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How do I Choose the Best Postdoctoral Program?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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The best postdoctoral program is one that allows you to maximize prior learning, expand work experience, and further knowledge in the primary field of study. A doctoral program is any program offered through an accredited university. It is the highest level of education available, and indicates a significant commitment of time, effort, and money. A doctoral degree can be earned in almost every discipline offered at the university level. For example, candidates can achieved a doctoral degree in fine art, but not in plumbing.

The range of postdoctoral programs available depend on the discipline or area of study. There is a much larger range of options for candidates who have pursued a doctoral degree in the sciences, medicine, or related field. In the humanities, the options are somewhat limited to teaching, full-time writing, or administration.

An ideal postdoctoral program for a candidate with credentials in this area is a course instructor or lecturer position in a post-secondary institution. In the sciences, there are two primary types of postdoctoral program: research and teaching. Research positions are not limited to just the public sector, but often includes highly compensated positions in private industry. Research positions are typically based on the actual doctoral dissertation or area of expertise. Many theoretical programs have significant overlap with practical applications.

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Teaching as part of a postdoctoral program is usually at the post-secondary level. Depending on the area of specialization, the teaching positions can be in the university or community college level. Some fields of study lend themselves to a wider range of teaching opportunities, while others are quite restricted. For example, a mechanical engineer can teach courses at both the college and university level, but an astrophysicist may have difficulty finding a position at the college level.

People who report the greatest satisfaction from a postdoctoral program have a clear plan in mind. This plan may include a short period of teaching, with a focus on obtaining research funding to pursue the primary area of interest. Candidates who are motivated, focused, and disciplined have the greatest chance of success.

When looking for the best postdoctoral program, do not limit yourself to just the publicly advertised positions. Keep in touch with your academic adviser and program administration staff. They often have a range of contacts in the primary field of study, and may be able to advise you of a new opportunity that ties to your areas of interest.

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