What is the Value of a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship? Advance your research goals and diversify your skills before starting your professional career

The main goal of a postdoctoral fellowship is to develop your professional and academic skills while still under the mentorship of an experienced researcher. You will likely have more flexibility in terms of the funding you apply for and the direction of your research. The skills and experience you gain as a postdoc can be key to future applications to tenure-track faculty positions. A postdoc fellowship may also be advantageous to government agencies, nonprofit research organizations, research-focused corporations, healthcare centers, or other scientific/research-driven organizations, although not strictly required.

What should you expect from a postdoc fellowship?

  • Further develop your skills to define a scientific question and test your hypothesis, with more independence than as a graduate student.
  • Learn to run a lab of your own by mentoring junior scientists and laboratory staff.
  • Find and apply for your own funding to demonstrate your ability to secure future funding.
  • Learn to teach classes or seminars to develop the next generation of scientists.

Why should you pursue a postdoc fellowship?

  • Diversifies your skill set outside of graduate work.
  • Fills in the gaps in your technical knowledge.
  • Provides time to refine your research goals.
  • Pairs you with an expert in your field of choice in order to pursue research.
  • Improves your technical and "soft" skills.
  • Expands your publication record.
  • Adds experience to your resume/CV.
  • Expands your professional network.
  • Offers an opportunity to change the focus of your research (or even change disciplines entirely).

One aspect to note is that while the average salary/stipend amount for a postdoc position is typically higher than that of the average graduate student, it may still be significantly lower than a permanent position in your field.

A young woman conducts research using a computer

Meet some of the ORISE participants who are advancing scientific research and discovery

ORISE administers STEM education programs on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies. The diversity of these programs enables individuals—whether undergraduate, graduate, postdoc, or faculty—to conduct collaborative research with national laboratories or at one of DOE's federal agency partners. Learn about how their research experiences have advanced their academic and professional careers.

Read success stories