then go for a postdoc. At the same time, the university's rating itself is not so important for your case in my opinion. – Ievgen Nedrygailov Jul 13 '17 at 8:05
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If the Assistant Prof. position will eventually lead you to tenure and if you feel confident you can manage it, you should go for it. A postdoc in a reputable university doesn't mean anything if you don't end up publishing good papers, which of course you can't know in advance.

In the end, the job of a postdoc is to find a stable position, and you have been given the opportunity to reach it through the Assistant Prof. contract.

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At the end, both are job. Based on your previous research achievements, e.g., number and venue of publication, you can choose PostDoc or Asst. Professor. It's not only about independent research, many factors are related. Also be aware that this short term Asst Prof. deals with overloaded teaching assignments, in that sense, PostDoc will bring your own research identify.

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