A postdoctoral appointee (‘postdoc’) is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a temporary period of mentored research or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of their choosing. This is a definition that follows the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).

The main goal of a postdoctoral appointment is to continue your training under the mentorship of an experienced researcher, develop your professional and academic skills, and gain independence to decide the direction of your career.

At Washington University in St. Louis, postdoctoral appointments have a 5-year term limit, including previous postdoctoral experience in other institutions. Once the 5-year term limit is reached, postdoctoral appointees should transition to positions inside or outside academia more appropriate for their level of training, expertise, and independence.

Compensation for postdoctoral appointees is competitive. The minimum compensation per year is tied to the year 0 postdoctoral stipend amount of the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) program, with a delayed start to fit in WashU’s fiscal year. The University does not define a compensation scale nor a maximum compensation amount for postdoctoral appointees. Requirements of specific fellowships and training grants regarding stipend level requirements from the federal funding agency must be followed.

Postdoctoral appointees at WashU fall in one of these two categories:

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Postdoctoral Research Associates have employee status and paid by salary (on a faculty grant or individual award that can be paid as salary routed through the university).

Approximately 80% of WashU postdoctoral appointees are Postdoctoral Research Associates, which is the default type of appointment. However, if the funding source prohibits an appointment as a University employee or if the appointee is paid directly from their funder (e.g., from an agency in their home country), then the appointee should be appointed as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar.

Postdoctoral Research Associate Job Description (PDF)

Postdoctoral Research Scholars

Postdoctoral Research Scholars have non-employee status. They are paid by stipend or directly by an external funding agency.

Approximately 20% of WashU postdoctoral appointees are Postdoctoral Research Scholars. This category is for postdoctoral appointees whose funding source prohibits an appointment as a University employee (e.g., NIH F32 fellowships, T32 training grants, etc.) or if they are paid directly from their funder (e.g., from an agency in their home country). Benefits and taxation are different from those of employees.

Postdoctoral Research Scholar Job Description (PDF)

Stipend Guide for Postdoctoral Research Scholars (PDF)

Postdoctoral Appointee Comparison (PDF)