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Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have developed a tool to visualize the career paths of postdocs and examine trends in biomedical science employment by sector, type, and job specifics, the US National Institutes of Health says.

An NIEHS team led by Tammy Collins analyzed the career outcomes of more than 900 postdoctoral researchers who worked at NIEHS in the past 15 years, as it reports in Nature Biotechnology. Half of the postdocs in the sample were from the US and half from abroad. They visualized their data using R.

Overall, she and her colleagues found that about half of the postdocs in their sample went into academia — which they found surprising, as many think a government postdoc may preclude an academic position. Most of the rest of the sample have government or nonprofit jobs. They noted, though, that international postdocs were more likely to secure an academic position doing basic research, mostly positions abroad.

When Collins and her colleagues examined the types of jobs the cohort held, 37 percent held professional staff positions, 30 percent had a tenure-track spot, and 13 percent had management-level positions. When they examined the specifics of each job, the researchers found that slightly less than a third of the former postdocs primarily conduct basic research, while slightly less than a quarter conduct applied research.

"Having this institution-level information will allow prospective and current doctoral candidates to evaluate their career prospects based on real data, rather than anecdotes," Collins and her colleagues wrote in their paper.

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