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Importance of [reputation of] Graduate School

  1. Oct 27, 2012 #1

    Do you think the university where you did your phd is important when it comes to finding a job / a postdoc / a professorship? Question applies in the US but also in Europe.

    Let's say I have a master of science from the one of the best universities in Europe, and I am accepted at various universities in Europe and in the US for my phd. Would it be a bad idea to go to a university that is not so well known if one has the possibility to go to the most renowned graduate schools?

    The reason I ask is because I would rather go to place X, which is a university somewhere in western europe that is not well known but where a few people are working in the field I am interested in. I like the city, life is not so expensive there I can get good fundings. Will it make any difference later?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2012 #2
    Yes, it's important.
    It's important because in a university of good reputation you'd find a good research advisor.
    And you need a good research advisor to propel you career.
    You can look up on the important on having a good research advisor on the internet.
    Basically that's it, it's important to go to prestigious graduate school in order to get good research advisors.

    If you have a good research advisor, he/she wiill basically make your research work famous.
  4. Oct 27, 2012 #3
    "Choosing an advisor is the next most important task you have to do after your qualifier. This is the person who might determine your future, and certainly your professional future. An excellent advisor will not only advise you on the official requirements that you must complete for graduation, but also train you to become a good physicist. Such training are not covered in the school’s bulletin or official requirements. Yet, these are the stuff that could be more important for your future as a physicist. Your advisor needs to tell you the state of the knowledge in that field of study so that the two of you can decide on a particular work that you can do that will become your research dissertation. He/she needs to make sure you start to establish your reputation by making sure you get to publish a few papers in respected physics journals. And as important, he/she will make you attend and present your work at various physics conferences so that you acquire the ability to speak in front your peers and experts in the field. This will also serve to give you visibility to others in the same field, gives you the opportunity to know who’s who in your field, and make contacts. " quoted from So You want to be a physicist by ZapperZ, accessesible at https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1KBovBeg_kl6nAk8fTBYQdHMo8o3o0IgunPE3R7_OEHM&pli=1
  5. Oct 27, 2012 #4
    The only problem with this is that your conclusions don't logically follow from the contents of this post you quoted (and I've read the whole article, so I've got a feel for the context). ZapperZ didn't say that one had to go to one of the highest rated universities to get a good advisor. He simply stated that finding an 'excellent' advisor was important.

    You might think I'm being too pedantic in pointing this out, but I believe you need to know that you really didn't sufficiently support your thesis. Now, to be sure, it is more statistically likely to find a good advisor in a well-respected physics department, but it does not follow that one must be in one of those physics departments in order to find a good advisor.
  6. Oct 27, 2012 #5


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    Having served on several search and selection committees now, I can say that school reputation has not played a significant role in any of the hiring decisions I've been involved in. Granted none of those positions have been for purely academic positions, but they have included adjunct appointments.
  7. Oct 28, 2012 #6
    I've done my PhD at a well-ranked German university, quit academia pretty much directly thereafter (except for a mini post-doc to finish a paper and have time looking for a job), and now work with colleagues who mostly studied at the local university that ... well ... I'm not sure if they even make it to the places that are still listed in international rankings. I don't think the reputation of my university gave me an edge when looking for this particular job. But I often can't help but feeling that I actually got a better training (incidently, I think I never see people worrying about the quality of their PhD training on this forum - only about its reputation and their career-prospects).

    Granted, that's just a single personal story. Also, in agreement with what most people will (probably) tell you I'd say that the reputation of a university shouldn't matter much for your decisions per-se. But I am beginning to think that some institutions have better reputations for an actual reason. Of course, your actual supervisor is important, too. But (a) you probably can't judge him well in advance (I picked mine for personality, but I could not have gauged his qualification as a researcher or tutor back then), and (b) unless you are completely socially inept (and therefore rather unsuited for a modern scientific career in the first place), you also learn a lot from your academic surrounding, i.e. fellow PhD students and post-docs, other faculty members, and visiting scientists.

    Of course, my "reputation matters" attitude above assumes the lack of extra constraints. If in your case the less reputable university is in a nice city and has people working in the field you want to do a PhD in, whereas the reputable university lies in an overpriced hell-hole of a city and has no people working in the field, then ... you didn't really ask a question about this scenario, did you?
  8. Nov 1, 2012 #7
    You're right. I got my conclusion about getting into good universities being important from somewhere else, I think Cal Newport or some guide on how to become a mathematician, I don't remember where.
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