Postdoctoral Fellows: News and Links

What is a postdoc anyway?
A postdoc (short for postdoctoral researcher) is a scientist who has received his Ph.D. and is employed in a temporary research position, usually in the laboratory of a professor at a university. Postdocs have little job security and may receive no or minimal benefits. Their positions have been described as a "no man's land" because they are not considered employees but rather trainees. They often work harder and longer hours than permanent employees with less experience and education but yet get less in compensation. Their goal is to produce significant research results during their temporary stint at the university (usually 2-5 years), amass lots of publications in prestigious journals, and then hope to get a career-track job, either at another university as a tenure-track professor or as a scientist in industry (e.g. pharmaceutical firms). As an indicator of the prospects for landing a professorship, consider that the number of tenure-track faculty positions opening up each year in the U.S. is only 10-15% of the number of science Ph.D.s granted each year in the U.S.

Postdocs, Seeing Little Way Into the Academic Job Market, Seek Better Terms in the Lab. (Aug 98). Interesting article from The Chronicle of Higher Education Career Network on the current movement for postdoctoral fellows to form organizations to improve their lot.

Stressed out Postdocs. (Dec 97). The situation for Canadian postdocs.

Not rocket science: Too many scientists, too few jobs. (Seattle Times, 21 Aug 97). Article on job statistics and prospects for postdoctoral Ph.D. scientists conducted by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology. Some key statistics from the article:
  • the number of postdoctoral researchers increased by one third between 1988 and 1995
  • the average salary of a postdoctoral researcher in the Life Sciences is $26,500. (This figure seems high to me, as the NIH pays only $19K/year to first year postdocs.)
  • 40% of Biology Ph.D.'s are still postdocs 4 years after receiving their Ph.D.s.
  • Two years after receiving their advanced degrees, only 13% of Ph.D.s have permanent, career-track positions.

Postdoctoral Organizations
University of California at San Francisco Postdoctoral Scholars Association.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine Postdoctoral Association.
Postdoctoral Association of the University of Calgary.
University of Ottawa Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellows Association.
The NIH Postdoctoral/Clinical Fellows Committee.
Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association.

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This page was last updated on August 28, 1998.


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