A Post-Doctorate: Everything You Need to Know

Refers to the continuance of academic studies taken after obtaining a doctorate. With steadily increasing competition for faculty positions, postdoctoral (or post-doc) fellowship has become a requirement to secure a tenure-track position in many scientific disciplines. It’s important to understand that a postdoctoral fellowship itself isn’t a career goal. It’s a temporary position that lets a Ph.D. continue their training and gain experience and skills that’ll prepare them for their academic career.

Primarily, a postdoc is a researcher who works under a mentor’s supervision as part of a larger research group. A postdoc conducts research, either on one of their own designs or on a pre-specified project and publishes that research. Postdocs are also meant to prepare young researchers to become junior faculty members or principal investigators at the same time.

Postdoc positions are funded in different ways. Some postdocs receive a stipend from a fellowship, grant, or scholarship. Other times they’re salaried employees of an organization, institution, or university.

Postdoc positions are available in a number of sectors. The common ones include:

Academic postdocs: These postdocs primarily focus on research and the academic experience. They’re frequently expected to secure grants (as lead collaborators or principal investigators) and teach courses alongside completing research objectives and publishing the results.

Industry postdocs: While the responsibilities of industry postdocs may vary depending on the particular industrial environment, most focus on teamwork and carry out largely mission-driven work. A major perk of working as an industry postdoc is having access to state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technologies. Salaries for industry postdocs also tend to be higher than academic postdocs.

Non-profit postdocs: The focus of non-profit postdocs can vary widely, from sports management to food scarcity. There’s likely a strong focus on collaborative efforts and grant writing with possibly fewer opportunities to teach.

Government postdocs: Postdoctoral fellowship in government organizations is less often considered. However, some people believe that postdoc work in a government organization may offer the biggest benefits of academic and industrial postdoc work. This is because salaries are usually better than those of academic postdocs, publication is typically encouraged, and equipment and materials can be readily available. One downside of this environment is that these postdocs typically don’t get the opportunity to write grants, and they may/may not get the opportunity to teach.

Field-specific postdocs: Those who’re interested in securing positions in some select fields, such as technology transfer or science policy, may consider entering a specialized postdoc position. Some specific fellowship programs are available in various organizations and in specific government agencies.

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