I have recently defended my PhD (though not technically graduated as in not had a ceremony yet) and am applying for funding for my postdoc. I have a mentor for the postdoc and even though I am not funded/employed by the postdoc advisor yet (instead living off remaining scholarship funding from my PhD, which thankfully hasn't run out yet despite my successful defence), I am (as I am a theorist) already working on things related to my postdoc project, potentially even publish some results before properly moving to the new institution.

I do wonder now how I will add this time period to my CV eventually? There is a clear time stamp to the end of my PhD through the defence, but I am not a postdoc as in "awarded PhD and on a position". Do I disregard that and call myself a postdoc as I am working on my postdoc project? Do I leave a gap? Some third option?

[I doubt it would matter but my field for both postdoc and PhD is quantum theory (though the postdoc is not a continuation of the PhD project but a bit of a jump).]

  • 2
    How long of a gap do you think it will be? Also note that your PhD is not over until the thesis secretary has accepted the final version of your thesis...
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 29 at 17:16

3 Answers 3


I see nothing wrong is saying what you really are doing now, e.g.

July 2019 - July 2022 Doctoral programme on quantum theory. Thesis Title: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .

July - September 2022 Preliminary explorative work on subsequent fellowship proposal pending decision on funding application from SRC.

Honestly, you are worrying about nothing here.

Maybe you need to take a short holiday, climb a few mountains with a dog and swim a lot.

  • 1
    September-October: Climbed a few mountains with a dog; swam a lot.
    – Ben
    Jul 30 at 8:00
  • 1
    Great initiative, Dr Benjamin. This Institute has been foremost in application of the subconscious mind since the days of its first Director, Professor Oppenheimer. Whaddya wanna work on, son ? Oh - and my wife wants you - and your dog - at dinner with us this evening.
    – Trunk
    Jul 30 at 9:28
  • Yes. Or you could call it an "unpaid research assistantship" or something, but exactly, you can have two overlapping "jobs". Jul 31 at 13:59

It may be appropriate to still refer to yourself as a PhD student if you have not technically graduated yet and are still receiving a fellowship, and assuming the transitional period between your defense and the official graduation is fairly short (say, a month or two). That depends a bit on your local norms and academic culture, so ask around at your institution. Whether it’s in your interest to represent your situation in such a way is not entirely clear to me, but at least it’s a possibility worth considering and would resolve the status dilemma.

Otherwise, if you do not opt to represent yourself as having the status of PhD student, then, if we are being honest, at this point in time you are simply an unemployed person — specifically, one who is working in an unofficial capacity on a research project for their postdoc that will be starting in the next few months. And to be clear, there is absolutely no shame in having such a status, which is very common. But regardless, you should not call yourself a postdoc, because that would be a clear misrepresentation of the facts.

As for what to write in your CV about this period, I’d just leave this period blank if it’s a short transition of 2-3 months, while also mentioning your pending employment as a postdoc along with the starting date for that. I don’t think there’s a stigma for having a short employment gap in circumstances such as these. At least that’s the case for academia — things may be different in industry, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to comment about that.

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    Is is really a misrepresentation to call your self a postdoc? After all, your are "after your PhD" (i.e. postdoctoral) and you are a researcher (even if unpaid), so postdoctoral research seems a fairly accurate description of the situation. Jul 30 at 13:14
  • 1
    @IanSudbery a postdoc is a specific kind of academic job. So yeah, it’s a misrepresentation.
    – Dan Romik
    Jul 30 at 18:45

There is no reason that you can't put a couple of sentences into a CV. Say that you successfully defended your dissertation on 'date'. Say that the official awarding of the PhD will be on 'date'. Say that your postdoc has been approved and will officially begin on 'date'.

Officially you are probably still a PhD student who has completed all requirements. The postdoc is still unofficial, even if you are doing the work for it.

After things change, and you pass the various dates you can update the CV.

Unofficially, if your advisor and university don't disagree, you are Dr. nsnfn, but don't commit that to official or semiofficial documents just yet. It earns you at least one extra hug from your parents.

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