No one has ever sat down with me and explained the various purposes of each degree. I’ve figured out what Bachelors and masters degrees are good for (basic training, specialized training respectively) and the purpose of a PhD was spelled out to me when I was in industry (showing you can take responsibility for your own research). However, no one has ever explained to me why I should want to do a post doc.
As far as I can tell, the best excuse for a post-doc is to learn a skill that you missed during your PhD, or, failing that, if you didn’t get enough publications during your PhD, you can pump out a few more here.
But, why would anyone feel the need to spend another year or two…. or five (or ten!) doing a post doc to learn a set of skills? I just don’t see that being a great reason.
I’ve also heard that post-docs are often done to get into a good lab, so that one can add to your network of connections, or perhaps to put a good PI’s name on your resume.
I’m not sure I buy either of those, however. In this day and age, one can make connections through many other methods. Working for someone isn’t the only way to develop a network. And really, I would like to think that your future career is decided on more than just having a good PI’s name on your resume. Finally, the better the PI, the less likely they are to have the time to invest in one of their post-docs.
Last time I checked, Post-docs aren’t even treated like staff at universities, they don’t get benefits, they don’t get paid like the highly trained researchers they are, and they don’t get an actual degree out of it.
So… why do we have post-docs? And why should I consider doing one? As a keystone of the academic world, it might have some merit, but is that the only reason why someone should consider it?