+8 votes
asked ago in Job Market - Candidate Questions by (290 points)

4 Answers

+2 votes
answered ago by (3.3k points)
Kinda.  

4 years can be really impressive but its so rare, I don't even know if we've seen anybody like it recently.  

5 years is considered the norm by those senior in my department.  Not by those more junior or in middle ranks.  

6 years is considered the norm by many of those more junior in my department (some of them took 6 years).  So sometimes there is a bit of debate over whether a 6 year is penalty, and usually the consensus has been no.  But its debated occasionally as a tie breaker.  When you have to narrow down 30 interviews, and 15 were really good, down 3 flyouts, people are just looking for ways to make choices.  So again, some people bring up the 5-6 year stuff, but usually its chalked up to departmental culture.  So many departments are set up to get people out in 5.  Others practically encourage you to be done in 6.

7 years, 8 years, if the candidate looks great otherwise, we look at the letters to figure out what happened (medical, family stuff, pre doc, etc.).
commented ago by (530 points)
Some candidates, especially Europeans, have master's degrees. Sometimes even multiple ones. Is this noticed? (Should it be?)
+2 votes
answered ago by (3.4k points)
I agree with Ben's advice, but let me add a little.

When we see our students go out, it seems to make a difference for students in year 6 how much they've gotten done. Going out in year 6 with a couple of papers or submitted papers seems to be better than going out in year 5 with just a job market paper. But if there is only a job market paper, going out in 5 is better than in 6. I should say that our evidence is more impressionistic than data driven.
+1 vote
answered ago by (2.3k points)
I certainly pay attention to number of years the PhD takes. Obviously, if someone takes 6 years instead of 5, that's  at least 20% more time to spend on their research. In fact, since the first 2 years are for taking classes, it's 50% more time.

 If you've taken more years, and you have a good reason, let the employers know.  I remember one case where I was relieved by finding out it was due to poor health, for example.  Getting divorced or something like that would be a good excuse too (but don't get divorced just to produce a false signal, tho I guess that would be a valid signal of desperation to get a good job).
0 votes
answered ago by (1.8k points)
Disclaimer, I am doing the job market for the first time this year (5th year in the PhD).

The first thing to consider is to whom it may matter. For the candidate, it might represent lost income which for many it would matter. For potential employers, it may be a signal and the other answers provide some insight on how it may be perceived.

My friend finished in four years and is doing fine doing his own thing. In my case, I did the taboo and tried to work with government for my dissertation... In the end, it didn't work out (in part due to hurricane Maria) and I got behind somewhat. Being without power and communications and forced to refugeeing wasn't an ideal condition to write my dissertation. However, the main reason for graduating and doing the job market this year is that I feel I am ready and don't envision any additional benefit to postpone it. I have been working at a few places and they liked my work (usually working along post-docs). I have been offered a few positions and they just want me to get the diploma to start working with them.

I would say it always matters, but the optimal decision depends. It would be best to base it on your own situation and work around it. If during your time as a candidate you have been working with people that liked you, they know what you can do so the diploma becomes a formality. If employers haven't been exposed to your work, then it might be best to take longer and work on a stronger signal.
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