Postdoctoral studies are studies which take place after an individual has received a Ph.D. They are intended to help the person continue professional development, and make to positive contributions to his or her field of specialization. In the vast majority of cases, these are paid positions, with funding coming through a university endowment or research grant. The undependable nature of grants makes some postdoctoral studies extremely tenuous. Those who do take advantage of a postdoctoral program are usually able to develop key contacts along the way, which help in finding new positions.
Postdoctoral studies typically come in two forms: research, or a hybrid of research and teaching. Those who are on the hybrid track may find that they are able to obtain tenure and keep teaching as a professor after any research activities cease. Most, however, will simply find a way to continue in some type of research, along with the teaching. Those who are involved in postdoctoral research may be called postdoctoral associates. These positions generally do not carry any tenure.
The main function of those in postdoctoral studies is to conduct research in their area of specialty. For example, a person with a Ph.D in medicine may help develop new treatments, test those treatments, and figure out why they would work, or would not work for different patients. Some may specialize in a certain disease, such as finding a cure for cancer, or even a certain type of cancer. In addition, postdoctoral studies allows an individual to remain in an academic setting, which is often what these types of students want to do.
Some postdoctoral studies are temporary, short-term programs. Often these may last only a matter of months. This type of program is often called a postdoctoral fellowship. A person who participates may be referred to as a postdoctoral fellow. Usually, these positions pay a stipend, and may even offer living arrangements throughout the course of the program for free to the participant on a college campus. These are seen as great ways to network, develop professionally, and help in a needed area.
Postdoctoral studies may not be for everyone. Those who are concerned about student loans, and other debt, may find the lack of security offered in some postdoctoral programs disconcerting. Those with doctoral degrees are often able to find employment in the private sector that is guaranteed at above-average salaries. Depending on a grant for a livelihood may not be what they envisioned when they graduated. Still, for those without these concerns, or who like what they can accomplish, postdoctoral studies open an additional set of options.