Finding a Good Postdoc: Tips & Resources


  • An opportunity to develop additional skills and experience while under the supervision of an experienced researcher
  • It doesn’t need to be in the same field as PhD, but will be longer if requires becoming proficient in new field


  • Present your work through departmental seminars and professional association meetings
  • Supervise research of undergraduate students and technicians
  • Participate in drafting research grant proposals
  • Join professional associations and apply for honor societies in your field


  • Network! Go to scientific meetings, talk with PIs whose research you like, make contacts
  • Present at and attend conferences and meetings, read professional association websites and newsletters
  • Ask advisors and mentors for ideas, some may be willing to advocate for you
  • Email advisors or PIs early to express interest in postions


Choice of a Postdoc Mentor: Consider special skills, rank, reputation, previous trainees, and funding status

  • Established New Principal Investigator (PI): Established PI has rank and influence, while new PI is likely to spend a lot of time in lab and can give more direct training
  • Training Record: Are past trainees in high-level positions? Are current trainees getting quality training?
  • Funding: Does PI have funding to pay postdoc for 3-5 years? Does PI have good extramural funding record?
  • Management Style: Does the PI give postdocs freedom to work independently? What kind of schedule are postdocs expected to follow? Is the lab collaborative or competitive? Does PI supply up-to-date equipment?

Salary and Cost of Living

  • Many Postdocs in academia have roughly same salary nationwide due to federal funding guidelines
  • Postdocs in industry generally pay more, but may not be best choice for those pursuing academic careers because of potential limits on publishing and applying for funding

Select a Laboratory that Suits Your Work and Lifestyle

  • If at all possible, visit the lab before making a decision; consider the reputation of the institution
  • Talk to other graduate students and postdocs in lab to determine work style
  • Think about how you like to work—as part of a team, individually, with what level of supervision?
  • Does lab location and surrounding environment satisfy your non-work interests?
  • Do people in lab work 9am – 5pm, only when experiments need to be done, or all of the time?
  • Do you prefer a lab with a lot of money and space or are tight spaces and budgets okay?
  • Do you want a lab that acts like a “family” and hangs out all the time or sticks to business?
  • How much attention do you want from mentor? More people means less time with mentor

Select a Project with Outcomes that Match Your Career Goals

  • Determine why you want to do a postdoc and what you want to do/where you want to be after completion
  • Avoid strictly continuing work you did in graduate school; a postdoc is an opportunity to diversify your expertise
  • Think carefully before extending your graduate work into a postdoc in same It is unlikely to maximize your gain of broader experience, but that can be offset by rapid and important publications
  • Does lab you are entering have a track record producing high-quality publications?
  • Understand the expectations around publication records in your field, and set goals for yourself
  • Have an understanding with your mentor on your likelihood of first authorship before you start projects
  • Find out about source and duration of funding before accepting position
  • Good mentors will understand that your horizon is independence—your own future lab, group leader,
  • Strive to get your own money—plan ahead for this, as most funds come from joint application with mentor


Plan for Your Future

  • Have at least two projects underway. Include one that is guaranteed to generate good (if not exciting) results
  • Network and meet other postdocs on campus, serve on campus committees; attend and present at seminars, regional, and national scientific meetings


MIT Postdoc Resources

Finding and Securing Postdoctoral Positions

General Postdoc Resources and Opportunities

Maximizing the Postdoctoral Experience

Funding Sources

(awardee institutions, government agencies: NIH, NSF, NASA, EPA, USDA; & private organizations)