Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What I am, Post Doc.

I am a research associate, which is the next level position of research assistant.
In professor's rank, becoming associate from assistant means getting tenured.
Then, what is the difference between research associate and research assistant? PhD degree.
Additionally, the salary jumps up 2~4 times.
(Sorry, professors. You cannot make your salary doubled by the promotion to associate)

What am I doing as a research associate (aka Post Doc)? Almost the same as what I did as research assistant(aka graduate student), though a little difference on the attitude.

Why did I become a PostDoc?
Frankly speaking, it was because I couldn't get a job in academia.
(I haven't made an effort to get a job in industry. I am not sure how tough it would be)
I need some time to publish my papers.

I am hoping that after two years of PostDoc, I could be a strong candidate on academic job market.
It will be not only because my previous works will be published, but also because new research experience as a PostDoc will be a great value adding factor.

"Across all S&E fields and cohorts, 53%–56% of former postdocs said that their postdoc appointment enhanced their career opportunities to a "great extent"; an additional 33%–38% said that their postdoc appointment "somewhat" enhanced their career opportunities."  - Science & Engineering Indicator 2010

I will enhance my career opportunity by about 90% of chance. Good for me!

Now, how many doctorate recipients become a Post Doc?
I couldn't find the specific data for OR area. But I could get the following information.
As OR is a part of mathematics, engineering and Computer science simultaneously, we will focus on  Math., Eng. and CS.

Percentage of doctorate recipients : Post Doc

Click to enlarge the graph.

As you can see, the percentages are more than doubled in Math. Eng. and CS from 1982 to 2002. Now, a decade has passed from 2002. I guess it increased even more, thesedays.

Post Doc Salary

Table 3-23
Median salary of U.S. SEH doctorate holders in postdoc positions: 2008
Median salary ($)
Field of doctorateAcademic postdocsNonacademic postdocsNonpostdocs
All SEH42,00050,00075,000
Biological/agricultural/environmental life sciences41,00047,00065,000
Computer/information sciences46,000S90,000
Mathematical sciences52,000S71,000
Physical sciences43,00057,00075,000
Social sciences47,000S62,000
S = suppressed for reasons of confidentiality and/or reliability
SEH = science, engineering, and health
NOTE: Salaries are rounded to nearest $1,000.
SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients (2008), http://sestat.nsf.gov.
Science and Engineering Indicators 2012

Compared to the salary of graduate assistant, it is more than doubled. However, still much less than non post doc's. As I remember, my salary is as much as the average salary of engineering undergraduate.
Ok for the single, but still not good for the married especially with kids.

More detailed information can be found the following link

It seems that as the number of Post Doc increase, the expectation of publication increases, and the inflation of publication pushes more doctorate recipients into Post Doc. It looks like a vicious cycle forms, making job market tougher along with economic recession.

The academic job market seems getting better last year and this year, again.
I cross my fingers hoping it will be even better next year.


  1. Your comment about profs *not* doubling their salary when they get tenure was a masterpiece of understatement. My reward for tenure (and promotion to associate prof.) was a bump of $250 per year.

    Your first figure is enlightening. When I was finishing my PhD (1979), post-docs in math were probably fairly rare. I heard of them in physics, but I don't recall knowing any math majors back then who got post-docs.

    1. I was pretty sure that it cannot be doubled. But I didn't know it is as small as $250 per year. I made my salary doubled (more than that in fact), and I gonna do so again within two years from now, hopefully. :)

    2. If including the security of position and stree of researching / grant proposals, it is much more (although may not double yet) than just comparing the amount of salary.

      Treat your posdoc as the invest of your tenure, it worths of it. Good luck.

  2. Even though I said that the inflation on publication pushes more fresh PhDs into Post Doc, Post Doc positions rely on projects (especially in academic post doc case). Therefore, increasing number of post Doc is not due to the inflation on publication or tough job market, but due to the increment of projects either in the quantity(number) or in the quality(amount of fund). It would be interesting if I can get the statistics of projects given to academic institutes.