November 3,  2014 – Message from the NPA (US)…

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) is pleased to announce the release of the 2014 NPA Institutional Survey: Supporting and Developing Postdoctoral Scholars.

We believe that this data is critical for postdoc offices to assess the needs of the postdoctoral community in the areas of postdoc stipend levels, insurance benefits, appointment policies, collection of outcomes data, access to training programs, and retirement benefits. Our postdoc offices have grown considerably from less than 25 postdoc offices when the NPA began in 2003 to 167 Institutional Members in 2013.

In the Institutional Policy Report, we have national data on postdoctoral office structure in particular their reporting structure, who funds the office, their operating budgets, as well as training and benefits information. We intend to gather data longitudinally and will ask you to update your survey responses on an annual basis. This will allow us to use the 2014 data as a baseline for future comparisons.

We thank our Institutional Members for their membership in the NPA, and their contribution to the Institutional Policy Report. Your involvement in this project has enabled this important document to come to fruition. We are indebted to you for taking the time to fill out the Institutional Policy Survey.

Our vision is that this data will inform policy makers, institutions, and postdoc offices about the significant needs of our postdoctoral scholars. We believe the data on the stipend levels, insurance benefits, appointment policies, collection of outcomes data, and more will enable postdoc offices to advocate for better programs and services, and identify best practices.

Executive Summary

The Institutional Policy Survey asks postdoctoral offices about office structure, postdoc demographics, postdoctoral policies, professional development and career training, benefits, and more. This data provides a snapshot and a glimpse into the needs of the postdoctoral community. The community of postdoctoral offices is relatively young; in the early 2000s, there were less than fifty offices that served postdoctoral scholars, and many administrators worked without budgets. In 2014, there are now 167 postdoctoral offices serving the needs of 79,000 postdoctoral scholars.

A postdoctoral scholar is defined as:

An individual who has received a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and is engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path. [1]

The Institutional Policy Survey questions collected data on the following areas:

  • Demographics of the institution and their postdoc population
  • Structure of the institution’s postdoc office
  • Postdoc policies: length of appointment, exit interview, postdoc handbook
  • Postdoc compensation and benefits
  • Career and professional development services
  • Other institutional services

While significant progress has been made in the last decade for postdoctoral offices, data from this survey revealed that equity and services for postdocs are needed in funding, health care insurance, appointment policies, exit surveys, training programs and retirement benefits.

Selected Findings

  • The types of institutions that have Postdoctoral Offices (PDOs) include private (52 percent), public (45 percent) and government (3 percent). Many PDOs are within medical schools, where the first PDOs began. Sixty eight of the ninety two PDOs who responded to this survey were in medical schools.
  • Eighty-three percent reported they were stand-alone PDOs, and 17 percent were not. In terms of reporting structure PDOs most frequently reported to the graduate school (26 percent), research affairs (19 percent), an academic dean (14 percent), or the office of the president/provost/chancellor (13 percent).
  • The majority of postdocs hold a length of appointment of five years (63 percent), those appointed for six years are 19 percent and postdocs appointed for four and three years at 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Fifty-seven percent said the maximum length of time that an individual can be classified as a postdoc does not included previous years of experience in the current length of appointment, and 43 percent said it is included in the current appointment.
  • The professional development programs PDOs offered the most were grant proposal writing (94 percent), responsible conduct of research (93 percent), presentation skills (77 percent), and teaching skills (75 percent).
  • The career development programs PDOs offer include career exploration/programs/panels and talks most frequently (84 percent), job search skills workshops (including interviewing, negotiating) (70 percent), and networking events (77 percent).
  • Forty-six percent of PDOs offer the NIH’s NRSA stipend scale of $39,264 (raised to $42,000 in 2014) as their minimum postdoc stipend at their institution. Eighty-nine percent of PDOs have a minimum stipend policy established for their postdocs, and 93 percent that have a minimum stipend policy require it is met.

Postdoctoral offices have seen significant improvements in the last decade. Offices can serve from 50 to over 2000 postdocs. Whether they are large or small offices, PDOs are the hub for postdocs to receive career guidance, personal support, grievance counseling, and international visa information. Without PDOs, postdocs would be afloat in large bureaucratic research institutions. The NPA commends the PDO administrators for the important work they do every day for postdocs.

[1] National Postdoctoral Association. (2007). What is a Postdoc?

Click here to download the entire report.