What is a Postdoctoral?

Also known as a postdoc, it is primarily an area of research for scholars who have earned a doctorate. The word refers to a temporary position in which the individual performs mentored research and/or training to acquire additional skills needed for his/her planned career. One analogy compares a postdoc as being relegated to the minor-league in baseball as you wait for a slot to open in the majors. At the lower level, you receive coaching and training that will benefit your next step into the big league. Similarly, a postdoc provides the training to acquire particular knowledge and skills that you will use in your subsequent career path.

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Many postdocs exist in STEM fields. However, positions in the social sciences and the humanities are becoming more common. Regardless of the field of study, some postdocs linger for several years. In the U.S. in 2013, of the more than 40,000 postdocs, almost 4,000 had exceeded six years of postdoc work. There is an unwritten rule that a postdoc should not be longer than five years.

Students considering a postdoc may find additional information at the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA). Membership is available for the nominal annual fee of $35 for graduate and postdoc scholars. Another site is the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). The APPIC membership requires the submission of their application and acceptance hinges upon passing the Preliminary Review process.

What about Psychology Postdocs?

Most positions are at universities, industry, private research firms, and government agencies. With the current licensing laws, it has become essential to perform postdoc research and training. The postdoc allows psychologists to learn new investigative techniques and build their research programs. Practitioners obtain the supervised hours they need for licensure, specialize in a particular area, or create a client base. New doctoral psychologists can also establish their professional identities.

Most states mandate that psychologists pass their licensing requirements before practicing in the field. However, most universities and learning institutions do not have the same demands. You may work in academic research without a state license in psychology. Research positions in government agencies generally do not require a license unless you are in the practice of providing psychological treatment, such as counseling.

 Postdoctoral Research

Posted jobs can provide insight into this field of research. The following random selections are from prominent online employment sites.

Medical Centers/Hospital

A position for a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Chicago requires the applicants to have a doctorate in psychology or neuropsychology. The successful candidate researches age-related changes in cognition as part of the Center’s research on Alzheimer’s disease. The position is a fully-funded two-year postdoctoral research position focused on understanding racial and ethnic disparities in cognitive aging and decision-making. Individuals who aspire to become independent investigators in aging and health disparities research will benefit from this opportunity.

A children’s hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, offers a position that combines research and clinical psychology. The post-doctoral fellow conducts, scores, and interprets psychological testing with parents as a component of comprehensive parenting evaluation. Other duties include collaborating with clinical staff to establish treatment recommendations, writing assessments, and performing evidence-based therapy with children and caregivers.

University

The Department of Psychology at a Winston-Salem University seeks a post-doctoral research fellow. During the three-year fellowship, the candidate will research character strengths, moral personality, and character interventions. Other duties include designing empirical studies related to interventions, evaluating programs, and writing manuscripts for publication.

A university in Kentucky has a post-doctoral research position in the Behavioral Neuropharmacology Laboratory. Their lab work incorporates rat models to study the shared neurobiology of risky decision-making and substance use disorders. The fellowship also includes the development of related research studies and the contribution to current projects by writing manuscripts. Applicants must have a Ph.D. in experimental psychology or neuroscience.

Non-Profit

A not-for-profit mental health center in Hartford provides patient care, education, and research in the fields of behavioral, psychiatric, and addiction disorders. Their Anxiety Center has an opening for a post-doctoral one-year fellowship. The job involves research studies, data analysis, and manuscript and proposal writing. Applicants may have experience in clinical and research methods, as well as a working knowledge of research dynamics.

A non-profit organization in the business of healthcare services in Danville, Pennsylvania, seeks a post-doctoral fellow to perform research in neural and genetic influences of substance abuse disorders, specifically opioid abusers. The postdoc individual will assist in the analysis of existing structural neuroimaging data on a large population (10,000+) of patients who also have a large amount of clinical and genomic data. Applicants who have completed a doctorate in psychology, neuroscience, genetics, or computer science are eligible.

Government

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH funded a research study into the health disparities facing Chinese-American older adults. The work involves presentations, travel, and research manuscripts. The research includes both epidemiology and intervention studies. Applicants need a strong ability to analyze extensive epidemiological data and familiarity with longitudinal methods, according to the job posting.

Conclusion

Postdoc research is a means to earn a salary while gaining valuable experience and knowledge in a specific area of psychology. The highlighted examples of jobs should illustrate some of the potential venues where fellowships are available.

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Additional Resources:

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What is the Benefit of a Master’s vs. Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

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