Making a Career out of a Postdoctoral Appointee Job

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If you are in the process of completing a doctorate degree and thinking about being an associate postdoctoral fellow, one of the best places you can begin to look for work is right in front of your nose, at the very place you are currently working on your doctorate. Of course, it is not likely that you are going to find your job right there, but in many cases, advisors and other colleagues will have ideas as to where you can look for postdoctoral fellow positions. Advisors and other people working with you could give you leads to doctoral fellow positions which will give you a leg up over other candidates, since many times, this advisor can vouch for you as someone who is very good at what they do.

Another good place to look for associate and postdoctoral fellow positions is on the Internet. Job sites are full with positions in every area and in just about every location, so you should be able to find jobs to apply for near you and in your particular area of specialization without any problem.

Some advantages to postdoctoral fellowship employment

Depending on your area of expertise, becoming a postdoctoral fellow can give you greater opportunities especially in the area of research. Often, postdoctoral fellow positions focus exclusively on research, instead of on other duties that faculty members at academic institutions might have, such as advising students. Nor do postdoctoral fellowship positions focus on much other than research and "self-study." Therefore, these types of positions are especially useful to you if your area of expertise has a component to it whereby spending all that time on research and nothing else would be beneficial to you.

Another benefit is that for the most part, your time is your own and you can do what you wish within your professional area. That means, you can travel to conferences and learn other necessary things about your profession you might not otherwise have time to if you were in a regular professional position. In addition, those who become postdoctoral fellows can often publish their research for years to come, even after such fellowships are over and you have moved into a full-time postdoctoral position. Especially if your field is in academia, a postdoctoral fellowship may be of assistance to you in gaining tenure. In many positions outside of the academic world, a postdoctoral fellowship can also mean faster advancement and promotion once the fellowship is over versus someone who moves directly into a position after completing doctoral work.

There are other advantages, too. Because the fellowship is so self-directed, you will be able to spend your time "as you please" and study what you wish and what interests you in your particular academic pursuits. Those who work in typical full-time positions do not have this luxury, since things other than research take so much of their time up, even if their pursuits are largely in the academic world.

Some considerations
However, there are some considerations to be made before getting a postdoctoral fellow. These are not necessarily drawbacks, but should be considered before you decide to become a postdoctoral fellow, especially, if your area of postdoctoral work is lucrative, such as engineering; in this case, moving into a full-time position without becoming a fellow may be of greater benefit to you because it will give you the opportunity to earn more.

One consideration is that postdoctoral fellows generally make quite a bit less in these positions (about $40,000 a year, depending on location and area of specialization) than their professional colleagues who move on into immediate full-time jobs after they've completed their doctorate degrees. In addition, postdoctoral fellows are pretty much at the whim of their employers in terms of what credit they get for what they do. Therefore, someone comparable to you in a full-time "regular" position may get greater pay for doing the same work as you do in a postdoctoral fellow position. In addition, any publication you do will likely garner you less recognition than someone who is a fully tenured or otherwise employed colleague. As stated previously, there are also many positive trade-offs despite these drawbacks; namely, you have the luxury to do as you please and to do research almost all of the time, but these disadvantages are still things that must be considered.

A final point
Even if you decide to look for postdoctoral fellow positions and take one, remember that they do not last forever. Typically, they last anywhere from six months to five years. Therefore, if you do decide to accept a postdoctoral fellow position and you do find it to be constricting for any of the reasons previously stated, it is a temporary position and not one that you are locked into forever. For this reason alone, it is well worth considering doing a postdoctoral fellowship if you can while you have the chance. You will probably look back on this time quite fondly, as you usually have less responsibility and greater freedom than at any other time in your professional career.
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