Postdoctoral Fellow

Postdoctoral fellows are paid or unpaid appointees post-PhD performing research under the general supervision of a principal investigator.

Policies and procedures regarding postdoctoral fellow appointments at SEAS are governed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). Appointment types and requirements are outlined in the FAS Appointment and Promotion Handbook. The Handbook includes the main guidelines on research appointments and SEAS-specific processes are included below.

Many new employee postdoctoral positions require a search.  Once a faculty member or administrator is are aware of an upcoming postdoctoral appointment, they should notify the relevant Academic Appointments Manager, who will help assess the need for a search and provide advice on documenting a search, if necessary. 

Harvard University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and applications from women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged.

Description and Eligibility

  • Must have a doctoral degree; usually doctoral degree is recently earned
  • If an incoming postdoctoral fellow has received a doctoral degree within 12 months of the start date of his or her appointment, verification of the degree is required before the postdoctoral fellow can begin to work.
    • Acceptable verification is either a certificate of completion from the degree-granting institution or a letter from the institution's Registrar. Such documentation should state that all requirements for the degree have been successfully completed and should verify the date the degree has been or will be conferred.
    • If the candidate received his or her degree from Harvard, written verification from the chair or director of graduate studies, on department letterhead, may suffice.
    • A letter from the candidate’s faculty advisor or program administrator is not acceptable.
  • Appointed annually and may serve in that role for up to three years
  • After three years, may be converted to a research associate (paid) or associate (unpaid)

Salary and Benefits

Paid (Internal) Employee Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Supported by research grants and contracts under the direction of a Harvard Principal Investigator
  • Paid monthly salaries
  • Considered Harvard employees and therefore eligible for Harvard employee benefits, including health, dental, and vision insurance, and vacation time, if their salary is at least $15,000 annually

Stipendiary Postdoctoral Fellows

Note: "Stipendiary" is used differently by SEAS, the HIO, and other offices.  Please check with the Academic Appointments Manager for relevant information for specific appointments.

  • Awarded fellowships that are managed by Harvard University, with the postdoctoral fellow paid through Harvard
  • Paid monthly stipends
  • Not considered Harvard employees and therefore ineligible for subsidized Harvard employee benefits, but may purchase the Harvard University Student Health Plan at the Affiliate rate

Unpaid (External) Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Includes postdoctoral fellows with fellowships that are paid directly to the fellow and postdoctoral fellows on the payroll of another institution
  • Not considered Harvard employees and therefore ineligible for subsidized Harvard employee benefits, but may purchase the Harvard University Student Health Plan at the Affiliate rate

Benefits Summary Document

An overview of benefits available to postdoctoral fellows at Harvard, provided by the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs.
 

Appointment Checklists

Paid (Internal) Employee Postdoctoral Fellows

Note: Faculty members and/or administrators should consult with an Academic Appointments Manager to determine whether a search is necessary for a postdoctoral fellow appointment.

For new appointments of paid employee postdoctoral fellows, the following information should be provided to the relevant Academic Appointments Manager:

  • A signed offer letter from the faculty sponsor to the postdoctoral fellow, on letterhead, following the standard template
  • Postdoctoral fellow’s CV
  • Affirmative Action forms (2 documents) and copy of job posting(s); or, reason for exemption from a search
  • Proof of PhD completion if received within the past year (see requirements)
  • English Language Profiency Form (for international scholars)
  • Participation Agreement

Stipendiary Postdoctoral Fellows

Note: "Stipendiary" is used differently by SEAS, the HIO, and other offices.  Please check with the Academic Appointments Manager for relevant information for specific appointments.

For new appointments of stipendiary postdoctoral fellows, the following information should be provided to the relevant Academic Appointments Manager:

  • A signed offer letter from the faculty sponsor to the postdoctoral fellow, on letterhead, following the standard template
  • Postdoctoral fellow’s CV
  • Proof of PhD completion if received within the past year (see requirements)
  • Participation Agreement
  • English Language Proficiency Form for international scholars

Unpaid (External) Postdoctoral Fellows

For new appointments of unpaid postdoctoral fellows, the following information should be provided to the relevant Academic Appointments Manager:

  • A signed offer letter from the faculty sponsor to the postdoctoral fellow, on letterhead, following the standard template
  • Postdoctoral fellow’s CV
  • Proof of PhD completion if received within the past year (see requirements)
  • Participation Agreement
  • Acknowledgment of Risk and Release
  • English Language Proficiency Form for international scholars

Appointment Process

  • Faculty administrator sends the above documentation to the Academic Appointments Manager (except I-9 and tax forms, which are completed by the appointee with the Academic Appointments Manager)
  • The Academic Appointments Manager initiates visa process with prospective postdoctoral fellow and HIO if necessary
  • The Academic Appointments Manager contacts prospective postdoctoral fellow for additional personal information and any required forms needed to process the appointment
  • The Academic Appointments Manager creates a SEAS email address for the postdoctoral fellow and submits appointment paperwork
  • Upon postdoctoral fellow's arrival:
    • The Academic Appointments Manager gives instructions for picking up HUID and for setting up direct deposit (if necessary)
    • The Academic Appointments Manager helps the postdoctoral fellow complete the I-9 and tax forms (only necessary for employee postdoctoral fellows)
    • The Academic Appointments Manager adds the postdoctoral fellow to SEAS postdoctoral fellow email listserv and to the SEAS and Harvard directories
    • Faculty administrator gets key and ID card access for the postdoctoral fellow and orients the postdoctoral fellow to the lab/office and campus

Visa Information

See the Harvard International Office Visa Information page

Forms and Templates

See the Forms and Templates page