You should consider several factors regarding the choice of a postdoc in psychology. This article will explore some of the queries and issues concerning the selection process.

What is a Postdoctoral?

After earning a Ph.D., you may decide to pursue a postdoc as the next step in your academic path. It is a means of gaining valuable experience in the field of your specialty. Typically, you work with a mentor who guides you through the duration of the experience. The length of the postdoc varies – there is no set time to complete this time of temporary research or scholarly training.

Most postdocs occur in STEM fields, although the social sciences have become more prevalent. The two primary sources of postdoc positions are at universities and private industry. Landing a job in your area of expertise is similar to seeking employment. Networking during your Ph.D. studies helps, as wells as beginning your search for places that offer postdocs. In this case, in the arena of psychology.

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How do I Prepare for a Postdoc?

According to the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (AAPIC), most application deadlines occur in December and January. Therefore, you should be researching potential postdocs in the fall. Your curriculum vitae (CV) should be current and reflect all experience and skills. A CV is generally longer than a resume. It is a summation of your credentials submitted for positions in academia, research, and medical fields.

Once your application has generated enough interest to receive an interview, further preparation is necessary. Interviews can be intimidating for those with a lack of exposure to them. The first interview might be conducted online via Skype or phone. The next rung is an in-person interview with one of the principals of the postdoc program. As with any job interview, learn as much as you can about the research program, the school or industry offering the opening, and jot down a list of questions you want to ask.

How do I select a Postdoc?

Most importantly, ask yourself:  Why do I want to do a postdoc? Write the pros and cons. List the reasons why you believe this will benefit your career in psychology. You may want to have a backup plan if you cannot find a postdoc to your liking. During your doctoral years, seek out professors and colleagues who have completed or involved in a postdoc. What are their thoughts on the merits and selection of a postdoc?

Scour online employment sites, such as Indeed and SimpyHired, for postings of postdoctoral fellowships and associates. There is a difference between these two terms. They differ primarily by the source of the funding.

A postdoctoral fellow granted by a learning institution typically receives compensation or financial support from an outside agency. Funds could come directly from the sponsor or through the university. A fellow has the same rights as the students. Therefore, there are no benefits available.

A postdoctoral associate receives payment by the university, usually in the form of a grant. In this format, the school considers the postdoctoral candidate an employee. The institution issues the person a W2 for taxes. The benefits, for example dental, medical, life insurance and disability, are the same as any other employee of the university.

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By perusing job offerings at employment sites, you see that the majority of fellowships and associates’ openings are at universities, healthcare systems (profit and non-profit), and medical facilities. If your Ph.D. is in the field of psychotherapy, there are positions offered in health care systems to work with military veterans and first responders. In this example, topics of research at the include substance use, PTSD, and suicide.

You will undoubtedly gravitate towards the postdoctorate that mirrors your Ph.D. thesis. If rehabilitation psychology was the topic, there are postdocs offered at universities that perform research in this particular field.

Doctoral graduates in clinical or mental health psychology can find postdoc resident openings at independent agencies. An example is Clements & Associates, Inc. that provides mental health therapies and assessments. They have two locations in Florida and one in Texas (San Antonio). The job posting seeks a postdoc resident to perform psychological evaluations of patients in age from 2 to 70+. The successful candidate will train at either their Orlando or Lake Mary, Florida office.

You can find additional research fellowships at medical centers. One example is the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Their Alzheimer’s Disease Center has an opening for a postdoc fellow to research the racial and ethnic disparities in cognitive aging. The fellowship is a two year funded position.

What about overseas?

There are psychology postdocs advertised at universities in Europe and Asia. ETH Zurich, for example, a world leader in university education, has an opening for a postdoc investigating behavioral and cognitive issues. Applicants with a background in educational or cognitive psychology are potential candidates. The postdoc positions are highly competitive overseas as you are dealing with a worldwide swath of students.

questionWhat else should I consider?

Read the application carefully:

Those hiring reject applicants who fail to read and answer the appropriate questions.

Write a captivating cover letter:

Your cover letter should be clear and concise. Avoid jargon and superfluous information. The letter should entice the reader to proceed to the attached CV. You may express how your Ph.D. would be a natural progression into the postdoctoral program.

Demonstrate teamwork:

Research invariably involves working as a team. Therefore, site examples in your resume when you have contributed and collaborated on projects with colleagues.

Make sure you meet the qualifications:

Be sure you meet or exceed the essential postdoc requirements. Don’t waste time sending applications for which you are not qualified. Doing so may jeopardize your chances of consideration if there is another opening from the same employer.

Additional Resources:

What is the Benefit of a Ph.D. in Psychology vs. a Psy.D?

What are the differences in an Online vs Campus Master’s Degree in Psychology?

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

What is a degree in Psychology?

What Government Jobs are there with a Degree in Psychology?

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

What is the Difference between a Degree in Psychology and Sociology?