Postdoctoral research training and the attainment of faculty careers in social science and STEM fields in the United States
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Purpose While postdoctoral research (postdoc) training is a common step toward academic careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, the role of postdoc training in social sciences is less clear. An increasing number of social science PhDs are pursuing postdocs. This paper aims to identify factors associated with participation in postdoc training and examines the relationship between postdoc training and subsequent career outcomes, including attainment of tenure-track faculty positions and early career salaries. Design/methodology/approach Using data from the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctorate Recipients, this study applies propensity score matching, regression and decomposition analyses to identify the role of postdoc training on the employment outcomes of PhDs in the social science and STEM fields. Findings Results from the regression analyses indicate that participation in postdoc training is associated with greater PhD research experience, higher departmental research ranking and departmental job placement norms. When the postdocs and non-postdocs groups are balanced on observable characteristics, postdoc training is associated with a higher likelihood of attaining tenure-track faculty positions 7 to 9 years after PhD completion. The salaries of social science tenure-track faculty with postdoc experience eventually surpass the salaries of non-postdoc PhDs, primarily via placement at institutions that offer relatively higher salaries. This pattern, however, does not apply to STEM PhDs. Originality/value This study leverages comprehensive, nationally representative data to investigate the role of postdoc training in the career outcomes of social sciences PhDs, in comparison to STEM PhDs. Research findings suggest that for social sciences PhDs interested in academic careers, postdoc training can contribute to the attainment of tenure-track faculty positions and toward earning relatively higher salaries over time. Research findings provide prospective and current PhDs with information helpful in career planning and decision-making. Academic institutions, administrators, faculty and stakeholders can apply these research findings toward developing programs and interventions to provide doctoral students with career guidance and greater career transparency. Show more
Journal / seriesStudies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education
Pages / Article No.
Subjectdoctoral students; postdoctoral training; Faculty positions; Social science; STEM
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