While looking for research jobs in industry, I noticed that some companies over both, research positions and postdoc positions. What exactly is a postdoc position in industry and how is it different from a research position that requires a PhD? Is it just that you spend your postdoc years in a company instead of academia?

  • 3
    Sounds like a brilliant way to underpay PhDs for their work.
    – RoboKaren
    Dec 12 '16 at 20:05
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    Certainly in the 'old' days, both Bell Labs and IBM Research had post-doc positions that were equivalent to university or national lab post-docs. Although, one could argue that the funding and support at Bell/IBM was better than at a university. But, they were the same paradigm, and offered an opportunity for a new PhD to show that they can act as a PI (and get to know, and be known, in the company).
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 12 '16 at 20:22
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    One thing in particular is that a "postdoc" position may be set up so as to make it easier for the researcher to return to academia after completing it, if they so choose. Dec 12 '16 at 21:55

Post docs in industry do work similar to university post docs, but their research is a property of the company they work for. Typically, a position advertised as an industry post-doc is one that would allow for external publication (i.e., in scientific journals) of the work completed (but if publication is important to you, you should of course verify this before taking such a position).

Post docs in industry are typically fixed-term appointments, like in academia; there may be opportunities for continuing or for promotion within the company, but these aren't guaranteed, and you wouldn't have to be "fired" or "laid off" at the end of your term to be without a job - you would need to check with someone to see how this would affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits, etc, depending on your location.

I would expect that a company that is offering both full research positions and a separate post-doc program is expecting that applicants for the full research positions will have either relevant post-doctoral experience or industry experience: their post-doc program is probably intended for recent PhD graduates.

Lastly, although these generalities may help you, there is no legal definition of a post doc for these purposes, so you should be prepared to ask questions about everything that is important to you before accepting a position.

  • I've never heard of these. Are they more common in higher degrees in business schools (say, following a DBA or PhD in Marketing) or are they more widespread?
    – user65587
    Dec 12 '16 at 22:51
  • I'm more familiar with their existence in the pharmaceutical industry, but that might be because I'm a neuroscientist, I don't know about other fields. Google search for "industry postdoc" turned up a recent article from Science Careers and one from Nature Biotech. I think from an academic perspective, these sorts of positions are really rare (i.e., despite the hype, probably not easy to go from industry postdoc back to academia).
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 12 '16 at 23:12
  • ...but maybe not as rare as "entry level" PhD positions in industry (I have no clue of the statistics). Also @JonCuster mentioned Bell Labs, etc from the past; I wouldn't be surprised to see some "industry postdocs" at the modern government contracting level, companies who are bidding for govt research programs and the like, but again, I'm not as familiar.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 12 '16 at 23:13

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