avoid junior faculty advisors


Scatterplot has a wonderful series where people can ask questions about grad school. This week’s question: should I work with a junior faculty advisor? In general, no, for the following reasons:

  • Senior faculty are more experienced and can help you out more.
  • They have have superior networks at journals, granting agencies, and departments.
  • Name recognition matters for hiring and publication early in your career.
  • Less likely to leave because of promotion problems or being stolen by another campus.
  • You have more information about whether they’d be good as a mentor.

Here are the benefits of a junior advisor:

  • They are desperate to publish and can pull you up with them.
  • They often have a good grip on cutting edge ideas, especially in quickly changing fields.

Go with the junior faculty if there are no reasonable choices among the senior faculty and you can either (a) finish the diss before the junior faculty leaves, or (b) you can be fairly confident that they will still support you should they move to another campus. Don’t forget, you can always have both junior and senior folks on your committee.

Bonus round: Excellent blogger and legal scholar Belle Lettre is guesting at Scatterplot.


Written by fabiorojas

February 8, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Posted in academia, fabio

9 Responses

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  1. […] or senior, that is the question! Fabio at Orgtheory has a post advising grad students against working with junior faculty. I am not at all sure about the wisdom behind the advice, though. Take a […]


  2. I think junior faculty should have enough good judgment to kindly turn down any desperate student that asks them to be their advisor.



    February 9, 2008 at 2:53 am

  3. I don’t think the cons necessarily outweigh the pros in this case. The extra energy and vibrance that junior faculty folks have can be very uplifting in grad school life, often better than the complacence of the self-accomplished senior faculty some of who are not as driven. Furthermore, if you aim to be a faculty yourself someday, there are a wealth of lessons to learn from being in a starting up lab, watching your advisor set up, hire, budget, struggle, gain tenure etc. the kind of lessons that no one really teaches you in grad school



    February 9, 2008 at 4:11 am

  4. This is a good advice. I’m paying for the mistake right now. I wish someone had given me the heads up 4 years ago.



    February 9, 2008 at 4:34 pm

  5. See I turned down a senior faculty member to work with a junior because his work and work style are far closer to mine, the level of attention he can give me is higher, he has a good pedigree in general, I’ll get some senior folks on my dissertation, and most importantly there is no chance (two body problem) that he will leave.

    If the issue isn’t whether they will leave, then isn’t it really more a matter of fit?



    February 10, 2008 at 1:05 am

  6. To Rebecca and other folks: Despite the strong post title, I actually describe a trade off, but I do argue that, on the average, junior faculty aren’t the best choice. There are many good situations where junior faculty can bee good choice, just not most of the time.

    Also, think about it from the junior faculty point of view: you can either read a dissertation (which gets you nearly zero for tenure) or you can work on your own research. Given that many junior faculty are dumped with tons of junk work, it’s almost inhumane to ask them to do more. Give ’em a break!



    February 10, 2008 at 1:33 am

  7. I had a junior faculty member as my primary advisor, and I was far from desperate. I asked this person because I understood that she would get tenured before I left (she did), had no plans to leave), she was willing to work harder on my behalf than any other professor, and was more aligned with my research interests than anyone else in the department. I also had good relationships with two senior faculty, but went to her for most of my advice and mentorship.

    It worked out just fine, as I made a lateral move from one research university to another when I graduated.


    Dave P.

    February 11, 2008 at 12:34 am

  8. […] advisors.  Read the comments for a variety of perspectives on the issue.  Fabio at orgtheory posts his own two cents.  And finally, in my eclectic blog browsing this month, I stumbled across a great resource of tips […]


  9. Quality articles is the key to invite the people to visit the web page, that’s what this web site is providing.



    March 20, 2013 at 12:33 am

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