Postdoc Position Descriptions

Administration of Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows Programs

Employment as a postdoctoral Scholar or Fellow is governed by the Policies and Procedures of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the School of Graduate Studies. The University's Human Resources Policies and Procedures Manual does not apply to Postdoctoral Scholars or Fellows.

What is a postdoc? According to the National Postdoc Association (NPA), a postdoc is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a temporary period of mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring professional skills needed to pursue a career path of their choosing. 

Definition of Postdoctoral Scholar

A postdoctoral Scholar is defined as a special class of employee who:

  • holds a PhD or equivalent;
  • works on scholarly projects funded by grants obtained by others at the university or is funded by department funds;
  • is engaged in a mentored training relationship with a member of the University faculty; and
  • actively pursues fellowship/grant funding for their own research project in order to develop their future professional career. Once such funding has been obtained, the postdoctoral Scholar becomes a postdoctoral Fellow.
  • receives a salary directly from the institution (usually derived from the supervisor's grant or other funds)

The postdoctoral Scholar is eligible to participate in the Postdoctoral Benefits Program but is excluded from participating in all other CWRU benefits including employee retirement and benefit plans.

Definition of Postdoctoral Fellow

A postdoctoral Fellow is defined as a trainee (not an employee) who:

  • holds a PhD or equivalent;
  • works on scholarly projects funded by training grants, fellowships or grants they have applied for and obtained from outside sources;
  • is engaged in a mentored training relationship with a member of the university faculty; and
  • actively pursues fellowship/grant funding for their own research project in order to develop their future professional career.
  • receives a stipend from independent funding by a fellowship of some type

The postdoctoral Fellow is eligible to participate in the Postdoctoral Benefits Program, but is excluded from participating in all other CWRU benefits including employee retirement and benefit plans.

Criteria for Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows

  • The postdoctoral Scholar/Fellow was recently (normally within five years) awarded a PhD or equivalent degree in an appropriate field.
  • The appointment is temporary and postdoctoral Scholars/Fellows are expected to complete their mentored training within five years.
  • The time devoted to this appointment as well as the specific scholarly training activities will be decided in collaboration with the mentor and committed in writing in the form of a training plan. All postdoctoral Scholars/Fellows will be encouraged to pursue additional training and other opportunities in the respective areas up to 25 percent of their time.
  • The appointee will train under the supervision of a senior scholar (faculty mentor).

Scholars vs. Fellows

  Postdoc Scholar Postdoc Fellow
Office Oversight Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the School of Graduate Studies
University Employee Special class employees No
Domestic or International Either
CWRU Expense Class 513200 572500
Funding Source Funded by the PI's grant, CWRU, or an individual fellowship (internal funding) Funded by an individual federal fellowship obtained by the postdoc (e.g. NRSA F32, T32, or NSF) (external funding)
Mentored Training Relationship Yes
Subject to Fringe No
Salary or Stipend Salary Stipend
Salary Structure Based on the annual National Research Service Awards (NRSA) levels
Exempt or Non-Exempt Exempt (salary) Exempt (salary)
Pay days per month One; last working day of the month
Appointment Length One (1) year
Term Limit Generally five (5) years of combined postdoc experience
Teaching Permitted Yes
Taxes Federal, state, and local taxes. Postdoc Scholars also pay FICA taxes (Medicare and Social Security) Federal, state, and local taxes. Postdoc Fellows do not pay FICA taxes (Medicare and Social Security)
Visa Issuance Issued through CWRU Immigration & HR Services
Visa Length J1 visas are issued for 5 years, H1Bs for 3 years.