I am currently working under a post-PhD (postdoc) scholarship. In my country (Argentina) I am usually considered still a student (although it's kind of a gray area).

In other countries, would I qualify as a student or as a researcher?

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    The purpose in particular is this education.github.com/discount_requests/new. The options are Student/Researcher and some others, but those are the ones that would apply to me. Why is the purpose important? What "question" do you mean?
    – Gabriel
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 21:35
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    @DavidMulder as I commented below, in my country the majority of Universities are free, so as a student you pay nothing. Also you can be doing your PhD or post-Phd and receive money, although not a usual salary but as a scholarship, which smudges the area even more.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 18:24
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    @Gabriel: Still, in the case of 'free' universities it's just you and others paying for you through taxes. Additionally scholarships are per definition financial aid for students, so that seems to be pretty clear cut. Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 18:29
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    @DavidMulder I don't get your point about taxes. Yes, everybody pays taxes, is everybody a "student"? I pay for roads too but I'm not a trucker. It's not that clear cut since researchers also are able to obtain financial aid for courses, travels abroad, etc. Also, see the accepted answer below for another good point.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 18:41
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    @Gabriel: He? All I said was that everybody is paying for a student's tuition through taxes at a 'free' university. Not that everybody is a student. And yes it is that clear cut, if it's called scholarship it's for students, just checked 3 different definitions. Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 19:33

5 Answers 5


In general, if you are not enrolled in any course and also are not enrolled in a program in which you may eventually earn a degree, you are not a "student."

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    That's not necessarily true. In Quebec (Canada), postdocs have a mixed status--they're registered as students at the university and get some tax benefits as such on the provincial taxes, but not the Federal taxes.
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 18:06
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    This does not hold in many countries - and universities might officially consider you a 'student' just to sidestep labor law and employ you in worse conditions in many respects...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 13:13
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    At my university you are considered as student if you are working towards a PhD and do not earn more than a given amount of money or you are enrolled in a bachelor's or master's program, regardless of the income. There are just too many different rules to give a general rule of thumb!
    – koalo
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 17:54

I think postdocs are assumed to be employees as research staff (not students) of each university , as far as they have contracts with universities and may receive salaries. They do not take courses in the university. They conduct some researches in a research group in collaboration with professor(s) there. Their research topic may be something very close to their PhD project, something near to their PhD research in other concept (such as interdisciplinary projects), or something very different.

PS: Some PhD students also have research contracts with universities and are assumed to be employees of those universities, but I think their difference with a postdoc is that they receive a degree but postdocs are not receiving any degrees.

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    All of the things you say about postdocs could also be true of PhD students in some places/fields. So these things don't serve to distinguish between "student" and "researcher."
    – ff524
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 21:40
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    @ff524 Or PhD candidates in those places aren't really “students”…
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 10:46

It's also relatively common in the USA for post-docs to have non-university appointments. There are many government and private labs that hire post-docs to do research as employees. These positions have various levels within their respective companies/labs.

For instance, I am a postdoc at a USA national laboratory. Here, postdocs are considered long-term temporary employees (with some reduced benefits and a reduced salary compared to a full staff member as you would expect). We aren't considered students or under any particular education program, though there are development programs offered to help in the transition between a full-time student position and a full-time research position.


Just to further show the range of possibilities, in the US in mathematics, postdocs are usually considered faculty. (In particular, they are university employees, and not students.) They usually have (light to moderate) teaching duties, and often have official titles involving words like "lecturer", "instructor" or "assistant professor". Of course, they are still temporary positions of 1-4 years or so, and are not tenure track.

  • In my Australian university, Postdocs are considered faculty in all fields not just math : ) Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 3:52

In Australia, postdocs at universities are academic research staff with fixed-term contracts. They have the same salary and working conditions as permanent academic research staff at the same level (typically level A or B), though permanent staff would usually be hired at level B or above.

  • By academic staff do you mean faculty? If not this only holds for some universities because postdocs are considered faculty at my Australian University. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 3:53
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    Yes. "Faculty" is a term less often used in Australia than elsewhere. Most universities have "academic staff" (i.e. faculty) and "general staff" (i.e. everyone else -- admin staff, technicians, IT staff and so on). Postdocs are academic staff. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 5:52

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