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I have received an offer for an R&D position in a private company. I see that they do quality science, not differently from universities in my field, and they have awesome labs. Plus it’s a fixed term position, I would directly skip the postdoc.

Would such a path allow me to go back to academia in the future, if I will want to? Or would I have to do a postdoc?

This company publishes a lot, so assume that my publication record will be fine.

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    It depends on the company and the field. Microsoft research and the old Bell Labs (say) certainly allow(ed) you to. Nov 21, 2020 at 20:14
  • Am confused - aren't postdocs fixed-term? Dec 21, 2020 at 23:21
  • I wish you luck. Things change, and they will in the next few years. The market could be completely different, as can a position. Apr 21, 2021 at 0:14
  • Given that it is a company, they may want to keep some things secret or file a provisional patent before allowing you to publish. This means you are not 'free' to publish whatever and whenever you want. Apr 21, 2021 at 0:34

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Sure it's possible. You just need a strong-enough CV to compare against the people who did do the more traditional postdoc route. Couple of examples of people who did it:

Ivar Giaever became a professor at Rensselaer (RPI) without doing a postdoc, but after accumulating a lot of research experience at General Electric.

Anwar Ibrahim had teaching positions at Oxford, Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University without doing a PhD or postdoc, but with a lot of government experience.

W.E. Moerner after getting PhD worked at IBM research center, served as visiting professor, and later gained tenured professorship

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  • They collaborate with my previous university and they publish as much as academics, and in my same exact field. They’re basically a private research institute and they directly give a long term job instead of hiring Postdocs.
    – NearIR
    Nov 21, 2020 at 22:40
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    @NearIR sounds like you'll be able to find a job at a university later, if you wish (don't need to say "find an academic job" since the job at the research institute is effectively an academic job).
    – Allure
    Nov 21, 2020 at 23:14
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Yes, you can do that. But, it might be a mistake to wait too long if that is your real goal. Moreover, consider the issue of letters of recommendation that you might want from academics in a year or so. It would be good to find a way to stay in contact with your advisor and other professors who know about your work and can recommend you highly. You don't want them to have a cloudy memory of you when it comes time to ask.

One way to start out that continuing relationship is to tell them now that you will probably want their help in the future and ask them for any advice they might have. Make sure they understand your long term goal is to return to academia.

Moreover, keeping in contact is a good way to keep open the possibility of future collaboration and start to build your own circle.

I don't know of any field in which a postdoc is required per se. What is needed is a way to buffer from the job market and build a reputation so that you compete with others for open positions. You can probably achieve that with such a position.

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  • They collaborate with universities and national labs, so I don’t think that letters will be a problem. I collaborated with them and, besides that they are a private company, they do just the same as we do in academia. They publish in the same field, they go to the same conferences as me, the boss is an editor, etc. They also have labs that you can find in national labs, but rarely in universities. Basically it is a privately run research lab. If - as you users suggest - the postdoc per se is not a formal requirement to go back to academia (in case I want), then it should not be an issue.
    – NearIR
    Nov 21, 2020 at 22:43
  • And... we’d already be working together with my university on a big international project.
    – NearIR
    Nov 22, 2020 at 5:19

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