How do I get Postdoctoral Work?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2019
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There are four steps required to get postdoctoral work: post-secondary training, related work experience, identifying areas of focus, and completing the job interview process. Postdoctoral students have completed a doctoral or Ph.D. degree. This is the highest level of education available from a university. The job application and hiring process for postdoctoral work is slightly different than for standard employment opportunities.

The postdoctoral degree can be obtained in a range of subjects, from the humanities to the sciences. On average, it takes six to eight years of university to obtain a doctoral degree. The first degree is a bachelor's degree, which is four years in length and provides the groundwork for all other training.

The master’s degree varies in length, depending on the field of study. Programs at this level typically focus on a specific aspect of material covered in the bachelor's degree program. At this stage, candidates begin to work on self-directed research, under the guidance of a professor, or postdoctoral adviser. In doctoral programs, candidates must write a unique thesis on their area of expertise. They are then required to defend it, in a series of presentations and interviews with recognized experts in the field.


Post-secondary training programs are required to get postdoctoral work. Anyone who wants to obtain postdoctoral work must have completed a doctoral degree. The length of time required to complete this stage of training depends on the subject matter and the candidate.

Related work experience to get postdoctoral work includes working as a teaching assistant, research adviser, or associate. The primary career opportunities upon graduation are teaching and research. Other work experience that is related to these two career streams include community leadership, public speaking, and project management.

It is expected that all postdoctorates have a specific area of focus or interest. This focus is the subject of their thesis and primary research work. The area of focus determines the types of employment opportunities available. For example, scientists who have spent most of their time researching will find employment opportunities in product development and research. Candidates who have combined teaching with research may find more teaching engagements are available.

During the job interview process, take the time to prepare for the interview. Think of a list of standard interview questions and prepare your answers in advance. Be prepared for multiple, panel interviews. When interviewing for a position in a university or college, expect to see other experts in your field on the selection committee.

In an industry setting, there may be a smaller interview panel, but be prepared for multiple interviews. It is not uncommon for postdoctoral candidates to apply to positions around the country or even internationally. Many institutes will cover travel and accommodation expenses for the interview period. Be sure to inquire from the administrative assistant if this is standard practice when interviewing for this company or institute.



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