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Postdoctoral researcher


Postdoctoral researcher

Postdoctoral researcher
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Education required
Typically a PhD

Post-doctoral researchers by discipline (United States, 2012)[1]

  Life sciences (65%)
  Physical sciences (13%)
  Engineering (11%)
  Math and computer sciences (3%)
  Geosciences (3%)
  Psychology, social sciences and others (5%)

A postdoctoral researcher, post-doctoral researcher or postdoctoral fellow is a person conducting research after the completion of their doctoral studies (typically a PhD) as part of a temporary appointment, usually in preparation for an academic faculty position. It is intended to further deepen expertise in a specialist subject, including integrating a team and acquiring novel skills and research methods. Postdoctoral research is often considered essential while advancing the scholarly mission of the host institution; it is expected to produce relevant publications in peer-reviewed academic journals. In some countries, postdoctoral research may lead to further formal qualifications or certification, while in other countries it does not.[2][3]

Postdoctoral research may be funded through an appointment with a salary or an appointment with a stipend or sponsorship award. Appointments for such a research position may be called postdoctoral research fellow, postdoctoral research associate or postdoctoral research assistant. Depending on the type of appointment, postdoctoral researchers may work independently or under the supervision of a principal investigator. However, a designated postdoctoral research appointment may also be taken up when other suitable positions are not available, rather than merely pursuing the deepening of scholarly experience. In many English-speaking countries, postdoctoral researchers are colloquially referred to as "postdocs".[4]


  • Job security and academia 1
  • Regional variations in postdoctoral employment 2
    • United Kingdom 2.1
    • United States 2.2
    • India 2.3
    • Australia 2.4
  • Notes and references 3

Job security and academia

Due to the nature of their work,[5][6][7][8][9] and an over-supply of graduating PhD students in many fields,[10][11] some postdoctoral researchers face an uncertain future in academia,[3][12] and a large proportion will not gain tenure[13] or a coveted faculty position in their chosen field of research.[14][15][16][17]

Regional variations in postdoctoral employment

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, 25% of doctors in the natural sciences continue to undertake postdoctoral research.[18]

Since the landmark ruling in the employment tribunal (Scotland) Ball vs Aberdeen University 2008 case (S/101486/08), researchers who have held successive fixed-term contracts for four years' service are no longer temporary employees but are entitled to open-ended contracts.[19]

United States

In the US, a postdoctoral scholar is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing.[2] Postdoctoral researchers play an important role in spearheading research activity in the US. The median salary of postdoctoral researchers is $42,000 a year for up to 5 years after receiving their doctoral degrees — 44% less than that of tenured positions.[20] The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA)[21] is a member-driven organization that provides a voice for postdoctoral scholars in the United States.

Postdoctoral research may be required for obtaining a [22]

On the other hand, 85 percent of engineering doctoral degrees holder are likely to initially go into business or industry sector.[23] Under the circumstances, providing doctoral students as well as postdoctoral researchers with necessary skills for nonacademic positions has become one of the important roles for graduate schools and institutions. The

  1. ^ Nature, volume 520, 9 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
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  14. ^
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  16. ^
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  20. ^ a b
  21. ^
  22. ^ Archived 23 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^
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  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Retrieved on 4 June 2012
  31. ^ Retrieved on 4 June 2012
  32. ^ Retrieved on 4 June 2012
  33. ^ Discovery Projects - Australian Research Council (ARC)
  34. ^ Appendix 3, p. 58, Retrieved on 22 July 2008
  35. ^ Retrieved on 22 July 2008

Notes and references

Alternatively the Australian Research Council (ARC) provides Postdoctoral Fellowships. For example their Discovery Projects,[33] funds 3 year Fellowships, beginning in 2009, with A$61,399 p.a.[34] Furthermore, a mandatory superannuation payment of 11-17% is paid by Universities.[35]

Salaried appointments at the minimum Level A, Step 6 for academic salaries, for doctoral qualified employees (beginning in 2008) are set at A$75,612 p.a. at the University of Sydney,[30] A$75,404 p.a. at the University of Melbourne,[31] and A$75,612 p.a. at the University of New South Wales.[32]


Most of India's premier engineering and management institutes Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) have postdoctoral positions. The salary typically varies from INR 40,000 - 70,000 per month. For example, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras, IIM Kolkata offer postdoctoral fellowships.[29]


In 2010, postdoctoral researchers in California formed a union, UAW Local 5810 in order to secure better working conditions such as the right to file a complaint for alleged discrimination or sexual harassment through a formal grievance procedure.[27] In California, new postdoctoral appointments receive at least the NIH postdoctoral minimum salary ($39,264 in 2011) and many receive annual pay raises of 5-7% or more in accordance with the NIH’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA).[28]

In the US, life sciences have a greater share than other fields due to higher federal funding of life and medical science areas since mid 1990 . One survey shows that 54% of postdoctoral researchers major in life sciences, whereas those who majored in physical science, mathematics, and engineering account for 28%.[26]


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