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Programs Pursuing a PhD at a small or new program

  1. May 24, 2012 #1

    Here is my story: I received my engineering BS and MS from universities that are both highly ranked. After working in industry for 1-2 years I am back in school pursuing my PhD. The program I am currently at is not well known and has only just started a PhD program. The lab is well funded and my advisor is well published and known in the field. I am also funded.

    My reason for pursuing a PhD is to teach at a four-year university once I am finished. My concern however is that when I look around at any school anywhere, I find that the faculty are never from universities that are unknown. It just seems like the chances of me eventually getting a job at a university are so slim becasue of this reason.

    Any recommendations? Should I continue here or go back to a better known university? I also need to consider that my partner is one of the reasons I came here and that there may be a couple year setback.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    There are ~160 universities in the US that offer a PhD in physics. None of them are unknown. So I am not sure what that proves.

    The highest ranked schools are also the biggest - this is a function of how the ranking is done - so of course they are well represented among people who get permanent jobs. And people who don't.
  4. May 24, 2012 #3
    You should rethink your reasons, then. It's pretty straightforward to get an adjunct position at a two year college. Difficult to get a permanent positions at a four year university.

    There are huge selection effects:

    1) The known universities are larger and therefore more faculty come from them.

    2) That selection effect is enhanced by the fact that new programs hire teachers from old programs. Take my dissertation adviser. He was a Harvard post-doc, but he got hired as a junior professor in my mid-western department, because in the early-1970's. There *were* no other schools. So what happens is that you see a lot of faculty from Harvard/Princeton because back in the early-1970's when universities were building up programs, those were the only game in town. Once those programs started cranking out Ph.D.'s you end up with a glut of people.

    3) Also, it works in the other direction. There is something of a "Harvard mafia" in astrophysics, but because you have so many Harvard/Princeton alumni working in universities, your advisers friends from Harvard become your friends from Harvard.

    You chances of getting a job at a university are slim, but not because of this reason. You are doomed. Realizing that you are doomed is sometimes a good thing.

    Since you are probably doomed whatever you do, there's no point changing paths.

    Also, you have a huge opportunity here. If you go to a big program, then you have less impact on how the program runs. If you are the first student that graduates from X University, then you *are* the program. You have a chance to make your program a big name.

    Moving to a big name program, might be like giving up a spot as one of the first employees of Google or Apple or Microsoft to get a job at Digital or Sperry-Univac. After all, in 1996, who ever heard of Google. Better give up on this no name company and work for someone that everyone has heard of, like Digital Research.
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