I am starting my final year of my PhD and am starting to look into postdocs. I am interested in how much of a lag I should expect between getting my PhD and starting a postdoc. For context, I'm in the United States in biology. I would ideally like to defend my PhD and move for a new postdoc position within a month but I'm not sure how realistic that is.

The reason I'm asking is that my landlord is expecting me to make a lease commitment and I'm not sure how long to commit to living here. The shorter the lease, the more expensive per month but too long and I have to break my lease early (expensive fines).

For those who have gotten postdocs recently (especially in the US) how long would you recommend expecting it to take if I'm starting looking now (12 month before defending)? Any good rules of thumb?

  • 1
    Postdoc appointments in my department (math) normally begin in September, at the start of the academic year. This is independent of when the person defended the Ph.D. thesis. I expect the situation is similar for postdoc positions in other departments when those positions are funded by the university. Positions funded by professors' research grants might work differently. Commented May 28, 2017 at 23:38
  • 5
    Your publication record, the type of postdoc you are willing to take, and how many applications you can write will make a huge difference. I doubt statistics will help you. Commented May 29, 2017 at 0:23
  • You're just going to have to take the leap and pick a date. Like Andreas, I'm a mathematician, so i expect postdocs to begin with the academic year, but looking at ads suggests this isn't always the case with biomedical postdocs, and some of those are available the moment they are posted. Either way, I would just pick a date; if you know where you're going when your lease ends, then you can move to the city where you're going, even if you haven't started the job, and if you don't know, you should come up with a backup plan like staying with family or friends. Commented May 29, 2017 at 16:57
  • Different postdocs and PhD programs will have different start/end requirements. Often it should be possible to arrange to have no gap between them.
    – Thomas
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 0:12
  • I recommend asking your landlord for permission to sublet if you find you want out of your lease before the year is up. Commented May 30, 2017 at 3:07

2 Answers 2


Just changed from one post doc to another. It took me 3 months to send 100 applications, interview at few places. Ended up with 5 offers and chose 1. The kind of lab you join is extremely important. So don't shortchange yourself by picking a not-so-good lab to save yourself a few hundred dollars. A good lab will ensure a good job after the postdoc. Bad lab (which I chose too) will leave you in a shaky position and you might end up having to do another postdoc. 1 month's time has high potential of getting you in a not-so-good lab (that doesn't mean you won't get a good lab but chances are slim). Give yourself at least 3 months AFTER defense. In that time, apply to lots of places, interview at some and then pick the one that is the best for you. 1 month's time is not enough for defense and postdoc search. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the advice, Anon. To be clear, I meant to have one month AFTER defending. Not doing both within the next month!
    – CephBirk
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 22:41

One (non comprehensive) rule of thumb is that post-docs are more likely than not to start at the beginning of an academic year or a semester even if we're not students enrolled to any classes. So, September-October or March-April typically.

While this is in no way certain, you should probably allow for the possibility of not starting your new position right away but at one of these semi-annual points.

Perhaps no less importantly: Try to get a rental contract with an exit clause. I'm not sure how common this is in the US, but in many states in the world you are allowed - either by the contract explicitly or by law - to terminate the contract with reasonable prior notice (e.g. 2-3 months) without the landlord needing to be compensated or having the right or charge you for rent beyond the time you leave.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .