I know that in some fields it is very important to earn a PhD from a top school if your goal is to achieve competitive postdoc offers. How true is this in pursuing a career in astronomy/astrophysics? How possible is it to have a successful career (e.g to achieve a highly-paid, tenured faculty position in a great department) with a PhD from a mid-rank school? I would love any insights from early-career astronomers.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about academia, but for observatory engineering and development positions, ones work history and performance is much more important than their educational pedigree. $\endgroup$
    – Connor Garcia
    Mar 10, 2021 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it belongs on Academia SE. $\endgroup$
    – WarpPrime
    Mar 11, 2021 at 3:02
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that your chances of getting a "highly-paid, tenured faculty position in a great department" in astronomy is essentially nil regardless of where you get your PhD. For one thing, tenured faculty in even the greatest of astronomy schools are not highly paid. For another, astronomy departments grant PhDs in numbers that vastly exceed the attrition rate of retiring professors. Industry hires the excess. There is a route to being a very highly paid PhD in cosmology, astronomy, or physics, which is to discard all desires to be in academia and instead become a qaunt. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2021 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ There are some sites that claim that astronomers are extremely well paid. This is baloney. The reality is anything but champagne and caviar. Think more along the lines of PBR and mac & cheese or ramen & noodles. You will be making about \$25K/year during the 4-8 year stent of getting your PhD: Barely a livable wage, and that will involve 80+ hour work weeks.Then you'll get postdoc after postdoc, making perhaps \$55K/year. You will become very adept at searching for jobs because most postdocs only last for 9 to 12 months. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2021 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ After multiple years of this you might be able to get a posting as an associate professor. You will be well into your thirties at this point, and you will now be making a whopping \$65/year, and your workweek will have reduced to only working 60+ hour weeks a couple of times a week. By the time you are in your mid-40s you might even be able to buy a small cottage when you are finally put on tenure track as an assistant professor. At this point, your undergrad contemporaries who didn't pursue a PhD have been making six figures for years and are living in McMansions. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2021 at 12:28


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