After two-year decline, postdoc employment at U.S. federally funded labs increases

The number of postdoctoral researchers employed at federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) rose to 2,696 in 2015, the first increase seen after two consecutive years of declines, according to a new report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

The total is higher than the previous survey year’s 2,613, although still lower than the peak of 3,011 reported in 2010. Postdoctoral researchers, or postdocs, are individuals who hold doctoral degrees and are engaged in research intended to further their education and experience. Postdocs are a vital part of the nation’s next generation of scientists and engineers, and employment at FFRDCs provides them with valuable training opportunities.

The share of postdocs on temporary visas at FFRDCs has decreased over the past decade, going from 61.5 percent in 2005 to 53.8 percent in 2015. However, FFRDCs still employ more postdocs with temporary visas than with U.S. citizenship or permanent resident visas – 1,450 versus 1,246.

Men still make up the majority of postdocs at FFRDCs, although the share of women has increased from 21 percent in 2005 to 24 percent in 2015.

Postdocs in FFRDCs performed research in a wide range of fields in 2015, including:

  • Physics and astronomy (28 percent of total postdocs)
  • Engineering fields (25 percent)
  • Chemistry (16 percent)
  • Materials and metallurgical engineering (8 percent)

In 2015, 24 of the 42 FFRDCs employed postdocs. Two of them — Lincoln Laboratory and Project Air Force — reported opening new postdoc programs that year.

For more information, including the number of postdocs employed at each FFRDC and a detailed list of postdoc fields of research, read the full report.

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