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Where I did my PhD, it was normal for new AP hires to teach grad courses, and relatively normal for them to serve on committees. But I can't think of a case where they were the supervisor. Basically, there's different kinds of mentorship.

R1 person

I don't think most places expect (or want) someone straight out of grad school or even out of e.g. a two year postdoc to immediately start being the primary advisor of PhD students. (Marcus I suspect this is what the OP meant since it sounds like they are somewhere where academic structure is different.) I do think new faculty are expected to serve on the dissertation committees of grad students right away or almost right away, but in better/more functional departments that is a way of helping new faculty learn how to primarily advise PhD students. In my department, and I don't think this is abnormal, the expectation for tenure is that you'll have been on at least a few committees (ideally more) but it is still not expected that you will be the primary advisor until post-tenure--indeed it is discouraged. (Part of why it is discouraged is that the tenure bar is relatively high and people are denied tenure, not constantly but regularly enough that it's not a good idea for them to have PhD students! But there are other reasons.) Things are probably different if you are moving to a new job as e.g. a near-tenure Assistant Professor. And I am sure there are departments that do expect junior people to advise PhD students.

I do think it is expected that you will serve on committees and also, in many cases, expected that you will do more soft-service mentoring of students if you are closer to their age/career stage than others in your department.

Anon Postdoc

It's also worth noting that some departments might have separate Master's programs and that mentoring/supervising of those students might be considered appropriate for someone just out of a PhD (generally meaning 5-7 years more advanced than someone just starting a Master's).

For example, I'm only 6 months into my first postdoc and a year out from PhD and I've been asked to informally mentor one Master's student and to formally serve on the committee (though not as the primary/chair) for another. These students finished their BA's 1 or 2 years ago, so I'm happy to do it. I would feel less confident serving on the committee of someone advanced into their PhD.

Prof L

At my R2, assistant professors do sometimes (in their 4th or 5th years) supervise PhDs. It's not the norm. But "mentoring" is a broad term, meaning anything from graduate student teaching, directed readings, research group participation, serving on oral exam committees or dissertation committees, helping departing graduate students with their application materials, and so on. And yes, assistant professors are absolutely expected to do all of that; they may even take on the lion's share of that kind of work.

The OP does seem to come from a non-US system, and so it may be a shock to see how involved professors are with graduate education. But there's a ton of mentoring that goes on that is not strictly PhD supervision.


In my first permanent job, I ended up doing a lot of graduate mentoring, including two de facto committee chairs. It's an R1 Leiter ranked department. But many of the senior faculty are checked out. So, it was understandable why students were coming to me.

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