Postdoctoral candidates are researchers who have successfully obtained their doctoral degree and wish to attain further qualifications for a career in academia, but who do not yet find themselves in permanent employment in an academic position (see also the provisions of the German Fixed Term Research Contracts Act – WissZeitVG (in German only).
The postdoctoral phase can be funded by scholarship programs, positions at universities or non-academic research institutes, but also national and international private sector organizations.
In addition to the primary goal of gaining academic qualifications, the postdoctoral phase also serves to reflect personal professional goals. According to these functions, an early postdoc phase (recognized researchers) and an advanced postdoc phase (established researchers) can be distinguished.
Early postdoctoral phase
The first two years after having obtained a doctoral degree are intended to get an overview of and further detailed insights into academia and research so that the postdocs can develop their own independent and profile shaping research project that goes beyond the doctoral thesis. This stage is primarily focused on spreading and presenting their own research results as well as assuming increasing responsibilities in teaching and leadership positions. Academic network building is crucial, too, in this phase. A decision with regard to whether the postdoctoral researcher wishes to pursue an academic or non-academic career or a career in non-academic research should be made at the end of this early (postdoc) phase at the latest.
Advanced postdoctoral phase
The advanced postdoc phase is aimed at attaining the qualifications for a professorship. This phase is thus marked by an increasing degree of independent research, academic autonomy and publishing activity. The objective is to establish oneself as researcher within the scientific community and complete one’s own professional competence profile according to professional requirements. Qualification can be documented and proven in different ways. In addition to a postdoctoral lecturing qualification (habilitation), positions as junior research group leader and junior professor have been established as alternative paths. These are sometimes linked with a tenure track option meaning that if the postdoctoral researcher receives a positive evaluation at the end of these promotion models, he or she will be appointed to a tenured professorship.