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I am soon to be finishing a PhD in computer science and have started to receive job offers, one of which is a post-doc at a UK-based global top-10 University. Long-term I do not intend to stay in Academia, and would instead prefer to work in industry. In the short-term (12-18 months) however the project looks fun, the pay is good, and I would assume having the name of the University on my CV would add some clout to my future career.

Complicating the matter, I have also received a job offer from an organization I would like to work for long-term, but at a significant cut in pay compared to the post-doc (about 25%). This job would be set to start in about 8-9 months. There is the possibility that I could defer my acceptance of this job by a year, however this isn't a certainty and may be at the same rate in pay as I'm currently being offered.

Complicating things even further, I am older (36) than I believe is typical of a post-doc, and would like to kick-start my career ASAP after years spent on my PhD - I am therefore wary of spending time in academia if it is unlikely to carry much weight in my long-term aspirations.

I'm looking for any general advice on the merits of a post-doc if you do not intend on remaining in academia. Does the reputation of the University really matter that much in this case? As much as I can tell, the pros of going ahead with the post-doc are the increase in pay, the reputation of the University, and the chance to further develop my skills and publications in this area. However, it may be the case that its a year that would be better spent bedding into an organization I intend to remain with long-term.

It's a very good choice to have, don't get me wrong, but I'm struggling work out what the best option is. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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    That organization you want to work for - why do they pay their PhD staff 25% less than a university pays their postdocs?
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 6 at 13:22
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    You say the goal is to work in industry. Is this an "academic" industry job, i.e., an R&D position? I ask because (a) such jobs will have very different considerations than other industry positions, and (b) if not, this might not be the right place to ask your question; it might be a better fit at The Workplace (though check their archives; they've doubtless had questions about post-docs before).
    – cag51
    Apr 6 at 13:24
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    I would love to provide an answer, but can't since it would be based on my own value structure. This is too personal for a good answer here. Look to your own priorities and think long term, not just short.
    – Buffy
    Apr 6 at 13:38

5 Answers 5

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From a career development point of view, a postdoc has zero benefits for a career in industry. The pay is much less than what you can get in the private sector, and you will be more attractive to employers, have more marketable skills and be able to command a higher salary after X years of working in industry than after X years of postdoc.

From a point of view of personal satisfaction, it’s certainly possible that you will find the postdoc more fun or personally rewarding. So if that’s the more compelling consideration, or if you still want to give a career in academia a chance, then go for it. I am sure things will turn out great no matter which choice you make.

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    Yet the job they are thinking of pays even less than a postdoc...
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 6 at 15:18
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    @JonCuster maybe so, but that job, assuming it is a typical industry job and not something super esoteric, will provide more valuable experience for an industry career, which could translate in the future to better paying jobs and better employability. And of course, if a high salary isn’t the main factor, then OP should follow whatever their passion is.
    – Dan Romik
    Apr 6 at 16:39
  • @JonCuster anyway, the main point of my answer is that industry employers simply do not value postdoc experience. Thus, the valid reasons to prefer the postdoc over the industry job OP is considering are: 1. Passion (for the job itself and/or the idea of living in the UK for a bit). 2. It pays more money (short term benefit, but at least a benefit of some sort). 3. The industry job is not a typical industry job and due to its unusual nature also offers no benefits for a career in industry. 4. Want to keep options open for an academic career.
    – Dan Romik
    Apr 6 at 17:09
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    What sector are you basing your advice on?
    – TimRias
    Apr 6 at 22:40
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    I used to head industry research group. I can assure you that we did value postdoc work. For that matter, much R&D work on academic projects in computer science - eg BSD UNIX - is very interesting to industry. Such academic project by engineers that have already graduated may not necessarily be called a post-doc, but is still in an academic environment, not industry. Big advantage: academic work can often be shown when next you look for a new job, industry work is often secret.
    – Krazy Glew
    Apr 7 at 4:35
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Only do a post doc if it helps your career. Ask yourself, does this post doc get me to where I want to go? If not, take a different path.

In your case, the answer is probably not.

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Another factor to consider is if the postdoc brings you closer to your dream job in terms of geography or topic and related opportunities to network.

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Go for the postdoc.

You are interested in the work, get good pay, you get a nice university on your CV, you make new colleagues, you experience a new work environment/team, and you get to explore methods/tools/etc you may not have the opportunity to do in industry. Having extra experience will always be beneficial for entering industry. It's also short term (12-18 months), and so you will not be 'set back' by much.

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The post doc stands out to me, though granted I'm still in the midst of my PhD. You'll spend a year doing something you're interested in, which will make you more qualified to do the things you're interested in. You could end up working industry (on less pay bizarrely) getting better at things you don't care about, and digging yourself into a niche you don't want to be in. Not say it will happen, just expressing my own concerns about these kind of situations.

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