I've been recently completing what I want to do after I obtain a Ph. D. since my Ph. D will be in math there will be choices for me to go into industry. However, I'm wondering it there's a timeline to go into being a postdoc and conducting further research. Can one postdoc at multiple places? Especially if they have been in industry for a while (my end goal is to go into academia).

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    Note that postdoc positions generally require you to have obtained a PhD not too long ago (it varies how long, but rarely more than 5 or maybe 6 years). Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 13:33
  • @TobiasKildetoft I was not aware of this
    – user119264
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 13:34
  • Some postdocs in the United States require your PhD to be finished two years or less before in order for you to be eligible to apply.
    – T K
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 13:37
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    The previous comments about the timing requirements for postdoc positions are correct. On the other hand, people who have worked in industry for some time can be hired into tenure-track or tenured positions in math departments. Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 13:52
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    This needs to be narrowed down some to be answerable, since the methods and assumptions around postdoc vary wildly between fields. In computer science, postdoc used to be virtually unheard of. In many areas of biology, there is an assumption that you will do many years of postdoc, often in a very rigid environment. On of my colleagues told me of a subfield in which there is essentially a formal "clearinghouse" run by the professional society that matches graduates and postdocs.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


There are a wide variety of postdocs available, which makes summarization challenging. Typically, the goal of a postdoctoral fellowship is to broaden your research experience and better prepare you for a career in academia immediately after your graduation with a PhD. Postdocs are extremely common in the sciences. (Perhaps they are a bit too common.) As mentioned by Andreas Blass in the comments, many positions are advertised seeking recent (i.e., within 2-4 years) PhD grads.

It is possible to do multiple postdocs sequentially, though anything beyond two is a bit of a red flag for being hired in academia. It's probably best to think of your PhD graduation as starting a clock for academic positions. If you haven't gotten an academic position within five years, then the application process becomes quite different. If you are planning on waiting this long, you would likely be better off working in industry or at a research lab and attempting to make the transition back to academia without doing a postdoc. (I'm not familiar with this process, so I won't comment on it.)

If you're interested in more information about postdocs, I can recommend the following sources:

  1. The National Postdoctoral Association has terrible web design, but there's lots of good information there if you can dig for it.
  2. Georgia Tech's Office of Postdoctoral Services has a lot of great information, albeit targeted towards GT Postdocs. You should also look to see if the places you're applying have a similar organization.
  3. Peter Feibelman's A PhD is Not Enough!: A Guide to Survival in Science is a relatively short book on how to succeed as a postdoc. It was recently updated, and is probably the best generic introduction to life as a postdoc available.
  4. The CRA's Postdoc Best Practices Guide is intended for postdocs in computing, but I don't see why it wouldn't be valuable to a broader audience. It's much shorter than Feibelman's book, and covers some of the same ground.

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