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How many years of research before a professorhsip

  1. Aug 22, 2015 #1
    How many years does a postdoc have to spent active in researches before he can attain a full position as a professor and has his own laboratory?
    Not too long ago I found a PhD thesis of my current group leader, it was written in 2000 or so and now (after 14 years) he has become a prof and has established his own research group. I'm not sure when he got his professorship but I guest it's around 2008, around 8 years after his PhD. Is that typical?
    I have a feeling that being active in researches for many years is not the only condition to be eligible for a professorship, can somebody tell me in general what requirements does it take?
     
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  3. Aug 22, 2015 #2

    Orodruin

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    This is a too general question to answer with anything but "it depends". It depends on the field, the country, the scientist, the university, and luck.
     
  4. Aug 22, 2015 #3
    My field is physics, as for the country I can't say anything now since I'm currently actually in the post period of my master and trying to decide the next place for my PhD out of several options. But is the number of years of research and other requirements significantly different between countries, well let's confine it within research-leading countries only (I don't want to mention such countries as this is based in my opinion and would potentially cause people being insulted).
     
  5. Aug 22, 2015 #4

    Orodruin

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    This is still too broad by far. There are a huge number of sub fields and I personally cannot speak for more than high energy theory.

    Yes. It also depends on what you mean by professorship, full professor? Tenure? Tenure track? There are many stages after postdoc.
    To take an example, in high energy physics in Italy, it would be surprising if you even got a tenure track without four or five postdocs, three if you are very very good. Other countries and fields you don't even have to do one. It is a lot about the competition as well, apart from the factors of luck and good contacts.
     
  6. Aug 22, 2015 #5
    it really does depend upon the country; in the UK professors usually hold a chair; and are awarded after establishing themselves as having the highest reputation in their field.

    university lecturers and readers in the UK are called professors in many other countries.
     
  7. Aug 22, 2015 #6

    ZapperZ

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    Because you didn't want to reveal where in the world you are, or where your question pertains to, I'll just give you the situation in the US. Whether it is relevant to you or not, it is not my problem.

    From the way you wrote your question, it appears as if you have an impression that this is all just a matter of length of service. This is definitely not true here. First of all, a postdoc is simply a temporary position at a particular institution. You are NOT guaranteed a professorship position anywhere! Before your postdoc position ends, if you wish to be a college professor, then you have to look for an open tenure-track position at a university, and be accepted to that position. This isn't trivial, because (i) you have to find a tenure-track position that matches the field of expertise that you have, and (ii) you have to compete with other candidates.

    If you are lucky enough to get hired as a tenure-track faculty member, then you assume the level of an Assistant Professor. You are not tenured yet. Depending on the school, you will be given 3, 4, 5 years to show not only your teaching abilities, but also your ability to carry out outstanding research, attract external funding, etc. Different schools have different qualities that they are looking for, and the demand goes higher at the more prestigious institutions.

    Then, after that period of time has elapsed, you will be considered for tenure. This is where the faculty member in your department will examine your record, and see if you should be awarded tenure. If you do, you will be promoted to an Associate Professor. If not, they will either let you go, or give you a contract to continue at that institution, possibly with no chance for tenure.

    To gain full professorship, you need to show not only a track record of research, graduating students, etc., but also a recognized authority on your subject area, as exhibited by the number of professional committees, invited presentation, election into various professional organizations, etc. Different schools have very different criteria on awarding full professor status.

    So asking how many years it will take to get there is a bit puzzling, because there really isn't a set time limit.

    Zz.
     
  8. Aug 22, 2015 #7

    HallsofIvy

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    I'm not sure what you are asking. You refer to "post doc" and then jump immediately to "professor". A post doc is typically for one or two years. Then you start "job hunting" for an "assistant professorship". You might hold that for three years before being promoted to "associate professor" and then another three to seven years before being promoted to "professor". If, after three years as an assistant professor, or seven years as an associate professor, you are not promoted you might have to start considering a new job search, even if you have tenure.
     
  9. Aug 22, 2015 #8
    Thanks for the answers! Especially @ZapperZ, for the clear chronological story.
    I'm aware of that, that's why I asked the last question in my original post.
    Why is this so? Can't they just give me another chance to improve?
    Can you please point out the criteria of an "outstanding research", how do they judge whether a research is outstanding or not? Is it the number of publications or the number citations of one's paper or both?
     
  10. Aug 22, 2015 #9

    cgk

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    In the US it is mostly a matter of publication record (how many papers, in which journals, how consistently) and professional recognition by established scientists (i.e., you need "letters of recommendation" from established professors who are experts in your field, which tell the faculty search committees how very special and unique and totally great you are, and what a fantastic colleague you would be and how sorry they are that they cannot hire you themselves). For the letters you need connections, which you get by going to conferences and talking to people about your work and their work, and by collaborations on common projects.

    If you have highly cited papers, pointing this out on your CV would definitively help. But having such papers is not a requirement, because for grad students and postdocs there is often not enough time for papers to acquire many citations by the time they go on job search. (Note: If you point out the citation numbers, make sure that they are indeed impressive for you field.)
     
  11. Aug 22, 2015 #10

    micromass

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    [QUOTE="maNoFchangE, post: 5206560, member: 548815"
    Why is this so? Can't they just give me another chance to improve?
    [/QUOTE]

    It's a very competitive field. If you don't rise to meet their standards, someone else will.
     
  12. Aug 22, 2015 #11

    Orodruin

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    As I understand it, what tenure track means might also depend on the university. Some universities might hire more than one tenure track but only give one of them the possibility of tenure. This means you would directly compete with the other. At other places you are really only competing with yourself to get up to standard.
     
  13. Aug 22, 2015 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    They have given you typically five years. (Tenure is awarded after six years, typically, with a decision after five) How much more of a chance do you think is appropriate? Ten years? Fifteen?

    The criteria for promotion is a history of scholarship, teaching and university service. This is typically judged by the physics department's committee on tenure and promotions, the physics department, the dean of science, the provost and ultimately the university president.
     
  14. Aug 23, 2015 #13

    jtbell

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    Maybe things have changed since I was involved with these things, or maybe they're different at research universities versus small colleges, but my experience has been that (in the US) the decision on tenure and promotion to associate prof normally comes during the sixth year. This is for "fresh hires" who have no previous experience in an assistant/associate/full professor-level position. I've not heard that the decision on promotion from associate to full prof affects one's tenure status, just salary and seniority ranking.

    In the US, revoking a professor's tenure and firing him is a very serious matter. It normally happens only if he gets into serious trouble like being convicted of a crime, or refusal to perform his duties; or the college/university gets into serious financial trouble, has to cut a department's positions in a restructuring, and there are no non-tenured faculty in the department to take the hit. Rather than simply firing a tenured professor and dealing with a lawsuit, I suspect they'll usually bribe him to leave with generous financial incentives.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  15. Aug 23, 2015 #14
    Ok, thanks for all the answers, they are all very informative and helpful. My first impression about postdoc and assistant professor was that they are in one package, meaning after you finish postdoc, an assistant prof is readily waiting for you. But it appears that I'm mistaken on that part. Actually the main reason I made the post was to help me decide which destination I will choose for my PhD, because all of the research groups in my options seem to be very active and appear to be always open for new postdocs. What I plan to do is that after m PhD I want to apply postdoc at the same place, and if possible (if there is open position) for professorship track (assistant, associate, and full prof) in that same place I will also try to pursue that. In other words, I'm including my long run planning into my decision on the PhD destination. Is it too early for that?
    And it also appears that, a research group short in members will provide me an easier track to achieve my long run goal as a full prof (sorry if I sound arrogant here, I just want to have a firm plan as early as possible).
     
  16. Aug 23, 2015 #15

    Orodruin

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    This is a big no no in most fields. The entire point of the postdoc is to give you experience of different research environments and expand your network of personal contacts in the field. In smaller countries (the US and to some extent Germany excluded), it may even be seen badly to have done a postdoc in the same country.
     
  17. Aug 23, 2015 #16
    Why? Here in my current group, there are postdocs who previously worked also in this group for their PhD, may be because it's in Germany.
     
  18. Aug 23, 2015 #17

    Orodruin

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    Because of what I just said, you need to expand your experience from different environments and extend your network. Physics is a very competitive field and when you are being considered for a position, you may rest assured that there will be applicants who did go abroad for their postdocs and are therefore at an advantage.

    I am not saying this is the case everywhere, but I think it is the norm at most top universities. (There may also be some fields where things are not as strict.)
     
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