I came across this white paper a couple of weeks ago, and have been meaning to, at the very least, post a link to it here. Published by the CRA (Computing Research Association), it attempts to lay out some best practices in what it means to be a post doc.
Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t completely read it all yet – as I’m no where near the point where I need to make decisions about whether I want to search for one of these. But, I did look through part of it, and the most interesting thing that jumps out for me now, is that they state that postdoc positions in computing science is relatively new. Not that they didn’t exist before, but that they quantity of them has greatly increased to the point that they are now becoming common.
I found this interesting, because I’ve always known about postdocs (since I’ve been in university) and figured that was how it always was. But, I suppose the fact that they’re becoming more common makes sense. Computing science use to be a new field. And there use to be a lot more funding for academia. Which put together, would mean a lot more tenure track (or at least faculty level) positions would be available. And this would mean that more PhDs would be able to get faculty level jobs immediately. Now-a-days, when I talk to friends who are searching, it seems to be that they can only find two or three jobs a year in their area. Which makes the odds of getting hired really low (it’s not like they’re the only ones looking).
The other part that jumped out at me, was their reasons for why a person would take a postdoc. Which is then followed by a “oh, they may have other reasons, like getting ready for a competitive job search.” To be honest, that’s the only reason I know of for people looking for and accepting postdoc positions. By the time you’ve made it through a PhD, I think most of us are ready for a decent pay check, and becoming a postdoc is not the most direct route to one of those.
Anyway, if you’re almost to the point of making decisions, or are a postdoc, or know someone who is, it might be an interesting read. It’s not actually all that long, it just hasn’t been able to become a priority between everything else I have on my todo lists.