Advantages and duration

Oriented towards the acquisition of experience and the overriding necessity of publishing, the postdoctoral phase represents a crossroads on the career path.

A postdoctoral stay at another university, particularly abroad, is viewed extremely positively in public research. It is taken into account in the recruitment process for professorial posts and higher intermediary staff, and is sometimes considered as a condition for participation in an SNSF funding programme. In certain universities, it is obligatory for obtaining a post as senior lecturer. It is therefore an important factor in a researcher’s career.

The postdoctoral phase is considered as a phase during which researchers develop their research and the necessary skills for becoming independent senior researchers.

In the sciences in particular, a succession of postdoctoral positions lasting more than six years is not recommended. When four to six years have elapsed after the doctorate, the person is expected to occupy a position as group leader and acquire their own funds. In some fields, the postdoctoral career is shorter (one year maximum, or does not exist at all, especially in the economic and social sciences).

A postdoc does not have the same degree of relevance for all fields and individual professional objectives. Indeed, the postdoctoral phase, particularly if extended, may prove to be a handicap for finding work in industry. Moreover, working conditions offered to PhD holders by public administrations and private companies are often better than those of postdoctoral positions.

What skills do I need to acquire during a postdoctoral appointment ?

The American National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) defines six skills that should be developed during the postdoctoral phase :

1.  Discipline-specific conceptual knowledge
Research skill development
Communication skills
Leadership and management skills
Responsible conduct of research

Their site gives more details, as well as specific skills derived from these six main categories.