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Appointing a Postdoctoral Scholar

Offer Letters

All new postdoctoral appointments are to be made in writing by an offer letter from the Department Chair or the appropriate Dean/designee. The departments/responsible units should use the standard postdoctoral appointment letter templates, which include the new criminal background check requirements and are available at the Human Resources - Forms Library (click on "O" and find the specific position letter.) Generally, the appointment letter hould be sent out two to three months prior to the start date of the appointment.

The offer letter should include:

Definition of a USF Postdoctoral Appointee

An individual, who is employed by USF or has research affiliation with the university, and has received a PhD degree or equivalent (e.g., Sc.D., M.D.) and is engaged in a defined period of mentored research and/or advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path.

Postdoctoral Appointment Types, Duration and FTE

Note: All postdoctoral appointments must have an initial appointment length of at least 12 months at 1.0 FTE. The only exception are instructional postdocs (9195) who may be on a 9-month academic calendar. Postdocs may move in between postdoctoral job codes at USF but the total duration cannot exceed 7 years. At the end of a postdoctoral appointment, a postdoc must either separate from the university or move into a line (permanent) position at USF. Postdocs may not become hourly employees or research volunteers.

Research Postdoctoral Scholar (job code 9180) This is the most common category of postdoctoral appointee. This is an individual who has received a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and is engaged in scholarly research, usually under the supervision of a faculty mentor, in preparation for a full-time academic and/or research career. Appointments must not extend beyond five years in this category.

Postdoctoral Associate (job code 9189) Similar to 9180, this is an individual holding a doctorate or equivalent and engaged in scholarly research activities consistent with the mission of the university. This position might be used by departments to designate postdocs that have a mix of teaching and research or may indicate a step up from the 9180 job code. Postdoctoral Associates should not be reappointed after seven years.

Clinical Postdoctoral Scholar (job code 9194) An individual who has received a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and has come to the University to gain additional clinical training after completing his or her residency. This classification may also apply to individuals who hold a Doctorate of Medicine and are enrolled in programs at affiliated hospitals and institutes for the purpose of obtaining additional clinical training before embarking on independent careers as physicians. Clinical postdoctoral scholars may not be reappointed after three years.

Instructional Postdoctoral Scholar (job code 9195) An individual who has received a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and is engaged in a defined period of mentored instructional assignments to enhance the professional skills needed to pursue his or her chosen career path. This training includes all relevant scholarly activities related to the preparation for a career in teaching. Appointments may not extend beyond three years. This is the only postdoctoral job code that may be appointed on the 9-month academic calendar.

Non-traditional Postdoctoral Appointments

Postdoctoral appointments at USF are a hybrid system of individuals who hold temporary and grant-funded line positions at the university. There are some departments at USF that use line positions as postdoctoral appointments for legacy reasons or others detailed below.

There are a few reasons for using line positions for postdoctoral appointees. The first reason would be benefits have historically been greater for the line positions. The retirement benefits for line positions are more generous for temporary employees and so some departments will use line positions as a way to attract postdoctoral appointees. Another reason for using line positions is that a market for postdocs in certain fields is very competitive.

Another reason to use line positions is that it gives the postdoc an opportunity to write and hold grants as principal investigator. USF Sponsored Research policy disallows postdocs from obtaining grants other than postdoc-designated grants because of the temporary nature of their appointment.

Finally, colleges may use line positions such as Research Associate or Research Assistant Professor as a step-up program into a tenure track position. This allows the greater benefits outlined above as well as salary increases. In most cases, these positions still satisfy the requirement of mentored research as outlined by NIH and NSF and these steps are completed within 5-7 years.

Funding Source

Postdocs must be either on salary plan 08 (funded) or 96 (non-SUS funded). Some postdocs who are paid by a foreign government or external agency may be classified in salary plan 96 but the funding sources must be documented and reported to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, meeting all requirements for USF-funded postdocs.

Postdoctoral scholars may not be "self-funded." The salary must come from USF or from clearly documented external sources, not from the postdoctoral scholar’s personal funds or savings.

Degree Verification

Appointment as a postdoctoral scholar requires a doctoral-level degree or the foreign equivalent. Candidates with non-US degrees will be required to provide proof of degree equivalency. A candidate may be offered a postdoctoral position if the candidate has completed all of the requirements for a degree before the degree has been formally conferred. The candidate must also provide up-to-date curriculum vitae and list of publications, and must arrange for letters of recommendation to be sent to the prospective faculty supervisor.

Verification of degree is required and may be achieved using one of the following mechanisms:

1. Official transcripts that state the degree conferral date may be obtained by the hiring department and provided to Human Resources.


2. A signed letter (on letterhead) from the appropriate official (e.g., Associate Dean, Registrar) at the candidate's PhD degree conferring institution stating that the candidate has completed all requirements for the PhD and the date at which the degree will be conferred. The letter should be sent to the hiring department and provided to Human Resources. Official transcripts stating conferral of the PhD must be provided to the hiring department within four months of the start date with a copy provided to Human Resources.

Should the degree verification not be supplied within the allotted timeframe, post-hire, then the postdoctoral appointee would be subject to immediate dismissal.

The postdoctoral appointee must acknowledge the terms of the appointment by signing the letter of appointment and returning it to the address indicated in the letter within 10 days of the date on the letter.