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I am confused about choosing a postdoc position. Recently, I have got postdoc positions from 2 labs. The following are the situations:

1st Offer: 1-year position (further extendable) at the University of X (World ranking < 20), Canada; the senior professor is renowned in the field with quite a big group; Salary is ~38k Euro (before tax) annually.

2nd Offer: 3-year position (further extendable) at the University of Y (World ranking ~100), Denmark; the associate professor is relatively new with good research recognition in the field; Salary is ~62k Euro (before tax; the tax is quite high in Denmark) annually. It involves a little bit of teaching.

Research interest-wise, I am interested in both groups with a lot of collaboration and networking opportunities. However, the research area would be very similar (to what I have done during my PhD) in the case of the 1st offer. And at the University of Y, I would explore some new research domains.

In the long run, I am flexible to be in Academia (my preference would be to return to my home country) or Industry (preferably outside the home country, preferably in the US/Europe).

Can anyone provide some suggestions that can help me make an informed decision based on the above information? I really appreciate any help.

2 Answers 2

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First of all, congratulations on receiving two good postdoc offers!

Below, I highlight some of the pro and cons regarding the differences between the two offers.

Contract length: A 1-year postdoc contract is very short. Even if it is extendable, a decision on this would be made much closer to the contract end date. That means that you would need to start looking for your next position almost immediately. Also, depending on the field and your exact background in relation to the new lab, a 1-year stay might not be sufficient for you to truly study a problem in depth. By contrast, a 3-year position would give you sufficient time to do this, and also pursue aspects of professional development beyond research (see below).

The PI and institution: Having worked with a well-known expert in the field can definitely boost your profile, especially if they are going to write excellent reference letters for future applications. However, another important quality of any postdoc PI is their willingness to support your professional development beyond research. In any future applications (both academia and industry) it will be useful if you can provide evidence of your ability and experience of supervising co-workers, being able to manage projects, conducting public engagement activities, and more. Make sure you know in advance whether your future PI will support you in your professional development. For this, centrally managed professional development opportunities offered by the university can also be helpful. A good idea would be to talk to recent (postdoc) graduates of the labs.

Teaching: Your second offer includes "a little bit of teaching". Be sure to know in advance the exact parameters of this. For your professional development, teaching experience is vital. Having this experience is a great addition on your CV when applying for permanent positions in academia. However, you want to make sure that your teaching does not take out a big chunk of your research time. It would also be advisable to check if the university offers any teaching training and has feedback mechanisms in place that will allow you to develop your skills.

Salary: To truly compare the two salaries, you should estimate how much disposable income you are actually left with after deducting taxes, housing costs, etc. I am not familiar with either Canada or Denmark and cannot comment further.

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    "a 1-year stay might not be sufficient for you to truly study a problem in depth". Indeed: and this may indicate a higher-than-usual risk that, once the contract ends, you'll come under pressure to carry on working unpaid to get the project completed. Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 10:35
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    At my national lab (well, I work there, it isn't mine personally), postdocs are officially one-year, renewable. I've never not "renewed" them, and here "renew" means did not actively stop it - they renew automatically. Various other jobs are one-year renewable, which makes it strictly a temporary position (which a postdoc should be). So while one should check, the official HR wording of one-year renewable should not be held against the first offer.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 13:11
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    I think all the commenters here saying 1 year contracts are the norm in North America, are kind of making the point that work- life balance is going to be almost infinitely better in Denmark.
    – TimRias
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 19:12
  • From the discussion above, I understand a longer postdoc tenure is required to explore a specific research domain in-depth. But if this is a provision in most North American Universities for a 1-year contract, it may be fine with a little risk, considering the PI and Institution suggestion mentioned is another significant point to consider in the situation. Additionally, I won't mind keeping the PR option open which is more flexible in Canada than Denmark. I really appreciate you all for providing all the detailed suggestions.
    – App.vsh.io
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 12:00
  • @TimRias Yes, with the caveat that universities sometimes behave as if they have some sort of exemption from the normal employment laws of their host country. Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 15:33
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If you are not convinced that you want to stay in academia at this stage, I would strongly recommend not pursuing a post-doc. Doing a post-doc is "easy", but securing a permanent academic position afterwards is not, and those years spent doing a postdoc are not needed (and might even be detrimental) for most industry positions.

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