When someone who has completed his or her doctoral studies and been awarded a Ph.D. goes on to conduct more research in order to gain more experience, expertise, or specialized knowledge after the doctorate was awarded, the appointment is referred to as a postdoctoral position. That the applicant to the position must be within five years of having received his or her doctorate may be a requirement. A postdoctoral position is gained in one of several ways.
First, one obvious way to seek a postdoctoral position is through the institution that granted you your doctorate. You can both seek out job listings specifically for the department of the university in which you studied, as well as through the university’s career counseling center, if for example, you wish to pursue your research elsewhere.
Second, there are special job sites that specialize in bringing together applicants seeking postdoctoral positions and employers seeking to hire them. These can easily be found with an internet search. Professional journals in your field may also carry notices of post doc positions.
Another resource that may serve you well in acquiring a postdoctoral position is the National Postdoctoral Association, which aims to “enhance the quality of the postdoctoral experience for all participants.” In this capacity, the group provides resources for postdocs including helpful materials for those seeking postdoctoral appointments and reviews of certain positions. Although the job board link is to the career listings at the journal Science, the career materials do take Humanities and Social Science postdoc applicants into account.
As you look at advertisements for postdoc positions, it is also important to note that there are several different kinds. Some postdoctoral positions focus on training the applicant further in his or her field through his or her participation in a set project, while others are designed to support the independently-conceived research that the applicant has in mind to do. In the humanities and social sciences, as well as in the sciences, there are teaching postdoctoral programs.
In many cases, the postdoctoral position is a necessary step in order to be able to do independent research as a principal investigator. It may also be a necessary step to a tenure-track position for those in academics.