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Author Topic: How long would you postdoc?  (Read 15275 times)
orange23
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« on: December 22, 2012, 6:08:16 PM »

Excuse me if this is asked before.

How long are you willing to work as a postdoc before you get a TT job or find something else?

Thanks
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scampster
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2012, 8:38:49 PM »

This is really field dependent - some biologists postdoc for years without raising eyebrows, but an engineer postdocing for years would be weird.

Aren't you already a professor?
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orange23
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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2012, 10:12:19 AM »

Yes, I do have a permanent position, but I still wonder..
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kron3007
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2013, 12:38:24 PM »

I'm in a biology field, and my boss suggested that you should try not to postdoc for more than three years, but this is obviously not a hard deadline.

What I find more interesting about your question is that you seem to assume that all postdocs are only looking for TT positions.  Personally, I have been looking at industrial, NGO, government, and TT postings since the beginning.  My default goal is a TT position, but I try to keep all options open. 
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merinoblue
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2013, 1:04:55 PM »

If you're continually reassessing your skills, goals, and the market opportunities, there is going to be no fixed answer--particularly in this job market.  My initial limit for this job was one year.  I'm now entering my fourth year.  This year I must exit.  So that's how long I can stand to be in this job.  But that's been elastic.  There is no way I would have predicted in year one that I'd still be here in year four.
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macaroon
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2013, 4:13:52 PM »

Hard to say, and I think it's dependent on the field. 

I'm also in biology, and bio postdocs are fun!  So, I couldn't fault someone for taking the more fun opportunity. 
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southerntransplant
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2013, 5:17:24 PM »

I know a guy in chemical engineering who intends to spend his career bouncing from postdoc to postdoc. He's got no obligations, spouse, or kids, and has been very productive, so has been successful doing this. I don't know how long he can keep this up, but so far it has been working for him.

I think he is on postdoc position #5 right now.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 9:22:27 AM »

Well, I spent 7 years as a postdoc and considered doing it for longer.  I know several people like ST mentioned who have been postdocs for ten years or more (one guy has spent more than twenty years now doing that).  Some of those people eventually get recruited into other positions or change their title to research professor.  Others simply continue with being a "postdoc", despite being researchers in their own right and eventually take over the group when the current PI retires or dies.
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g_w_hayduke
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2013, 9:59:24 AM »

I had the option to postdoc straight out of my PhD or take a TT position. I chose the TT position, but the postdoc route allows for, and opens up, many more opportunities.

In my field, to land on the TT at an R1, you must do a postdoc in all but the most extreme cases. Often, candidates for R1 positions in my field have held at least 2 separate postdoc positions, and this is even true for the elite SLACs.

I see TT positions being filled by candidates 2-7 years past PhD. That is not to say postdoc'ing forever is a good idea. At some point, your research record and program is firmly established, and no amount of further research will make you more attractive to a department. At this point, you are 'old' and there is little if any incentive for a department to hire an old postdoc with a research record even remotely similar to a younger candidate.

-gw

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polly_mer
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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2013, 5:15:32 PM »

At some point, your research record and program is firmly established, and no amount of further research will make you more attractive to a department. At this point, you are 'old' and there is little if any incentive for a department to hire an old postdoc with a research record even remotely similar to a younger candidate.

In fields that overlap mine, a huge incentive to hire a long-term postdoc over a young'un for a TT position is portability of grants.  That postdoc who has been writing and getting grants for a decade or more has a huge advantage over the person who wrote a couple grants with help from a PI.  Those people often come with grants and possibly part of a research group, unlike a less established candidate.
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lucy_
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2013, 5:27:33 PM »

I post-doc'ed for 8 years; 3 different labs / schools. Didn't initially plan it that way, but for the longest time, it was a matter of the "two body problem" with each of us taking turns waiting for the other in different respects.

Each postdoc (and grad work) was quite a bit different in skill set, though always in a common field. But that building up of skills, that added experience, really helped in the job search, and even more importantly, once I started my tenure track position. I knew how to mentor undergraduate research students really well. I knew which projects were low risk / quick results and which were longer term projects, so knowing what to start first and what to hold off on. I knew how to write papers, how to write competitive grants. Knew how to run a research lab. For me, I wouldn't have been as successful at those things without the experience under my belt.

Also, being at a PUI, there aren't others down the hall that can do things that I can't do, like there were at the postdoc schools, so the more skills I have, the more research we can do here. I do collaborate, but its good to have a lot of self sufficiency too.

I also interviewed in industry, and they too looked at the experience as a plus.

It is fairly common in the biological / biochemical disciplines to do multiple post docs for almost as many years as I did; much less common in other chemistry fields, so often the nonbiochemists had to be educated by me or another bioX chemist.

I think so long as we are always growing, always moving forward, it doesn't really matter how we use that time. So long as we are gaining valuable skills, and hopefully enjoying ourselves. The only thing that suffered was the pay, it was really rather low. But I was young and didn't have a lot of expenses, grew up relatively poor, knew how to live cheaply, so it was OK. Though settling down and buying a house has been nice.
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dr_fungal
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« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2013, 12:51:06 PM »

I did not want to do a postdoc at all.  I'm in a STEM field and really feel like it is just the next level in a pyramid scheme.  I'd much rather be an independent researcher than working for someone else. 

I have 2 years of funding in my current postdoc position and I don't think that only finishing 1 year here would give me enough time to get the substantial publications that I am likely to get in year 2 and 3.  So, I am quelling my restlessness for now so that I can have better marketability later on.  Hopefully the timing of this will be at a good point for the job market.

Postdocing more than 4 years would not be good for me, personally, and in my field, there seems to be a decreasing value to postdoc years 4+.  If I am at year 5, it is a bad sign and I should probably start applying to industry or smaller university jobs.

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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2013, 12:52:59 AM »

In my field it's pretty common for people to do postdocs.  If you want to end up at an R1 or an elite SLAC, it's pretty much required.  The majority of candidates have done it even at public comprehensives/R2s and mid-tier SLACs.

In my field, 2-3 years is typically the standard.  I think I'd be willing to do up to 4 years, but at that point I'd start looking outside of academia if I haven't been able to secure a position.  But that's also because I think SCs in my field would look askance at a 5th or 6th year postdoc.
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blood_sweat_tears
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2013, 4:58:45 PM »

This totally depends on the discipline. I did two one-year postdocs, my partner did one 5 years postdoc. We are in completely different fields and both are fairly normal.
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teatree
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2013, 3:49:42 AM »

Medicine or Biology, rough idea is 5 years but varies a lot. Some do more than 10 years. Some a few years. After 5 years of postdoc, research institutions tend to think it as negative for various reasons. For example, after long time, the person's role tends to shift to lab management, less time for own research and fewer first author/many middle author papers as a result. 
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