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Does PhD pedigree matter?

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 Choosing a School for PhD

This post is inspired in large part by discussion over at Cosmic Variance about the importance of choice of particular graduate school and pedigree effect. Two extreme points of view are: a) pedigree matters a great deal, having a top school name on your resume will enhance your chances of getting a job and b) pedigree effect is non-existent, and if you are smart and do good science, it doesn’t matter where your degree is from. Additional discussion centered on issue of difficulty of “upward” mobility – which means that most people tend to get positions down the ranking ladder from their PhD institutions, not up.
It’s of course difficult to do proper “controlled” measure of pedigree effect – maybe students selected by top program would do just as well in lower ranked programs, who knows.
So let’s ask a different question – how many of the academic jobs in top research universities go to PhDs from the top programs? Ideally one would want to focus on recent hires only, looking at entire faculty makeup means integrating over the past50 or 60 years, with a big hiring spike in sputnik/cold war years. One way to address this issue is to look only at associate and assistant professors, which typically represent recent hires. Another, possibly better, way is to limit by the years of PhD (say count only PhDs obtained past 1995), but it involves more work. I spent about 4 hours compiling the data, and not sure I want to spend much more on this, even though it is a lot of fun and I am a sucker for playing with numbers.
So here’s the statistics, and I will criticize methods later – AIP graduate program listings, which I believe are compiled in 2005-2006 list 636 professors in the top 50 institutions (I used NRC’95 rankings) in associate or assistant rank. Typically their PhD years span about 12-15 year period from about 1990 till ~2003-2004. 162 of them have foreign PhDs (more on that later) and 472 held PhDs from US. More than half of those hires have PhDs from just 8 institutions: Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Berkeley, Chicago, Stanford, Caltech and Cornell. The effect is larger than I expected, but perhaps not completely unexpected.
Below are the institutions that have 3 or more PhD graduates among 636 assistant/associate rank professors in the top 50 physics programs:

Harvard University

Princeton University


Univ. of California-Berkeley

University of Chicago

Stanford University


Cornell University

University of Michigan

Columbia University

University of Minnesota

Univ of California-San Diego

Univ of CA-Santa Barbara

Univ of Il Urbana-Champaign

University of Washington

Yale University

SUNY-Stony Brook

University of Texas at Austin

Univ of Wisconsin-Madison

Johns Hopkins University

University of Pennsylvania

University of Rochester

Univ of California-Los Angeles

Univ of Maryland College Park

Northwestern University

Rice University

University of Colorado

Boston University

Indiana University

Rutgers -New Brunswick

Brandeis University

Duke University

Purdue University


































Foreign degrees are more scattered all over the world, but here’s some strong contributors:











Top 10 universities contribute 59% of US PhD hires, those ranked 11-20 provide another 18%, the next ten ranked 21-30 provide 10%, and ALL of the remaining US universities contribute remaining 12% or so.

More charts like:

Percentage of PhDs that goes on to become faculty at top 50 universities.

Comparison ranking in terms of total PhD hires and ranking of USNews and NRC.

and the complete article is available at Incoherently Scattered Ponderings

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‘Career Enhancement Potential’ Ranking of Business Schools-Financial Times

If you cannot view the tables please hit the header

Rankings of the B-Schools from Students Career Enhancement Perspective has been made in Table 1. It shows the world schools from a different perspective.

In analyzing the Financial Times,London data it is assumed that a MBA student opts for the program to increase his earnings potential or desires change in his career stream. Thus factors as defined in “Open New Career Opportunities ” and “Increase in salary ” are taken in consideration.


Open New Career Opportunities Sums the following:

1. Diversity of recruiters.Number of industry sectors.
2. Assessment of careers services.Percentage of graduates in jobs three months after graduation
3. Jobs found through the careers service.Percentage of graduates finding jobs through careers service
4.Student assessment.Meeting expectations and needs

Increase in salary considers the following:

1. How much did your salary increase after graduating? Salary change from pre–MBA to post–MBA (excluding bonuses)

2. Leaving salary.Post–MBA salary (excluding bonuses)


(First twenty ranked schools in each area have been considered)

This table has been created from FT -2007 Rankings Statistics.

Rank Open new career opportunities Increase in salary
1 GSB-Chicago Ashridge
2 IIM-A Henley
3 Berkeley -Haas HULT
4 IE Business School IESE
6 NYU-Stern Oxford
7 Virginia-Darden HEC
8 Dartmouth-Tuck Strathclyde
9 Stanford Stanford
10 Hong Kong University LSB
11 Michigan-Ross Harvard
12 Columbia University of Bath
13 MIT-Sloan Cranfield
14 IMD TiasNimbas
15 Ohio-Fisher RSM Erasmus
16 Northwestern-Kellogg Dartmouth-Tuck
17 Washington University Intl.Univ of Monaco
18 CMU-Tepper Cambridge
19 ESADE Manchester B-School
20 Penn State-Smeal Monash


Table 2

Country or Region Open new career opportunities Increase in salary Schools in both category
  Number of Schools Number of Schools Number of Schools
USA 14 4 2
Europe 4 15 2
Hong Kong 1 X X
India 1 X X
Australia X 1 X

USA Schools

1.Considering both these criteria Stanford and Dartmouth are the only USA schools having Ranking in the range of 1-20.

2. If we consider only “Open new career opportunities” then there are fourteen USA schools in this category meaning thereby that these schools place more emphasis on creating career opportunities.

3.”Increase in Salary” has four USA schools HULT,Stanford,Harvard and Dartmouth

European Schools

1. IMD and IESE fall under both the categories.


It is concluded that American schools emphasize more on creating career opportunities or maybe on having better placement offices and contacts with the industry.They have a poor record of increase in salary as compared with their European cousins.

European School candidates have a better jump in income after completion of their MBA, may be because the concept of MBA is in the process of being integrated into European economies.The Americans have a head start in this as such this is not surprising.

Average MBA Starting Salaries

Ranking of MBA Programs – Based on Placement and Average Earnings

MBA – American Universities With Financial Help

Getting into a Top MBA Program

Business School Essay Topics

Are Green-Horn Applicants Acceptable by Business Schools?

WSJ Rankings Comparison of Top Business Schools

Top Business Schools – WSJ Ranking 2007

Recruiters’ Top MBA

Comments about The Best B-Schools of 2006

B-Schools Ranking – Placement within 3 months

All You Wanted to Know about Top MBA Programs – BW


Canadian MBA