Postdoctoral appointees (“postdocs”) conduct research under the general oversight of a faculty mentor in preparation for a career in academe, industry, government, or the nonprofit sector. Postdoctoral work provides essential training that may include opportunities to enhance teaching and other professional skills.
Georgia Tech’s definition of postdoctoral appointments uses the following criteria:
- The appointee has received a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate (e.g., D.V.M., Sc.D., M.D.), typically within the past 5 years, in a field directly related to the appointee’s assigned responsibilities;
- The appointee’s assigned responsibilities are primarily research and/or scholarship, and may include formal instructional responsibilities (typically no more than 50% effort);
- The appointment is full time, limited term (recommended to be 1-3 years, with a maximum of 5 years);
- The appointment is preparatory for a full-time career in academia, industry, government, or the nonprofit sector, and provides essential training that may include opportunities to enhance teaching and professional skills; and
- The postdoc must be supervised by a full-time faculty member in the unit to which the postdoc is assigned.
The titles currently used for postdoctoral appointments at Georgia Tech are: Postdoctoral Fellow, Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholar, Teaching Postdoctoral Fellow, Brittain Fellow, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics.
Throughout this policy, "postdoc” is used as an inclusive, general term.
Postdoctoral Fellows are usually funded from Georgia Tech-administered grants, contracts, or funds and for the purposes of services and benefits are considered employees of Georgia Tech. Postdoctoral Fellows receive compensation for services as required by the sources of the corresponding Georgia Tech-administered grants, contracts, or funds. Appointment as a
Postdoctoral Fellow may include teaching responsibilities, but these must constitute less than 50% of the postdoc’s effort.
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholar
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars primarily have training status; they are not considered employees of Georgia Tech. They are provided a stipend in exchange for which no specific service to Georgia Tech is required. The stipend may be provided directly to the recipient from an external source (e.g., a postdoctoral fellowship) or provided by Georgia Tech from an external source (e.g., NIH NRSA fellowships and training grant awards).
Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Brittain Fellow and other postdoctoral titles
If instructional responsibilities are significant, postdocs may be appointed with an appropriate title that reflects these duties. Examples of instructional titles include Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Brittain Fellow in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics.
Postdoc Appointment Terms
Postdoctoral appointments should be full-time, with an expectation of a 40-hour workweek. Part- time appointments are appropriate only in extenuating circumstances, including, but not limited to, medical or personal reasons, or when the postdoc requires time for consulting or teaching external to Georgia Tech.
Generally, postdoctoral appointments at Georgia Tech should last between one and three years. The maximum term of appointment for postdocs at Georgia Tech is five years. This term limit is based on federal guidelines and the tenet that all postdoctoral appointments are primarily for training, which is inherently limited in duration. The appointment duration refers to the total time spent at Georgia Tech as a postdoc and does not include time spent at Georgia Tech as an undergraduate or graduate student, or as a postdoc at other institutions. The appointment may be interrupted for extended medical or family leaves. All postdoc reappointments should follow USG and Georgia Tech policies and procedures. See the Georgia Tech Faculty Affairs website.
Units must specify the duration of appointment, including the end date, in each postdoc’s offer letter. The unit in which a postdoc is appointed must verify that the actual duration of the appointment does not exceed five years or the term specified in the offer, whichever is shorter.
Requests for exceptions to the above terms of postdoctoral appointments must be approved by the Office of Faculty Affairs following a review by the Office of Postdoctoral Services.
Procedures for New Postdoctoral Appointments
Units are responsible for ensuring that appropriate procedures and forms are completed for both postdocs that hold an employee status, and Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars, respectively. Upon identification of a postdoc for appointment, units must complete the steps required by Faculty Affairs and GTHR for new appointments.
All appointment request packages should include official transcripts issued to Georgia Tech showing the doctoral degree completion. Units must complete a request, receive approval, and provide an offer letter for all postdoctoral appointments, including new postdoctoral appointees, postdocs returning to Georgia Tech, and postdocs being reappointed or transferring within units at Georgia Tech. Units should consult with Faculty Affairs and GTHR for paperwork for returning or transferring postdocs. Offer letter templates are available from Faculty Affairs.
Approval of Postdoctoral Appointments
All postdoctoral appointments must be approved by the Office of Faculty Affairs following a review by the Office of Postdoctoral Services. Faculty Affairs maintains centralized records for all academic appointees, research appointees, and postdocs with instructional duties.
Granting Instructional Responsibilities
Postdocs may teach courses and be the instructor of record if an agreement is reached between the postdoc, the faculty supervisor, and the academic unit. Faculty Affairs grants grading privileges on a case-by-case basis. Faculty Affairs also verifies that the SACSCOC Faculty Credential Guidelines are followed and maintains centralized records of credentials for all instructors, including official transcripts issued to Georgia Tech.
Onboarding Postdoctoral Employees
Postdoctoral employees must follow all Georgia Tech employment procedures, which include completing payroll and benefits forms as detailed on the Georgia Tech Office of Human Resources website.
Onboarding Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars are not employees but are entered in the Georgia Tech’s personnel system so that their affiliation with Georgia Tech is established and documented. Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars must complete and sign the Postdoctoral Scholar Volunteer Agreement before onboarding at the Office of Human Resources. The onboarding process facilitates required access to facilities and OIT systems via Georgia Tech credentials.
Compensation of Postdocs
Postdoc salary minimums are reviewed and determined annually by the Offices of the EVPR and Provost by January 1st of each year to apply to the following fiscal year. Information on the compensation levels is published on the Faculty Affairs and Postdoctoral Services websites.
Guidance on salary levels commensurate with years of postdoctoral experience may also be provided.
The postdoc salary minimums will take into account:
- current level of stipends provided by US federal postdoctoral fellowships and salaries offered by peer institutions;
- years of postdoctoral experience before being hired at Georgia Tech;
- projected USG employee health insurance premium levels;
- state employee pay increase percentage;
- other cost factors affecting postdocs; and
- available funding.
While compensation minimums are determined by the Office of the EVPR and Provost, each school or unit that appoints postdocs is responsible for determining the salary/stipend ranges within the unit. The stipend levels shall be determined by the following factors:
- peer institution salary/stipend levels for the disciplines (peer reviews to be conducted by units);
- past experience and performance of the postdoc in research or teaching;
- level of research or teaching work conducted by the postdoc;
- for an international postdoc, the estimated cost of living as determined by the Office of International Education through the I-20 form (http://www.oie.gatech.edu/); and
- available funding.
Each school or unit shall annually review the overall postdoc salary/stipend levels for its postdocs based on the factors noted above. If Georgia Tech is authorized to provide annual salary increases to state employees, comparable increases to postdocs funded through sponsored funds will be recommended by the school or unit. Postdoc salaries may also be raised via an equity adjustment based on the minimum recommended by the Institute for their years of postdoctoral experience. Raises for postdocs funded by sponsored funds should be included, through escalation factors, in grant budgets. Units should publish postdoc salary and stipend ranges in a location accessible to both postdocs and faculty in the unit.
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholar Compensation
For Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars, the terms of the fellowship or award dictate the stipend amount and any increases; these are not controlled by Georgia Tech. However, stipends may be supplemented by the supervisor or unit, if allowable under the terms of the award. If the stipend of an Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholar is less than the minimum postdoc salary level established by the Institute, then a supplement to the stipend should be provided to match the minimum salary level. Note that NIH NRSA policy requires that that salary supplementation policies must be consistently applied to all Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars regardless of the source of funds.
Requests to provide Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars with a part-time salary for services rendered that are separate from the obligations of the fellowship or award will be considered on a case-by- case basis by Faculty Affairs and Postdoctoral Services.
In cases when stipends are provided directly to the postdoc from the sponsoring agency, the sponsoring agency is responsible for reporting for tax purposes. In cases where Georgia Tech administers the funding (e.g., NIH NRSA fellowships and training grant awards), stipends and stipend supplements should be provided via Georgia Tech Accounts Payable and reported on a Form 1099 to comply with federal tax regulations.
Time Away from Work
Per the Georgia Tech Time Away from Work Policy, postdocs who are employees of Georgia Tech accrue 14 hours per month of paid annual leave and 8 hours per month of sick leave.
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars are eligible for the amount of leave articulated and allowed under the terms of the fellowship or award.
Postdocs who are employees of Georgia Tech are eligible for the USG employee health insurance plans and other benefits, subject to USG policies (see USG benefits eligible definition: http://www.usg.edu/hr/manual/employee_categories). In rare cases where a postdoc employee is appointed at less than 75% effort (less than 30 hours per week), health benefits eligibility will be determined by the number of hours worked. Contact the unit HR representative or GTHR Benefits unit to learn more.
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible for employee benefits per USG policy because they are not considered employees of Georgia Tech. Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars may acquire their own health insurance or choose to participate in the voluntary student health insurance plan (known as SHIP). To enroll in the voluntary student health insurance plan, Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars must be verified by the Office of Postdoctoral Services.
In some instances, an administrative financial allowance may be provided by the fellowship or award sponsor to be used by the unit to support allowable benefits-related expenses for Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars. Units must verify compliance with the award terms and conditions.
Expenses not covered by an administrative allowance provided by the sponsor are the responsibility of the the Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholar.
Postdoc employees have the option of participating either in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) of Georgia or an Optional Retirement Plan (ORP). Upon initial appointment, the postdoc should consult an Office of Human Resources benefits counselor to determine the appropriate plan given the temporary nature of their appointment.
Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars can use any administrative allowance funds provided with the award to make voluntary payments into other individually selected retirement plans only when sponsors allow such expenditures. No institutional administrative allowance funds can be transferred from a Georgia Tech restricted account to the Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholar’s retirement account without verification that the sponsor permits such payments from such funds. Verification must be provided through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) to the Accounts Payable Office before transfers can take place.
Additional Benefits and Issues
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all postdocs, including Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars (even though Affiliate Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible for other employee health benefits). This program provides no-cost, 24-hour access to confidential counselling for a range of personal, family, and work concerns.
International postdocs should check with the Office of International Education (if holding a J visa) or Global HR (if holding an H1B, F, or other visa) for assistance with questions regarding taxes and benefits, and how they will be treated under federal law (i.e., social security, etc.).
Performance Evaluations and Individual Development Plans
Recognizing that postdocs are in growth positions and striving for professional advancement, they are entitled to formal evaluations by their faculty mentors. USG and Georgia Tech policies (see USG Human Resources Administrative Practice Manual: Performance Evaluation) specify that written performance evaluations must occur on at least an annual basis.
In addition to performance evaluations, use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs) is strongly recommended by Georgia Tech as well as some funding agencies. While the IDP may inform the postdoc’s performance evaluation, the IDP has a different purposes. The IDP is written by the postdoc to outline his/her own progress and goals, while the performance evaluation is the supervisors’ assessment of the postdoc’s efforts.
Postdocs may consult with the Faculty & Graduate Student Ombuds for confidential, neutral, informal, and independent conflict resolution at any time. Postdocs are encouraged to seek informal resolution of conflicts by talking with their faculty supervisor and then with the school chair (or delegate). The next step in informal resolution is to contact the Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Advocacy and Conflict Resolution. For other instances where an informal process is required, the Employee Dispute Resolution Policy is applicable to postdocs.
The Policy for Responding to Allegations of Scientific or Other Scholarly Misconduct is applicable to all postdocs (see Georgia Tech Faculty Handbook Section 5.7).
The Conflict Resolution Pathways Relevant to Postdocs document details the applicable polices and contacts for these and additional issues.
A postdoc may resign his or her appointment by submitting a written statement to the immediate supervisor. Thirty days’ notice before the end date is standard, and as much time as is possible is preferred. When leaving Georgia Tech, the postdoc should also contact the HR representative for the unit to ensure that all of the correct steps are completed.
Postdoctoral appointments may be ended a thirty-day written notice if the funding support ends. In instances where a postdoc has violated any USG and/or Georgia Tech policy, dismissal may be immediate.
If Georgia Tech sponsors the visa of a postdoc and the employment ends prior to the original program end date, the supervisor must contact the Office of International Education (for J1 visas and F1-OPT authorized by Georgia Tech) or Global Human Resources (for H1B, F1-OPT authorized by other institutions, and other visas) prior to informing the postdoc of dismissal.
Appointment Duration Limit Reached
If the maximum term of appointment is reached, an appointee may be considered for a regular position through a competitive search. Regular positions that may be appropriate after a five-year postdoctoral appointment include, but are not limited to Research Scientist/Engineer II, Lecturer, or Academic Professional. Units should consult their HR representative or Faculty Affairs for additional information.
Summary Table of Postdoctoral Appointments
*Includes access to the Employee Assistance Program, Library, Parking & Transportation, Office of Postdoctoral Services programs and services, etc.