I have seen that some universities give postdoctoral fellows an official certificate (similar to the PhD diploma) after finishing their postdoctoral job. On the other hand, some of postdoctoral positions are just simple research (or even academic) jobs. I have even seen that some professors pay the postdoctoral fellows without contract (from their grants).

My question is: How common is a certificate of postdoctoral studies? Do future employers expect applicants to give them certificate of postdoctoral studies as well as PhD diploma?

  • 2
    Answers to this question varies from one country to another.
    – enthu
    Sep 8, 2014 at 13:16
  • @EnthusiasticStudent so give us your experience of your country.
    – user13854
    Sep 9, 2014 at 4:25

4 Answers 4


Certainly not in the US. I never got any kind of certificate for the postdoc I did, and in fact I'd never heard of such a thing until your question.

My current employer never asked for any formal verification of my postdoc. They received letters of recommendation from my postdoc supervisor and other colleagues at that institution, and I think most US academic employers would consider that sufficient.

Then again, they never asked for my PhD diploma either. In the US, we don't use the diploma for official purposes; it's just a decorative piece of paper. The official document of choice is a transcript sent directly from the university (and my employer did ask for one of those).

  • 1
    Likewise on all counts, except I don't think my employer ever asked for my official transcripts.
    – JeffE
    Apr 20, 2014 at 1:29
  • Rarely is a certificate awarded, but I know Yale does reward postdocs with one. It will have no bearing on future career prospects because only your experience and publication records will matter.
    – user479
    Apr 20, 2014 at 1:37

I'm in the UK. I've never heard of a "certificate of postdoctoral studies", not least because postdocs aren't studying towards a qualification: they're working. I've also never heard of a postdoc not having a formal contract of employment. In fact, I suspect it would be illegal to do so in the UK (and probably most western countries).

  • 3
    I work in academia in the US and have never, ever had a formal employment contract. That being said, I never did a post doc either.
    – Bill Barth
    Apr 19, 2014 at 20:46
  • 3
    @BillBarth Er, boggle. So on what basis do you work and on what basis does the university pay you? Apr 19, 2014 at 20:49
  • 2
    I come to work and they pay me. We agreed on a salary and benefits when I started (via email or maybe a paper offer letter). I am reappointed to my current position annually. Sometimes I negotiate a raise or promotion. The university (a state agency) has a handbook of operating procedures that explains their HR policies for people in my position (Research Scientist) and their procedures for hiring and firing. I've been working for this university for nearly 20 years in one capacity or another and never had anything that looked like a formal contract with negotiable terms.
    – Bill Barth
    Apr 19, 2014 at 21:40
  • 1
    As a specific counterexample, my postdoc (at a major US private university) had no formal contract. I signed a one-page appointment letter each year that described my job title, salary, etc, but there was nothing that imposed formal obligations on either party, nor specified damages for failing to deliver. The US generally has at-will employment, so I was free to quit at any time if I didn't like the working conditions, and they were free to fire me if they didn't like my work. Apr 20, 2014 at 0:33
  • @BillBarth - can't this absence of contract be abused if you get into a tiff with the authorities?
    – 299792458
    Sep 7, 2014 at 4:27

You are expected to have publications while working as a post doc. These publications document your institution, topic and success while working as a post doc.

You can also ask for recommendation. I do not think it is a separate "diploma" because unlike PhD, post doc is already more work than studies.


In general, the only "certificates" of post-doctoral research that I am familiar with would better be classified as certifications: that is, they indicate the dates for which the postdoctoral associate worked at the given university, and the kinds of duties performed. I know that some universities also give certifications for particular courses taken, but otherwise, I am not actively familiar with "certificates" in the style of a diploma.

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