SUMMARY POINTS

  • The postdoctoral years are a time to match one's education, training, and interests with the changing world of employment options and to acquire the skills necessary to enter that world.

  • A good postdoctoral experience is educational in the sense that it significantly advances one's professional capabilities and increases one's technical abilities.

  • The postdoctoral experience differs widely according to discipline, sector, and source of funding.

  • The postdoctoral experience differs widely according to discipline,

  • Most postdocs are paid from the grant of a principal investigator and are frequently called research associates. In such situations, they are often treated as employees.

  • A smaller number of postdocs are paid by external, independent mechanisms (e.g., US fellowships and training grants, foreign government grants). In such cases, they may be classified as students or receive no institutional classification and are called fellows.

  • “Research associates,” “fellows,” and postdocs with other titles may all perform the same functions in the same laboratories, and yet their institutional title, tax status, compensation, and benefits may differ in significant and often unintended ways.

  • The greatest uncertainties and inequities occur in universities, where most postdocs work. In national and industrial facilities, postdocs are usually treated like other temporary or contract employees and receive similar classification, compensation, and benefits.

  • About half the total US postdoctoral population consists of foreign citizens, half of whom choose to remain in the US after their appointments.

  • Foreign postdocs face extra challenges in mastering English, adapting to American culture and style of work, achieving equitable compensation, and dealing with visa requirements.

  • Support mechanisms at host institutions to provide help for foreign postdocs (e.g., with visas, tax laws, and language instruction) are not uniform across the country.

  • Additional information is needed about postdocs who are members of underrepresented minorities; less is known about these groups than is known about foreign postdocs.



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