So, you've finally finished your Ph.D. You made it through your dissertation with your sanity more or less intact, and you're relishing being called "doctor" while trying not to think of all the student loan debt you have. Now what?
Postdoctoral research, also called a postdoc, is an option for people who have earned a doctorate, or a Ph.D. A postdoc is a sort of stepping-stone between student life and the "real" world of the workplace. Traditionally, postdocs have existed as a way for young scientists to gain more in-depth training in their field and to supply research institutions with inexpensive labor. Most people choose to do a postdoc for the opportunity to improve their resumes by publishing more of their work in peer-reviewed journals, to make more professional contacts, and to build a solid reputation for themselves as up-and-coming scientists. Some people do a postdoc because another job is not available. Postdocs are most common in the fields of physical sciences and life sciences, and many doctorate holders are working toward a career at a research university or a research career within a government agency, or in the private sector [source: NSF/CPST/Professional Societies Workshop].
Since postdoctoral fellowships come after you complete your Ph.D. but before you embark on the rest of your professional career, the work environment and pay are also somewhere between the two. Every postdoctoral fellowship is unique, and postdocs vary in terms of pay and benefits as well as research experience. If you're considering doing a postdoc, make sure that you discuss your options with a counselor early on in your studies. Even if you end up receiving offers for postdoc positions, you need to ask the right questions before you decide which offer to accept.
Read on to learn about the postdoctoral experience.