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Whats it like doing a postdoc in the US - I have nearly finished my PhD in the UK and want to move to the US (Aug/25/2008 )

So Ive been looking to get a postdoc job in the US. I think it will be a great experince! problem is my supervisor and a great many over people have said working in the US is horrible. They said its very long hours and very dog eat dog. People will steal your data and that you have to hide it away. Now im not afraid of alittle hard work, ive worked long hours though my phd and have worked most weekends. I do love what i do and so i am happy for to work hard. My problem is want is"long hours" i would be fine working say 8am-6pm mon to fri and then maybe working saturday morning. I would want one day off a week mostly, but dont mind if now and then i have to work longer than this. What im saying is i want a life outside of my career too. if im living in the US i would like to make friends and see alittle of the country, plus i have some hobbys i would like to continue when im there...... ok well i hope you all dont think im lasy or not having enough love for the science, i do people just need to sleep etc smile.gif ok thanks for any help you give x

-Dr bubbles-

Although I am a PhD student, I am surrounded by labs and post-docs. First, your experience as a post-doc in any country is going to be very dependent on the lab itself. Every lab has different people with different environments. You can't just say that every single lab in America is a certain way. There are specific labs that have the issues you mentioned but it is in no way the norm. If you get into an extremely competitive lab, you may have issues with others trying to steal your data and/or reagents but I've never heard of or seen a lab where this is acceptable (although I'm sure at least one exists). As for the working hours, this is completely up to the PI that you choose to work for. Some bosses are more demanding than others. In my lab our post-docs only work Monday-Friday and on average come in around 9 and leave by 5-6. They generally don't come in on the weekend at all. The lab next to me (with a much more demanding boss) has post-docs who seem to work around the clock. This is something you have to get a feel for when interviewing. It's very difficult for me to give an opinion since I am an American and have never worked abroad. I can only say that the post-docs in my lab who are from Germany, France, Japan and China are very happy that they came to this lab and really seem to enjoy their time here. All are planning on continuing their careers here in the US.


Thanks for your reply, you have put my mind at rest. The lab in question seem very nice and the PI i have been speaking to also seems very nice. Im visiting in januray so i can get a feel of the lab then. Thanks again for the reply!

-Dr bubbles-

Dear Bubbles,

I am an overseas trained scientist postdoc'ing in the US and it is a great experience. I work 9-5ish and only do weekends if doing a special experiment. There are bad labs but as Rkay says, it is very dependent on the lab you go to.

When you interview for the job, make sure to ask the other postdocs how long they work, whether they work weekends etc. Better still, ask the PI if they can give you contact details for any postdocs that recently left. If they can't, that tells you something.

One thing to be aware of ... postdocs in the US get very little vacation leave but you can negotiate. Check this out with the other lab members to see if the PI is one to negotiate. If you want to tour the States, be aware that you may only get 2 weeks vacation leave.

Anyway, don't label the whole country based on a few bad labs. Check the lab out beforehand and if it isn't what you want, then apply for a new position. Visa's are transferable so don't feel you are locked in because you are from another country.

Happy hunting,



I'd just like to point out that vacation time, again, is very lab and PI dependent. Our postdoc from France just got back from a two-month visit back home. The girl from Japan went there for a wedding and was gone for 6 weeks. Additionally, most of the postdocs in my lab have managed to take enough time off to see more of America than I.