Career Development among American Biomedical Postdocs

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2015 Winter;14(4):ar44. doi: 10.1187/cbe.15-03-0075.


Recent biomedical workforce policy efforts have centered on enhancing career preparation for trainees, and increasing diversity in the research workforce. Postdoctoral scientists, or postdocs, are among those most directly impacted by such initiatives, yet their career development remains understudied. This study reports results from a 2012 national survey of 1002 American biomedical postdocs. On average, postdocs reported increased knowledge about career options but lower clarity about their career goals relative to PhD entry. The majority of postdocs were offered structured career development at their postdoctoral institutions, but less than one-third received this from their graduate departments. Postdocs from all social backgrounds reported significant declines in interest in faculty careers at research-intensive universities and increased interest in nonresearch careers; however, there were differences in the magnitude and period of training during which these changes occurred across gender and race/ethnicity. Group differences in interest in faculty careers were explained by career interest differences formed during graduate school but not by differences in research productivity, research self-efficacy, or advisor relationships. These findings point to the need for enhanced career development earlier in the training process, and interventions sensitive to distinctive patterns of interest development across social identity groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / education*
  • Career Choice*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Graduate / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mentors / education
  • Mentors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Competence
  • Research Personnel / education*
  • Research Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • United States