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I just graduated with a Ph.D. in Asia. And I'm considering to look for a postdoc position in US in the field of computer science (to be specific, machine learning and computer vision). But I don't want to go for a faculty position (at least I don't want to at this moment) in the future. I'd prefer to find some research position in industry or some research institute in US. My question is that do you think one or two years' postdoc experience really helpful for a research career, considering it may not be that easy for an oversea student to directly get a research position in industry or research institutes?

Some of the advantages I can think of are:

  1. Postdoc's supervisor's networking with other people in industry or researh institutes
  2. More publications before job hunting
  3. Get to know more people in my area

Hope to hear some advice from you. Thank you very much.

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's hard to define "helpful": yes, it's better to do a postdoc in a top place rather than staying at home, but if you want to work in research industry, it might be better to do some development for a year rather a completely unrelated postdoc in the middle of nowhere.

If you want to apply for a position, you have to understand the competition you might be facing: positions in the top research labs (public/private) are highly attractive, and you would be facing people with good achievements in academia (publications in top venues, PI for important grants, extensive network for collaboration, etc), and/or people with good achievement in industry (project managers, success for a specific product, good contact with academia, etc).

So, the question is not whether it's good or not to do a postdoc, but what will a particular postdoc bring to you:

  • a different research topic, increasing your multi/inter-disciplinary skills
  • a very promising research topic, potentially increasing your visibility by publishing at top venues
  • a collaboration with industry, thus increasing your academia/industry network
  • etc

A good approach could be to check, when available, the CVs of the people working at a research lab you could be interested to, as it could give you a good idea of what they did before joining the lab.

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Thanks for the fruitful reply. I'm not quite certain about "if you want to work in research industry, it might be better to do some development for a year". As I know, some industrial labs also weigh publication considerably highly, e.g. MSR. So spending one year on development is a good step? Thanks –  Giantron Feb 27 '13 at 10:19
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@Giantron: it was "better ... than ..."! What I meant is that what you concretely do is the important point. Doing some ML-related coding in a company with a large dataset (e.g., facebook) might bring an interesting aspect to your CV, w.r.t. people who have only worked on synthetic or very small datasets. –  Charles Morisset Feb 27 '13 at 10:25
    
@Giantron: PS You might want to keep the question open for a bit, there might be different answers coming! –  Charles Morisset Feb 27 '13 at 10:26
    
Thanks for the suggestions, Charles. Sorry about `truncating' your sentence :) I agree that such experience you talked about will bring benefits for the research career. –  Giantron Feb 27 '13 at 14:42
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Although CS post-docs are somewhat rare compared to many other fields, you have the right idea that it is a good idea as a stepping stone for further research or faculty positions down the road. If you're willing to take a position and can find one, I don't think there are any downsides if you do indeed continue to publish and make contacts. I would also suggest broadening your search to European positions, as there are many excellent opportunities at outstanding institutions there, as well.

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I wouldn't say that postdocs are rare in CS ... I don't think I know anyone who didn't do a postdoc (when staying in academia). –  Charles Morisset Feb 27 '13 at 9:36
    
@CharlesMorisset: yup. it's common to see CS graduates go for postdocs if they want to stay in academia. But I'm not sure if postdoc is a good step for my case, as I'm not interested in finding a faculty position in some university. –  Giantron Feb 27 '13 at 10:24
    
@Charles Morisset -- my experience is different. I only know a few CS faculty that did postdocs. That said, my definition of postdoc would not include a year in industry, which others may consider a postdoc. –  Chris Gregg Feb 27 '13 at 10:34
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It really depends on the subfield. Postdocs are very common in theory, and very uncommon in systems and networking, for example. –  JeffE Feb 27 '13 at 14:55
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