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I am going to start my PhD, unfortunately, I did not get any funding. I am thinking of taking a loan so that I could focus more on my PhD studies, but the loan will need to be repaid after PhD. Therefore my question is if my financial situation is likely to be better as a postdoc than as a PhD student. My reasoning:

As a PhD student: I have to pay academic fees, I do not get funding or a salary.

As a postdoc: I do not have to pay academic fees or any other fees to a university (am I right?), I may get a salary but may not to.

How many postdocs do get paid? I looked at research groups I am interested in and they say, they do not have funding for postdocs and their postdocs usually are supported by some grant that they themselves have arranged before coming to the group. So is my financial situation going to depend on if I can secure a grant for my research as a postdoc or I should expect to receive a salary? How likely is the success in either ways?

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    What is your field? I've never heard of an unpaid postdoc - I think in many countries that would even be illegal. All postdocs should be paid, whether that's through a grant you won yourself or from a professor's grant (both are possible). You pay no fees, but an "overhead" from your funding source is paid to the university. If after your PhD you cannot find a paid position in academia, the only sensible option is to quit and go into an industry job. – Moriarty Aug 15 '14 at 22:42
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    After reading the question several times, it sounds like you believe it to be possible to do a postdoc prior to obtaining your PhD (I hope I am wrong). Is that the correct interpretation? – Mad Jack Aug 15 '14 at 23:13
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    @MadJack: My reading is that the OP is trying to get a sense of postdoc compensation in order to evaluate whether they would likely be able to pay back their student loans after finishing a PhD. – Nate Eldredge Aug 15 '14 at 23:26
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    @RoboKaren I agree with Nate here. "the loan will need to be repaid after PhD": He is basically asking if he is able to pay back his loan after his PhD or if postdocs are also not paid. – The Almighty Bob Aug 16 '14 at 9:51
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    Or to split the difference: the OP should clarify on that point. – virmaior Aug 16 '14 at 11:23
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So is my financial situation going to depend on if I can secure a grant for my research as a postdoc or I should expect to receive a salary?

The question is not getting a grant or getting paid, it is getting paid by the institution you work for or getting your salary from a grant giving institution.

How many postdocs do get paid?

(As far as I know) All of them. Depending on the country you are talking about it may even be illegal to employ someone without pay. However, (as @virmaior pointed out) there are some "postdocs" in Japan that are not paid and have no work requirements. At least in Europe and the US this is not common and in most cases this is probably a bad idea for someone looking for a regular postdoc position (see my comment below).

How likely is the success in either ways?

That depends on your field, the quality of your work, ... . We can not answer that but you can talk to your peers /supervisor about the job market to get an idea.

[as a postdoc] I do not have to pay academic fees or any other fees to a university

Right.

One general remark: If you are not not getting a (paid) postdoc position or a grant you should try to find a job in the industry anyway. Finding a more senior position is usually much harder than finding a postdoc position.

  • I think your second point is exactly what the OP was confused about. – Davidmh Aug 16 '14 at 10:32
  • Japan has some unpaid "postdocs"... It's more so a misnomer that gives you affiliation (normally no work requirements and no compensation) – virmaior Aug 16 '14 at 10:56
  • @virmaior Thanks! I did not know that, I will add it. – The Almighty Bob Aug 16 '14 at 11:20
  • @Davidmh Thanks, that was the reason why this is an answer and not a comment. – The Almighty Bob Aug 16 '14 at 11:22
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A postdoc is a time limited academic job, a PhD is a research student position. The latter is usually financed but does not have to be. I have never heard of a Postdoc that did not involve payment. In your question you seem to indicate there would be a choice between the two but a postdoc, as the name implies, requires a PhD so one must go through a research education (and receive a PhD) before applying for a postdoc position.

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