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Post(-PhD | -doc)

Some of you are almost done with their PhD and have started to look for a life after your PhD. Many many options await you and the most obvious one is of course a postdoc. But how do you find a good postdoc position and do you even want to do a postdoc to begin with. Below are the first few paragraphs of a great piece from the Science Careers website (part of Science magazine).

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Whether you’ve just started graduate school, are halfway through, or are finishing your Ph.D., it’s never too soon to start thinking about the next step. For many Ph.D. scientists, the “next step” is a postdoc.

A postdoc is nearly always required for tenure-track faculty positions, especially for positions in research. But here’s a shocker for those of you who haven’t peered out of the windows of the ivory tower. Only a small minority of science Ph.D.s ever achieve a tenure-track position. A recent Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology study showed that in 2001 only 14.1% of biomedical scientists surveyed 5 to 6 years post-Ph.D. had tenure-track faculty positions. That’s down from 34% 20 years earlier. Although the statistics don’t address this, it’s safe to say that a relatively small fraction of the remaining 85.9% will ever get a tenure-track position. Sure, the percentages vary from field to field but not by much. Tenure-track professorships are rare no matter what kind of science you do. So if it’s time to start looking for a postdoc, it’s also time to take a good, hard look at your prospects and your long-term plans.

What are the options? They are too numerous to mention. That’s the problem with so-called alternative careers: More people with Ph.D.s work in these careers than in traditional careers, but they’re so diverse that they’re difficult to categorize. Some Ph.D. (and M.D.) scientists go on to work in regulatory affairs. Some choose science policy. Others become editors. Still others become outstanding schoolteachers. Others choose industrial research–for which a postdoc is not a bad idea but may not be essential. (Of three recent hires into drug-development staff positions at one “big pharma,” two were hired straight from their organic chemistry Ph.D.s; only one had any postdoc experience.)

Scientists with advanced degrees do all sorts of work. They typically find the transitions into their new careers easy. And they almost always find the new work very rewarding. Yes, folks, there is intelligent life outside the academy, not to mention more family-friendly policies and better working conditions. So if you have doubts about your evolving bench career, now is a very good time for some serious introspection. Pay a visit to your institution’s career office. And check out Next Wave’s Index of Monthly Feature Indexes. With hundreds of essays about and by scientists in dozens of careers, this is undeniably the best resource available for scientists considering their away-from-the-bench options.

Still with us? Still want to know how to go about finding a postdoc? Then let’s get started.

Click here to read the complete article.

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