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How much does your PhD institution matter for post-grad success?


PsychBear92
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I have a controversial question for everyone: how much does your Psychology Ph.D. program impact your career immediately and in the long-term?

I think we all can agree that success after graduating from any given Psychology Ph.D. program relies upon goodness of fit of each student with their program and mentor(s). However, I it's difficult to ignore that graduating from certain schools will almost always be looked upon favorably by future employers, mentors, etc. For example, I've gathered from talking to people that graduating from an Ivy League school, regardless of discipline, can signal certain positive attributes because of how favorably those schools are typically viewed. Aside from the Ivies, how much does your graduating institution matter for your Ph.D.? Does it matter more for some Psych fields than others (e.g., Clinical, Neuropsych)? Does this impact diminish over time or will it always impact your career?

Basically, what I'm hoping to learn is whether someone could potentially shoot themselves in the foot by choosing the "wrong" school? Any and all input is appreciated and I'm hoping to hear from all psych disciplines! Thanks in advance!

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This is something I often think about as a prospective graduate student in psychology.

My impression is that the PhD-institution can sometimes matter when applying for certain tenure-track positions at extremely reputable or prestigious universities (i.e. some private Ivys). I think other universities care less about this (maybe the "prestigious" universities have some incentive to affirm the primacy or relevance of a school's reputation...).

I suppose an especially low-ranked school might hurt you a bit, but as long as a university isn't notorious for being awful I think rank or prestige is less important. Granting this, I generally think the quality/volume of work as a graduate student would probably would be more of a determining factor in getting those tenure-track positions at most schools - quality researchers in a field tend to recognize other quality researchers in that field (key word "tend").

I also think the role of your PhD institution diminishes over time in the sense that, assuming you sought out great training in your area as a student/were successful in your graduate research, your status or success as a researcher is in the quality/volume of your work (as well as ability to obtain grants) and not where you trained. I would even argue who you trained with is probably more important than where - I suppose some might then posit that prestigious universities are "better" at recruiting phenomenal PhD researchers or mentors. I'm not entirely convinced of that but I am open to hearing evidence of this. Anecdotally, most of the hyper-productive/successful researchers I know did not go to schools known for their prestige (i.e. Harvard, University of Toronto, etc.). I should maybe specify in that by "successful" I mean tenure-tracked, publishing high-quality/favourably-reviewed work, obtaining grants, etc. I would of course grant that metrics can be skewed or slightly misleading in some contexts (i.e. some TT faculty may publish fewer but more meaningful or field-defining articles, others may be co-authors on many many publications; comparing their respective 'worth' can be tricky depending on your priors regarding what matters, what field they are in, etc.) I do know there's some data on prestige and outcomes like publications/grant funding but I don't know it very well unfortunately - wouldn't want to mischaracterize it, it may speak to what I am speaking to.

Finally, I think what I speak to probably extends to most areas of psychology. One salient exception might be quantitative psychology, my area of interest - I think universities/companies need quant people so badly they probably prioritize aptitude/productivity even more than the prestige of the PhD institution. Granted, this is just my superficial impression, I am not a faculty member.

Edited by s_bellow
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I can only speak to the academic market, not to the out of academic work world...

Most institutions have a list of universities they think of as "peers." It would be unlikely that they would hire someone from an institution that they didn't think of as a peer or aspirational. One exception is based on advisors...someone who has a famous advisor in a niche area even if they are from a less prestigious school will have a good shot at schools above their peers if there is a job search for that specific area (but probably not too far above peer).

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