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Physics What is the success rate for becoming a physics professor?

  1. Jul 28, 2009 #1
    To be more specific, are there any statistics on the percentage of physics PHDs who want to become professors, and the percentage that actually do become professors?
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  3. Jul 28, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't believe so.

    That exists, but it will take some legwork. You need to find how many faculty positions there are, divide by the number of years they work, and compare to the number of graduating PhD's.
  4. Jul 28, 2009 #3


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    By monitoring the physics job advertisements on the APS web site, in Physics Today, or in the Chronicle of Higher Education, you can find out how many faculty positions are advertised during a year in the US. I don't know if anyone has summarized this data somewhere.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  5. Jul 28, 2009 #4


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    Are you asking this because you feel that you won't make it? If you feel this then there is good reason. You will need more then just a PHD to be considered a university professor. I remember looking into this before and it takes an extra 5 to 10 years after you receive your PHD to actually become a professor at a university. I don't remember exactly the process you go through but you are required to have a tenure and be voted in by the staff members. It's a pretty long process and it must be something you really enjoy doing. If not, you could always just work in the private sector.
  6. Jul 28, 2009 #5

    Andy Resnick

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    There is some data here:


    and I'm sure all the professional societies keep records as well. Crudely, it looks like about 10:1. Of course, this begs the question "what fraction of PhDs have a goal to become faculty?"
  7. Jul 28, 2009 #6


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    I never realized this before but I did some research a while back and found out that instructors with a PHD at a university only receive 40k a year. You have to have the title "Professor" to get paid the big bucks. Average salary is around 90k and up.
  8. Jul 29, 2009 #7

    A top 50 department (in the world) produces 3-5 PhDs a year in theoretical physics. If most of them only place a student every 5 years or so, that means the majority of their students end up doing something else!

    One day in the theory lounge at LBNL Mahiko Suzuki (PhD, University of Tokyo) told me and some other shocked grad students and postdocs that about 1 in 4 theory PhDs from Berkeley would get permanent positions. His estimate was remarkably accurate.
  9. Jul 29, 2009 #8
    I remember Peter Woit at his blog did some of these calculations with regularity years ago. It was always astonishing.

    Though I'd like to note this undoubtedly varies at least a little by field.
  10. Jul 29, 2009 #9
    It should be noted that this is only for high energy theoretical physics.
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