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Postdoc Policy Issues - A Brief Overview
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The page is the National Postdoctoral Association's (NPA) in depth analysis of key issues currently affecting the postdoctoral community.




Salary and Benefits | Career Development and MentoringDiversity | International Issues

The Issues

Salary and Benefits
  • Salary NIH-NRSA Stipends
    National Institutes of Health (NIH) training stipends support more than 17,000 training positions and are used as a benchmark by research institutions across the country for compensation of postdoctoral scholars. NIH announced FY2014 baseline stipend to rise to $42,000 for postdocs on the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) grants.This resulted from the NIH Biomedical Workforce Report which the NPA had submitted testimony advocating for an increase in postdoc stipend (see past NPA actions). FY2019 was increased to $50,004.
  • Unionization
    Learn the facts and the latest news about unionization in the United States.
  • Benefits for Postdocs
    Postdocs as a group have unique needs that do not always fit well with standard employee benefit packages.
    • Health Insurance (access to Full NPA members only)
      Benefit eligibility depends upon a postdoc’s appointment classification, whereby postdocs classified as students/trainees or who are funded by fellowships are often not considered true employees for the purpose of benefits. This can lead to disparities in benefits between classifications, additional out-of-pocket expenses for “non-employee” postdocs who may have to buy their own individual or family coverage, and complications for postdocs who switch between classifications. Furthermore, the short term nature of the postdoc appointment often means that postdocs cannot take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans since these plans typically have too long a vesting period and limited portability.
    • Retirement Plans (access to Full NPA members only)
      There is great interest among both postdocs and institutions in establishing retirement options, but there are a number of difficulties in offering them to postdocs of all classifications. Among these are long vesting periods, lack of portability, and, in the case of non-employee postdocs, no salary from which to make deductions and no earned income that qualifies for certain types of plans. In particular, portability issues for international postdocs leaving the United States are a challenge. Despite these constraints, there are some options.
    • Pregnancy and Maternity Leave
      This guide provides general information on pregnancy and maternity leave for postdocs, including tips for keeping your research going and talking with your supervisor. This guide is intended primarily for postdoc women who are pregnant or are planning for pregnancy.
    • Paternity Leave
      This guide provides general information on paternity leave for postdoc fathers following the birth of a child. It is intended as a companion guide to A Postdoc's Guide to Pregnancy and Maternity Leave. Adopting postdoc parents may want to consult our forthcoming companion guide on adoption leave.
    • Family-Friendly Resources
      This page offers information and resources for postdocs on managing their family lives while furthering their research careers. Some of these resources were developed as part of NPA ADVANCE, a National Science Foundation-funded project to foster the advancement of postdoc women into faculty careers.
    • Establishing Unified Benefits for Postdocs - a case study (access to Full NPA members only)
      Nine campuses of the University of California recently teamed up with the insurance industry to implement a unified benefit program for its postdoctoral scholars.All postdocs now have the same benefits available to them regardless of their funding source.
  • Work/Life Balance
    The struggle for a postdoc, as for any person on a competitive career path in life, is to find balance between personal and professional life.
  • Promoting Mental Health Wellness in the Postdoctoral Community
    Mental health wellness for postdoctoral and graduate trainees is acknowledged by several universities as an important issue that needs to be addressed. Several studies indicate an increase in the incidence of anxiety and depression among college students.
  • Sexual Harassment Resources
    When you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, it is sometimes challenging to find the correct person to go to for advice or assistance. We hope that the information provided in this guide will be helpful to you in understanding your options.
  • Tax Issues
    Any support a postdoc receives that is used to cover “living expenses” (as opposed to, say, tuition and fees) is subject to income tax. How that tax is paid typically depends upon the type of funding and the postdoc’s employment classification and citizenship.
  • Student Loan Deferment/Repayment (access to Full NPA members only)
    Federal student loan deferment is a period of time during which you can postpone your federal student loan payments
  • NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) (access to Full NPA members only)
    In an effort to help NPA members understands the NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) the Advocacy Committee was able to interview an LRP officer to clarify the program objectives and goals


Career Development and Mentoring


  • Career Development (access to Full NPA members only)
    With the increasing flow of postdocs into diverse careers, including both research in the academic, government and industrial sectors, and non-research careers, it is important to ensure that postdocs are aware of the various career paths open to them, and how to acquire the skill sets necessary to succeed.
  • NPA's Postdoctoral Core Competencies
    The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has established six core competencies to offer guidance to individual postdoctoral scholars who must seek out relevant training experiences, in collaboration with mentors, institutions, and other advisors who provide this training.
  • Career Development Resources
  • Mentoring of Postdocs
    Mentoring can have a profound influence on the relative satisfaction and success of postdoctoral scholars.  Mentoring plans are tools to help optimize the mentoring experience by providing a road map for both the mentor and the postdoc of the activities that will be undertaken to further the postdoc's professional and career development. This includes support for the enrichment of a postdoc's research knowledge, skills, and productivity as well as assistance in furthering the postdoc's career prospects. This mentoring toolkit includes resources developed by the NPA for how to draft a mentoring plan, suggestions for effective mentoring activities, and other resources on effective mentoring.




  • Diversity Issues
    Information regarding diversity issues.
  • Postdocs and Gender
    The postdoctoral position is a critical transition point in the academic career pipeline where the numbers of women scientists and engineers significantly decline. While the relative fraction of women in academic science and engineering decreases at every successive step along the career pipeline, these decreases primarily occur before the tenure track and are greatest for the fields where the postdoctoral position is most common


International Issues


If there are other items of interest to postdocs that you would like the NPA to cover, please contact us.