Suppose after graduating from a PhD program, you don't do a post-doc. Are the chances of getting a tenure-track position severely reduced? Also is it possible to do a post-doc after a completion of a masters program (probably should be called a "post-masters")?

  • What will you do instead of a post-doc? Feb 26, 2013 at 13:32
  • 1
    @DavidKetcheson: take a break.
    – bobbby
    Feb 26, 2013 at 13:35
  • 1
    @seteropere - It's possible, but in most cases, it's pretty unlikely.
    – eykanal
    Feb 26, 2013 at 15:24
  • 5
    @eykanal - It depends on the type of institution. It is extremely unlikely to get a tenure-track position at a research level institution without a postdoc, but it is considerably more likely in a lot of fields to get a tenure-track position at a primarily undergraduate institution without a postdoc. In my department we have 2 individuals who did postdocs and 5(myself included) who did not.
    – Ben Norris
    Feb 26, 2013 at 16:23
  • 1
    @BenNorris - Excellent point. These positions also make great springboards to other positions at larger universities later on, with the added benefit of more security at the outset (as compared to a typical postdoc position).
    – eykanal
    Feb 26, 2013 at 16:34

4 Answers 4


The purpose of a postdoctoral fellowship is simply to gain the skills detailed in this answer to a similar question, notably:

  • Get involved with obtaining funding
  • Build an international reputation
  • Start collaborating with external parties
  • Learn how to manage projects and a lab
  • Start to devise a strategic research plan
  • Improve your publication record

If you have all those things from your work as a graduate student, then you should have no problem finding employment and furthering your academic career immediately after you earn your PhD. Most students don't, which is why they try to find a postdoc position to help them gain these skills before attempting to run their own lab.


What people expect from a candidate for a tenure-track faculty position is the ability to guide research and to set up an independent research group. The candidate will have to prove extensive (almost) independent research experience and a research vision to last for many years. A post-doc candidate will be stronger in these requirements than someone just graduating with a PhD. It is not impossible to get a tenure-track position directly after the PhD, but I think chances are better with a post-doc.

Nevertheless, if you just graduated and there is a position announced which fits your profile, by all means apply for it. Even if you're not successful, it may give you valuable experience.

All types of faculty positions I know of have a formal PhD requirement, so usually it is not useful to skip that.

  • 1
    What if you are interested in teaching colleges?
    – bobbby
    Feb 26, 2013 at 13:35
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    @bobbby It depends on the educational system. Check the formal requirements for positions that are announced and that you would be interested in, and do what best advances you towards those. For pure teaching probably gaining more practical teaching experience will be useful.
    – silvado
    Feb 26, 2013 at 13:39
  • I'll also add, that even if you are at a teaching college there is a good chance you will be involved in research at some level (primarily with undergraduates, but possibly graduates depending on your institution) if you are in a STEM field. However for a teaching college having some teaching experience is probably much more important than a post-doc. Of course it all depends on the institution.
    – che_kid
    Feb 26, 2013 at 17:06

Currently, I believe this is a very field-dependent issue. In physics, for instance, it would not be possible to get a faculty position without a postdoc (or even two postdocs) unless you're an Einstein-level talent. In some fields, such as engineering, it may still be possible to get a position directly after a PhD—but in such cases that candidate is usually told to take a year or two, do a postdoc, and then start the faculty position.

However, I think that it is in general a very bad idea to just "take some time off" if one is planning to pursue a faculty position. Working in industry or doing something that keeps one active in research is probably OK, but a "sabbatical" that doesn't contribute toward a CV in any way will likely set off some hackles on the part of the search committee.

  • In computer science, postdocs are relatively rare. I believe this is true in most engineering fields. Feb 26, 2013 at 16:14
  • At least in my field (ChE), nowadays all faculty candidates are expected to have a postdoc before beginning their positions. This also appears to be the case in math and physics, as well as materials science.
    – aeismail
    Feb 26, 2013 at 19:12

Let us start from a different perspective. What is required to get a tenure-track position?

I would say that two things are primarily used as criteria in the selection process: number of publications and ability to secure funding. Related to the publication list is of course aspects of publications, publication rate number of citations and the impact factor of the journals in which you publish. Exactly how these aspects are weighted is varying. Note that rates are important so it is not exclusively a matter of pure numbers.

In both cases time is an aspect and obviously you will standa a better chance the more merits you can accumulate which takes time. I do not know what other possibilities might exist to get some time to improve your merits. In some cases you might be temporarily hired to do teaching. Teaching will of course also be a merit but not on the expense of research. and under such circumstances contnued research output may be a challenge. So obviously a Post-Doc should give you a head start but I would not see it as an exclusive prerequisite.

"Post-Master": Since this concept does not formally exist, I could see there being opportunities to partake in research by being a lab-assistant or something similar. Any opportunity to widen your experience and possibly getting you into the research activities, especially publishing would be beneficial fo r the future.

  • 3
    what if you are interested in liberal arts colleges?
    – bobbby
    Feb 26, 2013 at 13:36
  • @bobbby Yes think of everything in a broad sense. I do not know what typical work opportunities might exist in different disciplines and of course opportunities might be better in some than in others Feb 26, 2013 at 13:38

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