I am applying to several MS programs in computer science. I graduated last year with a bachelor's in physics and a CS minor. So far, two of my recommenders are:

  • The professor I did research with in a physics lab for 2+ years as an undergrad
  • My current manager in a data science / software development role

I'm torn about who to use for the third letter, between my undergrad academic advisor (and current chair of the physics department at that institution) and a science journalist and producer of the radio show I worked on last summer.

I think the journalist would have more interesting things to say about me but I keep reading about how committees want to see letters from professors. I had a good relationship with my academic advisor but he'd probably just repeat things that my research leader would say. Is position really more important than breadth in this case?

  • 6
    You want your letter writers to speak to your research abilities / potential, so if your radio show manager has a proven research track record and can evaluate whether you have the capabilities to do good research, then you go with that person; else find someone who can do that.
    – Mad Jack
    Nov 26, 2017 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


Request both. Then, use a combination of them tailored to what position you're applying for. An academic position may call for the academic-heavy reference list, whereas an industry position or a position where someone of influence is acquainted with one of your recommenders, would perhaps change that equation.

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