Postdocs: How to start your career in science

Once you’ve finished your doctorate degree, you have many exciting opportunities to start your career in science.

You have completed your PhD and are looking to continue your career in academics or science. You will most likely look for employment as a junior researcher at a university or a non-university research institute. The work as a postdoc can help you prepare for a professorship or a position in academic management.

Types of employment

There are several types of employment: You can apply for a position as a research associate at a professorial chair, as a member of a research group or as a researcher in a third party funded project.

As a research associate at a professorial chair, you will typically do research, teach, and perform administrative duties. You may also work on your own research/habilitation project.

Another option is to work as a postdoc or junior researcher in a research group. The projects are often funded by third parties and your salary or grant is paid out of these funds. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) plays the most important role here as provider of third-party funding. The main emphasis as a postdoc in a research group is – naturally - on research. However, some additional teaching may be required.
Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) and research training groups are other great work places for postdocs that offer lots of opportunities. They are also frequently funded by the DFG. Postdoctoral junior researchers can work as grantees, as research staff or as project leaders in Collaborative Research Centers.

Length of employment

The duration of employment by an academic institution in a non-tenure position is limited. Usually, the so-called 12-year-rule applies. The rule states that that research associates can generally only be employed at a university for a maximum of six years until the completion of their doctorate. Subsequently, they can work for another 6 years in a research position – or nine years in the case of medicine.

However, if your position is funded by third parties, you may extend your employment. For associate researchers with children, there is also an exception: The time limit is extended by 2 years per child.

Work at a non-university research institute

There are several renowned research organizations in Baden-Württemberg that offer young researchers excellent career opportunities. The positions can be in basic or applied research. Research projects are often international in scope and give international postdocs the chance to work with scientists from all over the world. At research institutes, postdoc positions are also often temporary.

Besides working as a research associate in a research group or team, some organizations also award research grants to postdocs. These funds allow young researcher to work on their own projects and deepen their knowledge and understanding in a specific area.