Most times when people get a doctorate degree, it’s called a terminal degree. It means it is the highest degree someone can attain in a field or the end point of studies. Yet, earning a degree doesn’t necessarily mean that research or studies are over, and in order to continue research, there are many degrees, and especially colleges that offer something called a postdoctoral fellowship.
A postdoctoral fellowship might be offered in a vast variety of fields, and very often in departments like the straight sciences and the social sciences; however, there are some fellowships in the humanities too. It is usually a paid position, but not quite on par with being a professor. Sometimes people who want to work at a specific college as a professor will complete a postdoctoral fellowship in hopes of being offered a tenured teaching position thereafter. Other times, there is just a tempting area of research the student would like to pursue in more depth, and would have difficulty doing without some funding.
While research may be the principal focus in some fellowships, other students want to do or make something. For instance, a student could have evolved a way to integrate media in classroom studies and wants to try this out. Some fellowships are offered more for students who wish to teach certain types of classes or to take part in think tanks that bring together several departments.
There are a fair amount of postdoctoral fellowship positions, and at minimum people must have completed and been awarded a doctorate. There may be other requirements depending on the school. University of California (UC) has some postdoctoral studies that are limited to students who earned doctorates at one of their schools, for example. Fellowships typically aren’t like college admission to a graduate program. A department may only award one or two a year, if that. Length of the fellowships can vary too. Some can last four to five years and others are for only a couple of years long.
Perhaps the best way to start searching for a postdoctoral fellowship is by asking graduate teachers or advisors which ones they recommend. Online searching is also not a bad choice, since this may quickly bring up quite a few options. To limit search returns, try searching in areas of interest only, otherwise there is a good chance of not being able to wade through all the potential postdoc fellowships that exist. People can search for fellowships internationally too, if research in another country would make more sense or sounds attractive.