Factors that Influence the Transition of University Postdocs to Non-Academic Scientific Careers: An Exploratory Study
59 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 20, 2018
While postdoctoral fellowships are viewed as positions that prepare PhD students for academic careers, studies show that most postdocs will not find tenure-track employment within universities. Postdocs consequently pursue non-academic jobs that differ in the degree to which they utilize a postdoc’s scientific training, yet we know little about how this occurs. To help address this gap, this study inductively investigates factors that may influence a postdoc’s transition to a non-academic career. The study uncovers multiple individual, PI, as well as organizational and policy factors, including the lack of relevant skills, absence of support—and in some cases opposition—from their principal investigators, and poor availability of non-academic career preparation opportunities, among others. Viewed collectively, these elements likely hinder a move to non-academic scientific positions and thus have consequences for postdoc career trajectories and, by extension, the utilization of new knowledge. The paper opens the door for future research, theorization, and policy action that might smooth the transition of postdocs into non-academic careers and potentially improve the impact of publicly-funded research.
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