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Depends on Where You Trained

Where you received your doctoral degree influences whether you land that coveted faculty job. A study appearing in Science Advancesfrom the University of Colorado, Boulder's Aaron Clauset and his colleagues examined faculty-hiring networks to find that they follow a steeply hierarchical structure and that the academic system overall follows a strong core-periphery pattern.

Clauset's team collected hiring data on some 19,000 tenure-track or tenured faculty members working in computer science, business, and history departments or units.

He and his colleagues note that a quarter of the doctoral degree-granting institutions they surveyed produced between 71 percent and 86 percent of tenure-track faculty, and the top 10 schools for each field produced between about one-and-a-half times and three times more faculty members than the next tier did.

The hiring patterns Clauset's team observed indicate "profound social inequality among institutions." That is, the more prestigious the institution where faculty members received their PhD, the more likely they were to land a more sought-after faculty position, despite limited differences in educational quality.

"We're not talking about a huge difference in quality between the top-10 institutions and the next 10," Clauset says in a statement. "And yet, in terms of the ability to place people in tenure-track faculty positions, it is a huge difference."