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As far as I know a PostDoc in USA is 2 years of research program. Habilitation is 4-8 years program. So, why is this difference in time frame?

What are advantages/disadvantages of Habilitation over PostDoc in case of academic career?

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PosDocs usually work on someone else's research programs. Often the program is an incremental or partial step in a larger research framework. Postdocs have some independence in choosing the methods for their research, but are largely supervised/trained by their PIs or mentors. Postdoctoral projects can be rather technical in nature. They usually result in a few journal publications. It is very likely that your colleague next door did or will do a few postdoctoral projects during their career.

Habilitation is a large piece of work focused on a large problem, performed completely independently by one person. It usually contains major theoretical breakthrough (e.g. a completely new methodology) and results in a number of journal publication and at least one major "manuscript" publication (e.g. book). It is not so likely that a random academic next door did a Habilitation (because in most countries PhD is a terminal degree and Hab. does not exist).

tl;dr: Postocs and Habilitation are completely different programs.

  • What are advantages/disadvantages of Habilitation over PostDoc in case of academic career? – user366312 Apr 16 at 17:55
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    @user366312 if that is your real question, then you should edit the question to reflect that. – Maarten Buis Apr 16 at 18:50
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    Only some countries have an habil (e.g. Germany or Poland). If you are interested in a career outside these countries then a habil is a waste of time. In Germany there is formally no advantage of a habil over a successfully evaluated junior professorship. However, in some disciplines this formal rule is ignored and you will still get better chances with a habil. So the advantages and disadvantages are very dependent on your circumstances. – Maarten Buis Apr 16 at 19:01
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A Habilitation is a qualification level (not quite like an academic degree but you can think that it is sort of a grand PhD with additional teaching).

A Habilitation used to be the formal qualification level to become Associate Professor and Full Professor. The position of an Assistant Professor (German "Universitätsassistent") was usually the time when you worked on obtaining the Habilitation.

In the meantime the Habilitation is a bit outdated.

You could also think the Habilitation as the successful completion of your Assistant Professor time i.e. postdoc positions are usually before and you usually cant start your Habilitation time before you completed several postocs.

  • What are advantages/disadvantages of Habilitation over PostDoc in case of academic career? – user366312 Apr 16 at 18:30
  • You can't compare it like this. It's like comparing a BSc and PhD. One builds on the other. – lordy Apr 16 at 18:37
  • do you have any proof/link that habilitation is outdated and less common than junior professorship? Just out of interest and because I rather doubt it – user847982 Apr 16 at 19:35
  • You can see it in most professor "Stellenausschreibungen" that they ask for "Habilitation oder gleichwertige wissenschaftliche Leistungen" ie you don't necessarily need it anymore like in former times. But it might still be an advantage in old fashioned departments - also read my answer here academia.stackexchange.com/questions/128097/… – lordy Apr 16 at 20:29

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