NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Directorate for Social, Behavioral
and Economic Sciences
NSF 99-307 November 27, 1998
by Mark C.
What Follows the Postdoctorate Experience? Employment Patterns of 1993 Postdocs in 1995
More than 40 percent of 1993 postdoctorates remained in postdoc positions two years later.
As with earlier cohorts of postdocs, only a minority of 1993 postdocs left for tenure positions.
With increased use of postdoctoral positions or "postdocs" in many fields of science and engineering (S&E) , there is greater interest in where people find employment after completing their postdocs. Anecdotally, postdoc experiences are said to be most valued by academia, and hope for an academic career is held to motivate many postdocs. This issue brief examines the April 1995 career status of S&E doctorates who had been in a postdoc position in April of 1993, with a focus on academic and industrial employment.
A large number remained as postdocs
Few who left postdocs obtained tenure-track positions
Are current post-postdoc job patterns different from
The longer the time since the Ph.D., the lower the
chance for a tenure track appointment
But the pattern was sharply different for postdocs in all other fields combined. For them, the longer the time since earning their doctorates, the lower the likelihood of a tenure track position in 1995. Fourteen percent of 1993 postdocs with degrees earned 1-2 years earlier transitioned to tenure track positions, but only 10 percent of those who had earned degrees 3-6 years earlier and only 7 percent of those more than 6 years since their degrees. This pattern was particularly pronounced for physics postdocs: from 14 percent for those 1-2 years since their doctorates to only 7 percent for those who had earned their degrees 3-4 years earlier.
This Issue Brief was prepared by:
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 See the forthcoming NSF Issue Brief, Has the Use of Postdocs Changed? for a discussion of the prevalence and length of postdocs.
 Differences between percentages discussed in the text of this Issue Brief are statistically significant.
 See NSF Issue Brief 97-321, What's Happening in the Labor Market for Recent Science and Engineering Ph.D. Recipients, for a discussion of unemployment and involuntary out-of-field rates for recent Ph.D. graduates.
 Former postdocs are more likely to be in tenure track positions than non-postdocs34 percent versus 27 percent.
 The differences between each of these postdoc transition rates are statistically significant.