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I have been offered an assistant professor position at a university in my home country. As I don't have any other offers at the moment, I want to accept. However, I believe that a post-doc or two will help me improve as a researcher, and also will help with my two-body problem.

I want to know that if I take this position, am I still eligible to apply for and do post-docs? My field is physics.

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  • The main problem is not about being eligible, it's that you would certainly have to quit your assistant professor position should you get a postdoc position. Would you be ready to do it, knowing that it would probably close this door in your home university forever?
    – Erwan
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:07
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    In the US (perhaps elsewhere) there sometimes a position called Research Assistant Professor, which is functionally equivalent to a senior post-doc - it is not tenure-track. It wouldn't be odd to move from that position to another post-doc, but it would be considered odd to go from a true Assistant Professor position (tenure-track) to a post-doc. You might want to clarify if the position in this case is tenure track or not.
    – iayork
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:24
  • @Erwan I'd be more hesitant to say eligibility is not an issue; post docs are considered training positions, and for tax or funding reasons they may not be allowed once someone has obtained a "higher" position. For example in the US, the NSF does not award post doc grants for someone 3 years past their degree or in a tenure track position (as iayork indicated, knowing whether the position is tenure track may be quite important).
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:39
  • @BryanKrause fair enough, I knew about postdoc conditions such as maximum time since graduation but didn't know about conditions related to current status.
    – Erwan
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:53
  • I should add that university policy may come into play too...for example, at my institution, post docs are not eligible for certain benefits like the retirement plan (but also pay grad student rates for health insurance) because they are considered temporary employees. Therefore, policies exist to prevent "taking advantage" of the situation somehow by designating someone as a post doc who should not be.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:57

1 Answer 1

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I'll have to guess a bit on this, never having heard of the situation before. I think you are wise to be worried, though. The intention of post docs is to provide research (sometimes also teaching) experience to people who have just finished their doctorates. Some positions will be explicit about that.

But even if you are technically eligible, I think a lot of people would wonder about you if you took that path. "Why is he leaving a regular position..." They might even question your qualifications since leaving an Assistant Professor position (in the US) often means that tenure was denied or the candidate assumed it would be. That isn't a good impression to leave, even if it is inaccurate.

Assistant professor may mean something different in your country, of course. But consider the "expected" career path of such a person in your decision.

On the other hand, it is also (US, again) possible to move from an Assistant Professor position at one university to a similar, regular, position at another. The new position might enable more research possibilities, especially if there is a larger, more active, faculty.

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    Or one could do a 'sabbatical', or be a visiting researcher, or various other temporary titles while off doing something in another country. It likely would reduce the number of options, though.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 2, 2019 at 13:16
  • The question "Why is he leaving a regular position" could probably be largely addressed with a well-written cover letter. It would still be an unusual situation though.
    – academic
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:16

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