What is a postdoc?

A postdoctoral scholar ("postdoc") is someone who has earned a doctoral degree (PhD, MD, etc.) and is now undertaking research under the guidance of a mentor in order to gain further career skills and experience. This research is generally quite tightly focused and may be different than what their previous research was about.

Postdocs have a variety of careers options available to them, including:

  • staying within academia as a principal investigator, technician or researcher
  • working in industry
  • working in a field like healthcare, journalism, or education

But which one is the right choice? That all depends on your goals and the path you take throughout your education and working life.

As you will see from the videos and interviews on this website, there is no one way to become a postdoc. Whether you start off enthusiastic about science or torn between that and other subjects, research in the life sciences is a career open to all.


A career in life sciences can take you many different places. Various websites and resources provide further information for interested secondary and undergraduate pupils on the variety of careers linked to life sciences.

  • Became interested in science around age 16.
  • Wanted to go into biomedical or biological sciences
  • Wasn’t well informed about all the possibilities/choices, wanted to do some kind of research
  • Took a year out to do research

View Sonia's full profile and timeline

  • Had an interest in nature and plants since primary school
  • Developed an interest in biology in secondary school
  • Had an interest in art as well
  • Wasn’t sure what she wanted to do as a career
  • Chose biology because she was enjoying it at the time

View Rachel's full profile and timeline

  • Went to secondary school in Orkney
  • Was 34 when she started her degree
  • Before university started a catering business
  • Went to do teacher training in biology
  • Enjoyed chemistry more
  • Stayed to do a masters in analytical chemistry

View Linda's full profile and timeline

  • Wasn’t sure in secondary whether he wanted to be a scientist
  • Father was a scientist
  • Wanted to be a financial analyst
  • Studied engineering at uni, didn’t do his best
  • Took electives to see what else he enjoyed
  • Eventually pursued a masters in biotechnology

View Yogesh's full profile and timeline

  • Was interested in science in secondary school
  • Took biology and chemistry, no physics
  • Considered doing medicine, eventually decided on plant science
  • Wasn’t certain which direction to take it
  • Went into teaching and pharmacy

View Claire's full profile and timeline

  • Got into science in secondary school
  • Took chemistry, biology – physics was least favourite
  • Enjoyed doing experiments in labs
  • Inspired by David Attenborough

View Jon's full profile and timeline

  • Top subjects were English and History
  • Self-described ‘maths illiterate’ in secondary school
  • Got bad reports in science first year
  • Wanted to become a doctor; was a very ‘romantic’ decision to help people
  • Mother didn’t have much education but parents were very encouraging
  • School wasn’t encouraging
  • Took a gap year, was an au pair in Thailand
  • Went to study environmental science at uni
  • Failed first year biochemistry
  • Very good teachers inspired her to take immunology

  • Did her secondary schooling in Glasgow
  • Participated in a nature club in primary and secondary
  • Had to choose between science and medicine
  • Wanted to take a broad scientific degree to experience all aspects
  • Also wanted the chance to take a year out in industry

  • Grew up in a council house
  • Parents non-scientists but very keen on getting a good education
  • Interested in science in primary school
  • Took biology, chemistry, maths