A postdoctoral associate position allows graduate students the opportunity to deepen their scholarly experience. By conducting academic or scholarly research, a postdoctoral associate develops expertise in a specific subject, including required skills and methods. This research contributes to the educational mission of a university or a host institution, and is expected to be published in relevant publications.
A postdoctoral associate has completed her doctoral studies, and usually begins conducting research within five years of earning her degree. This research position may be funded through an appointment with a salary or with a stipend or sponsorship award. These appointments may also be called postdoctoral research fellows, or postdoctoral research assistants. All of these titles are commonly referred to as "post docs." Postdoctoral associates may either work independently or under the supervision of a principal investigator or mentor, depending on the type of appointment.
While further developing their own research skills, postdoctoral associates often offer significant contributions to the academic institution, create and discover new knowledge, and provide research direction for undergraduate and graduate students. Postdoctoral associates pursue this temporary period of research and scholarly training to acquire necessary skills to pursue the career of their own choosing. Associates may choose careers from among many fields, including engineering, mathematics, biological sciences, and psychology and other social sciences.
A postdoctoral associate may pursue basic, clinical, or translational projects, as long as her efforts are devoted to her own scholarship. If working under the guidance of a mentor, an associate has the responsibilities of actuating her postdoctoral training, and carefully investigating the details of the position. Responsibilities include meeting the obligations and expectations of the postdoctoral appointment, discussing the position with the mentor, and adhering to the research conduct policies of the institution. Since this research is essential to the mission of the mentor and the academic institution, post docs have the freedom to publish the results of their work.
By accepting research positions in industry or other settings, postdoctoral associates can also pursue non-academic careers. These research positions may focus on research and development, quality control, manufacturing and production, process development, computation, and product testing. For postdoctoral associates who do not want to pursue research careers, their skills could instead be used in scientific writing and editing, computer programming, marketing of high-tech products and services, and regulatory affairs. Postdoctoral associates may use non-scientific skills in other careers, perhaps working as financial analysts, consultants, grant writers and administrators, or higher education administrators.