In this post, I outline some of the potential hidden costs of taking a postdoc position after grad school. My goal is help readers make a calculated and informed decision about whether to pursue—and accept—a postdoc gig.
When you’ve been living on a teensy graduate stipend for years, the allure of a real salary from a postdoc position can be strong. After all, you’ve managed to live on a fraction of what some of your friends have been making. Some might even have bought homes while you were pouring over manuscripts for the 43rd night in a row in the library or running just one more experiment (for the 6th time) to get that last bit of data you needed for your dissertation. How dare they have the financial means to buy a house?!
When you finally complete your PhD and go on the job market, you might find a university offering to pay you an actual reasonable salary as a postdoc. It sounds too good to be true. The good news is that it probably is true. The salary for postdoc positions vary widely by university and by field. But overall, shifting from grad student life to a full-time postdoc gig comes with a pretty reasonable raise. For most, it’s probably actually a living wage. Progress!
Shifting from life as a graduate student to life has a postdoc has mostly been pretty good for me. However, there were several factors that have had an impact on my financial life that I failed to consider before making my choice. In sharing about what took me by surprise, I hope you will be able to carefully weigh your own situation and make a well-calculated and informed decision. And with that, here are four things you should consider before accepting a position as a postdoc: