How to Become a Math Professor in India

How to Become a Math Professor in India

Mathematics, often regarded as the “Queen of Sciences,” plays a crucial role in shaping the modern world, from fundamental theories to practical applications.

In India, with its rich mathematical heritage dating back to ancient luminaries like Aryabhata and Brahmagupta, the legacy continues with numerous institutions offering advanced courses in the discipline.

Aspiring to be a math professor in this nation not only involves immersing oneself in profound mathematical theories but also contributing to a lineage of scholars dedicated to both research and education.

The journey entails rigorous academic training, significant research contributions, and an unwavering commitment to educating future generations.

This outline provides a roadmap for those passionate about both mathematics and teaching, guiding them through the multifaceted path to becoming a math professor in India.

1. Educational Foundation

The foundation of any academic career, especially one as specialized and rigorous as a math professor, begins with structured formal education.

This foundational period not only equips aspirants with essential mathematical knowledge but also nurtures their analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • High School: Objective: Build a strong base in mathematics and acquire fundamental concepts.
  • Choice of Stream: In the Indian education system, students in high school (usually classes 11 and 12) must choose specific streams. To pave the way for a career in mathematics, it’s advisable to opt for the Science stream with Mathematics as a core subject.
  • Board Exams & Competitive Examinations: Perform well in board examinations as they play a crucial role in undergraduate college admissions. Also, consider preparing for competitive exams that serve as entry points for reputed institutions.
  • Undergraduate Degree: Objective: Deepen mathematical understanding and gain exposure to advanced topics.
  • Course Selection: A Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics or a closely related field is crucial. Pursue courses like B.Sc. in Mathematics for pure mathematical studies. If inclined towards applied mathematics or interdisciplinary studies, courses like B.Tech. or B.E. in relevant fields can also be considered.
  • Academic Performance: Maintaining a strong academic record is essential. Not only does this affect postgraduate admissions, but a solid grasp of undergraduate-level mathematics will significantly benefit future studies.
  • Engage in Extracurricular Activities: Join math clubs, participate in math competitions, attend workshops, or undertake internships. Such activities enrich understanding, offer practical insights, and provide opportunities for networking.

Achieving a robust educational foundation during these formative years is imperative.

Not only does it serve as the stepping stone for advanced studies, but it also shapes the aspirant’s perspective, approach, and passion for mathematics.

2. Advanced Education

Acquiring advanced degrees in mathematics deepens the intellectual grasp of the subject, facilitates specialization, and marks a transition from being a student of general mathematics to an expert capable of original contributions.

This phase not only involves intense academic rigor but also the initiation into research.

  • Master’s Degree: Objective: Strengthen expertise in specific areas of mathematics and gain experience in higher-level problem solving and research.
  • Course Selection: Opting for an M.Sc. in Mathematics is a conventional path for those interested in pure mathematics. For those leaning more towards applied mathematics or interdisciplinary studies, pursuing an M.Tech. in a relevant specialization can be appropriate.
  • Thesis Work: Some Master’s programs require or offer opportunities to work on a thesis – a research project under the guidance of a faculty member. This can be a first taste of serious research and offers a glimpse into the world of mathematical discovery.
  • Academic Excellence: A strong performance during Master’s can open doors to top-tier doctoral programs, both within India and abroad.
  • Doctorate (Ph.D.): Objective: Conduct original research, contribute to the body of knowledge in the chosen field, and prepare for an academic or research career.
  • Selecting a Specialization: Mathematics is vast. During a Ph.D., students zero in on a particular area or topic of interest. This could range from algebra, analysis, and topology to more applied areas like mathematical physics or computational mathematics.
  • Finding a Guide: A doctoral guide or advisor plays a pivotal role in shaping a student’s research path. Choosing the right mentor, based on research interests and compatibility, is crucial.
  • Research and Dissertation: The core of a Ph.D. program involves conducting original research, culminating in the writing and defense of a doctoral thesis. This work should be of publishable quality and contribute new insights or findings to the field.
  • Teaching Assistantships: Many Ph.D. candidates take up roles as teaching assistants, providing them with their first experience in teaching. This role, apart from being financially supportive, offers invaluable exposure to the pedagogical side of academia.

Advanced education sets the stage for a career in academia.

Beyond the acquisition of knowledge, this period molds the aspirant’s research skills, teaching acumen, and professional network, all of which are crucial for a successful career as a math professor.

3. Gaining Experience & Networking

While formal education equips an individual with knowledge, the broader academic world values experience and community engagement equally.

This stage is about not only honing one’s skills but also building a professional identity and making connections within the academic community.

  • Postdoctoral Research: Objective: Build upon Ph.D. research, diversify academic experience, and strengthen one’s research portfolio.
  • Research Focus: Postdoc positions provide an opportunity to either deepen the research in one’s Ph.D. domain or explore new avenues. This period often yields significant publications.
  • Choosing Institutions: Engaging in postdoctoral research at different institutions from one’s Ph.D. can offer fresh perspectives, access to different resources, and expand one’s professional network.
  • Attend Conferences & Workshops: Objective: Engage with peers, share findings, gain insights into emerging trends, and establish a presence in the academic community.
  • Paper Presentations: Presenting research findings at conferences can garner feedback, spark collaborations, and elevate one’s reputation.
  • Networking: Conferences and workshops are excellent platforms to meet established mathematicians, fellow researchers, and potential collaborators. Building these connections can open doors to research opportunities, collaborations, and academic positions.
  • Publish Research Papers: Objective: Contribute to the body of knowledge, gain recognition in the academic community, and build credibility.
  • Choosing Journals: The reputation of the journals where one publishes plays a role in one’s academic standing. Aim for peer-reviewed and reputable journals.
  • Collaborative Research: Collaborating with other researchers can lead to diverse and impactful findings, and co-authored papers can boost one’s academic profile.
  • Teaching Engagements: Objective: Develop pedagogical skills, understand student dynamics, and gather experience crucial for future professorial roles.
  • Guest Lectures or Adjunct Positions: Before securing a permanent position, many embark on short-term teaching assignments. These experiences are invaluable for understanding classroom dynamics and refining teaching methodologies.
  • Feedback and Reflection: Continuously seek feedback, both from peers and students, and refine teaching techniques.

Gaining experience and networking are intertwined endeavors.

The experiences one accumulates, be it in research or teaching, become talking points and credentials in networking scenarios.

Conversely, the connections made can lead to opportunities to gain further experience.

This symbiotic relationship propels an individual’s academic journey, setting the stage for a successful tenure as a math professor.

4. Starting the Academic Career

Stepping into the world of academia as a professional is a significant milestone.

This phase signifies the transition from being predominantly a student or researcher to taking on the mantle of an educator and academic leader.

It’s about imparting knowledge, guiding the next generation, and continuing one’s research endeavors.

  • Assistant Professor: Objective: Commence the teaching and research journey in academia, building upon previous experiences and making fresh contributions.
  • Job Applications: Begin by applying to various colleges and universities. The application typically involves submitting a CV, research statement, teaching philosophy, and letters of recommendation.
  • Probation Period: In many Indian institutions, new faculty members undergo a probationary period. During this phase, performance in teaching, research, and service to the institution is closely monitored.
  • Balancing Teaching and Research: As an assistant professor, there’s often a dual responsibility – educating students and pushing forward with research endeavors. Finding the right balance is crucial for long-term success.
  • Associate Professor: Objective: Elevate one’s role in academia through demonstrated excellence in teaching, research, and service to the institution.
  • Tenure: In systems that follow the tenure track, after a certain period and upon meeting specific criteria, an assistant professor may be promoted to an associate professor with tenure. This offers job security and is a recognition of consistent performance and contribution.
  • Expanding Research: At this level, one often supervises more Ph.D. students, secures larger research grants, and plays a more significant role in academic conferences and journals.
  • Professor: Objective: Achieve the pinnacle of academic ranks, reflecting a distinguished career marked by significant contributions to the field.
  • Leadership Roles: Full professors often take on administrative responsibilities, such as department head, dean, or other leadership positions within the institution.
  • Mentorship: Professors play a pivotal role in shaping the academic journeys of younger faculty members and students, guiding them through research, teaching, and professional development.
  • Continued Research: Despite the increased responsibilities, research remains a cornerstone. Professors often lead larger research groups, collaborate internationally, and make influential contributions to their field.

Starting and progressing in an academic career is both challenging and rewarding.

It’s a journey of continuous growth, where one’s passion for mathematics intertwines with the responsibility of shaping minds, advancing the field, and leaving a lasting academic legacy.

5. Stay Updated

In the dynamic world of mathematics, new theories, techniques, and applications emerge frequently.

For a math professor, staying abreast of these developments isn’t just beneficial—it’s vital.

This continuous learning ensures that they remain relevant, effective in their teaching, and competitive in their research endeavors.

  • Engage in Continuous Learning: Objective: Ensure that one’s knowledge isn’t limited to what was learned during formal education or early years of research.
  • Advanced Courses & Workshops: Even after achieving professorship, many educators participate in courses, especially if they’re outside their immediate area of expertise. Workshops can also provide hands-on experience with new mathematical tools or techniques.
  • Online Platforms: With the advent of digital technology, platforms like Coursera, edX, and others offer courses on a plethora of topics. Engaging in these courses can provide insights into areas one might not have previously explored.
  • Subscribe to Journals & Publications: Objective: Keep track of the latest research findings, breakthroughs, and discussions in the mathematical community.
  • Academic Journals: Regularly reading leading mathematical journals ensures one is aware of the cutting-edge research in various sub-fields of mathematics.
  • Newsletters & Magazines: Some publications focus on broader trends, interviews, and discussions in the world of mathematics. They can offer a more holistic view of where the field is heading.
  • Attend Conferences & Seminars: Objective: Engage with live discussions, debates, and presentations on the latest research and methodologies.
  • Networking: Conferences are not just for presenting but also for listening. Engaging with peers, attending their sessions, and participating in discussions can provide fresh perspectives.
  • Diverse Range of Topics: Seminars and conferences often encompass a wide array of topics, allowing attendees to gain insights into areas outside their immediate specialization.
  • Collaborate with Younger Mathematicians: Objective: Engage with the new generation, who might bring novel approaches, tools, or perspectives to traditional problems.
  • Joint Research: Working with postdocs or young faculty can be a source of fresh ideas and methods. They might be more familiar with recent advancements or alternate methodologies.
  • Supervising Students: Ph.D. and Master’s students often explore the latest techniques in their research. Guiding them not only helps in their academic journey but also keeps the professor updated.

Staying updated is a continuous, proactive endeavor. As the mathematical landscape expands and evolves, a dedicated professor’s commitment to learning ensures they remain at the forefront, effectively imparting knowledge and making meaningful contributions to the field.

6. Additional Certifications and Qualifications

These supplementary credentials can serve various purposes: updating knowledge, adding expertise in niche areas, or even branching out into interdisciplinary domains.

  • Specialized Courses: Objective: Delve deeper into specialized or emerging areas of mathematics not covered during formal education or explore new pedagogical techniques.
  • Institutions: Many premier institutions offer advanced courses on specific topics, be it in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, or even mathematical software and tools.
  • Benefits: Such courses can enable a professor to teach specialized electives, engage in niche research areas, or even lead workshops and seminars.
  • Interdisciplinary Certifications: Objective: Combine mathematical expertise with knowledge from other domains, opening up interdisciplinary research and teaching avenues.
  • Areas: Fields like data science, computational biology, mathematical finance, or even education technology are increasingly merging with mathematics. Acquiring certifications in these domains can be fruitful.
  • Collaborations: Such interdisciplinary knowledge often leads to collaborations with other departments, industries, or research groups.
  • Pedagogical Training: Objective: Enhance teaching methodologies, understand modern educational technologies, and create more engaging learning environments.
  • Workshops & Courses: Some institutions and organizations offer courses in advanced teaching methodologies, use of technology in education, or even curriculum design.
  • Benefits: Such training can be especially beneficial if one is looking to take on administrative roles in curriculum design or educational planning at institutions.
  • Software & Technical Skills: Objective: Stay updated with the latest mathematical tools, software, and computational techniques which are increasingly becoming vital in research and teaching.
  • Examples: Learning software like MATLAB, Mathematica, or more advanced programming languages can be beneficial, especially in applied mathematics or research requiring simulations and computations.
  • Applications: Such skills are often essential when undertaking research projects that involve large-scale computations, simulations, or when teaching courses that require students to use these tools.
  • Professional Memberships & Certifications: Objective: Associate with professional bodies, which might offer specialized courses, certifications, or even exclusive research and teaching resources.
  • Mathematical Societies: Joining societies like the Indian Mathematical Society or international bodies like the American Mathematical Society can offer access to exclusive resources, workshops, and certifications.

Acquiring additional certifications and qualifications is about embracing lifelong learning.

In the rapidly evolving academic landscape, these credentials ensure that a math professor remains versatile, relevant, and at the forefront of both teaching and research.

7. Service and Administration

Academic service goes beyond classroom teaching and individual research.

It encompasses contributions to the institution, academic community, and the broader societal context.

Engaging in service and administration not only helps in the smooth functioning of the educational institution but also establishes leadership and a broader commitment to the academic profession.

  • Departmental Service: Objective: Contribute to the daily operations, planning, and decision-making processes within one’s department.
  • Committee Membership: Professors often serve on various committees, such as curriculum committees, hiring committees, or student affairs committees. These groups are instrumental in shaping the direction of the department.
  • Event Organization: Organizing seminars, workshops, and guest lectures can be a significant service, helping foster a vibrant academic environment.
  • Institutional Service: Objective: Engage in activities and responsibilities that serve the broader university or college community.
  • Inter-departmental Collaborations: Facilitating and being part of collaborations between different departments can lead to interdisciplinary courses, research projects, and events.
  • Policy Making: Senior faculty might be involved in framing or revising academic and administrative policies of the institution.
  • Professional Service: Objective: Serve the broader academic community and the discipline of mathematics at large.
  • Peer Reviewing: Reviewing research papers for academic journals, evaluating research proposals, or being part of accreditation bodies are critical services to the community.
  • Conference Organization: Taking up roles in organizing regional, national, or international conferences is both a service and a networking opportunity.
  • Association Leadership: Many professors take up leadership or active roles in academic associations, like the Indian Mathematical Society, guiding their activities and policies.
  • Community and Outreach: Objective: Bridge the gap between academia and the general public, making mathematics more accessible and fostering interest.
  • Public Lectures: Offering lectures or workshops for schools, colleges, or the general public to promote mathematical literacy and interest.
  • Consultations: Providing expertise to industries, NGOs, or government bodies can be a way of serving the broader community.
  • Administrative Leadership: Objective: Take on significant administrative roles that shape the direction and policies of the institution.
  • Department Head or Chair: Leading the department, managing faculty, guiding the curriculum, and ensuring the smooth functioning of all academic activities.
  • Deanship or Vice-Chancellor Positions: More senior roles involve overseeing multiple departments or even the entire institution, making crucial decisions about funding, hiring, infrastructure, and more.


The journey to becoming a math professor in India is a tapestry of rigorous academic preparation, continuous research endeavors, and dedicated service to the educational community.

Starting with a solid educational foundation, an aspiring academic delves into advanced studies, garners vital experience, and eventually steps into the revered halls of academia.

However, the journey doesn’t stop there. The ever-evolving nature of mathematics necessitates a commitment to lifelong learning, ensuring that one stays abreast of new theories, methodologies, and interdisciplinary opportunities.

Furthermore, a math professor’s role isn’t confined to research and teaching alone.

Service and administration are integral, highlighting the broader responsibilities of shaping curricula, guiding institutional policies, and even bridging the gap between academia and the community at large.

From departmental meetings to international conferences, from guiding young scholars to shaping institutional policies, the multifaceted role of a math professor is as challenging as it is rewarding.

In essence, the path to professorship is a testament to one’s dedication to the realm of mathematics, reflecting not just mastery of the subject, but also a passion for imparting knowledge, pushing the boundaries of understanding, and contributing wholesomely to the academic community.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. At what stage should I decide if I want to become a math professor?

While you can decide at any stage, it’s advantageous to have clarity early on, preferably during your undergraduate or master’s years. This allows you to focus on research opportunities, networking, and other essential steps in the academic pathway.

2. How important is it to obtain a Ph.D. from a top-tier institution?

While a Ph.D. from a prestigious institution can provide valuable networking opportunities and resources, what truly matters is the quality and impact of your research. Many successful professors have come from a variety of academic backgrounds.

3. Apart from teaching, what are the primary responsibilities of a math professor?

Beyond teaching, professors are expected to conduct research, publish findings, mentor students, serve on committees, engage in administrative tasks, and participate in community outreach and interdisciplinary collaborations.

4. How competitive is the academic job market for math professors in India?

The academic job market is competitive, given the limited number of positions and the increasing number of Ph.D. graduates. However, candidates with a strong research background, publications, and relevant experience have a distinct advantage.

5. Do I need to have teaching experience before applying for a professor role?

While not always mandatory, teaching experience is highly beneficial. Many institutions prefer candidates who have some teaching background, as it indicates familiarity with classroom dynamics and pedagogy.

6. How crucial is networking in this journey?

Networking plays a significant role. Building relationships with fellow researchers, attending conferences, and collaborating on projects can open doors to job opportunities, research collaborations, and provide insights into the academic landscape.

7. What is the significance of service and administration in a professor’s role?

Service and administration are integral to the holistic responsibilities of a professor. They entail contributing to departmental and institutional decisions, policy-making, community outreach, and more. Such roles showcase leadership and commitment to the broader academic community.

8. How can I stay updated with the latest in the field of mathematics?

Regularly reading academic journals, attending seminars and conferences, collaborating with peers, and engaging in continuous learning (like advanced courses) are effective ways to stay updated.

9. Are interdisciplinary certifications beneficial for a math professor?

Yes, interdisciplinary knowledge can open up avenues for collaborative research, teaching interdisciplinary courses, and even consulting opportunities in industries that merge math with other fields.

10. Is it necessary to take on administrative roles as a professor?

While it’s not mandatory for every professor to engage in administrative roles, taking them on can provide a broader impact on institutional decision-making, curriculum shaping, and policy framing. It’s also a natural progression for many in their academic careers.

Meet Ankit Kumar holding a master's degree in Museology, Ankit Kumar brings a profound understanding of the cultural and historical significance of museums. With a passion for research and a keen interest in writing, they have not only excelled in guiding individuals in their career paths but also have a flair for creating insightful and engaging blogs on various aspects of museology as well as different professions.

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