I saw that various postdoctoral fellowships have different lengths. they are anywhere between 1 to 4 years.

Which one is more important to get a tenureship: number of fellowship positions, or length, or the variety of research?

  • 7
    You should probably edit the title to add the number or length or variety of what? Sep 13 at 20:19

If you seek a tenured position, you will be judged on your publications, reputation, and reputation of your employers. Number and duration of postdoctoral positions has low importance. In many fields, zero is no longer an acceptable number or duration.

Long duration postdoctoral positions are good because they reduce the amount of time you spend looking for your next job. But that does not really answer your question.

Judge your employers based on their histories, not their advertisements.

  • 1
    Should there be a distinction here between 'postdoctoral positions' and 'postdoctoral fellowships'? While the language isn't consistent everywhere, the former usually means any PhD-requiring research post, but I would interpret the latter as an independently-funded post awarded through some competitive mechanism. These would carry significant weight in application for permanent posts in our university, much more than a 'normal' post-doc of similar duration. The exact number and duration may be less important, but having at least one is becoming a more common benchmark. Sep 13 at 20:10
  • @StephenMcMahon, in your comment, it should be: 'postdoctoral positions' == 'postdoctoral fellowships', 'postdoctoral fellowships'=='research fellowship'. see: findapostdoc.com.
    – user366312
    Sep 14 at 0:14
  • @user366312 As I said, the language isn't consistent everywhere, and I don't think your definition is a general one. Even on the page you link to, of the first 50 post-doc jobs only five are described as "fellowships" and three of those are the competitive type I describe above. (There are a number of 'research fellow' posts in the UK, but in the UK usage a 'research fellow' is rarely the holder of a 'fellowship'. Yes, it's a silly nomenclature). You may get clearer and more useful answers to your question if you are more explicit about the type of post you are interested in. Sep 14 at 9:06
  • Exactly. It is all about the H-Index isn't it?
    – lalala
    Sep 14 at 14:38
  • @StephenMcMahon I do not see how your comment relates to the question. Sep 14 at 17:23

Positions that are advertised for one year often in practice still run for three years or so. Nobody wants to kick someone who has just learned the ropes out again after a year, but there may be legal reasons to advertise a position for one year, or maybe funding is not secure yet beyond the first year. But in practice, the majority of postdocs hired for one year actually stay longer.

In other words: Talk about this issue with the person who would hire you, but don't make decisions based on the advertised length of the position.

  • 3
    Definitely talk about this issue with the hirer, agreed. But the first paragraph is very field-specific. In my experience, for example, mathematics postdoc positions are rarely extended beyond what the advertisement says (in North America at least). Sep 14 at 1:18
  • 1
    @GregMartin I disagree. In both of the math departments I have worked in, positions were advertised as one year with the possibility for extension. That's also how my own postdoc positions are advertised. In practice, I can think of only one person who had ever been let go before three years were over. Sep 14 at 3:05
  • I agree with greg. My postdoc (engineering) was absolutely for what it was advertised for (1 year). If we didn't receive another grant, it would not have been extended. And the extension then changed the topic, somewhat. Other postdocs at that department were in similar situations (often with longer original contracts depending on the funds on the grant they were employed at).
    – Vladimir F
    Sep 14 at 6:15
  • I agree with @WolfgangBangerth - a postdoc is a temporary position and HR makes it one year renewable up to 3 years without question. Beyond 3 takes positive management action, will not renew past 6 years.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 14 at 14:55
  • @VladimirF It seems to me that you actually agree with me, then :-) Your position was advertised for one year only, but you ended up staying for longer. Sep 14 at 16:41

If you try to base a decision on that alone you are making a mistake. What matters is what you do in your early career - papers produced, collaborations established, visibility, ...

A long post-doc provides some stability. It is possible to be productive in such a situation, or to be stuck in a rut. The stability might make it possible to spend more effort in seeking a permanent position. Note: "might make it possible..."

A sequence of short ones offers variety, but you have a shorter time in each to actually produce something. And you are spending more time seeking the next opportunity.

And, few have the luxury of juggling a lot of offers with different characteristics. You want one (or several) with a PI that is likely to help you advance your career. That is independent of length.

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