Postdocs in Canada face mismatch between skills training and future careers

A report released today on the status of postdocs in Canada – the most comprehensive of its kind – shows that postdocs have two main concerns: they need to be better prepared for future careers and they want clarity and consistency in their administrative status and compensation at universities.

The 2013 Canadian Postdoc Survey: Painting a Picture of Canadian Postdoctoral Scholars – released by the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS-ACSP) and Mitacs – surveyed over 1,800 Canadian postdocs to gather up-to-date demographic information and to identify their concerns. Postdocs, scholars who have recently completed a PhD, are essential contributors to Canada’s research excellence and innovation landscape, productivity and economic success.

The average postdoc in Canada is 34 years old, 53% male and 46% female. Most (69%) are married or in a common-law relationship; one-third have dependent children. Over 50% are landed immigrants or on work visas and most expect to hold a series of postdoctoral positions, spending 1-3 years (45%) or 3-5 years (35%) as postdocs before transitioning to stable, full-time employment. Approximately half of survey respondents report their main field of research as Life Sciences (46%), one-third as Physical Sciences/Engineering (32%), 14% as Social Sciences/Humanities and 8% as inter-disciplinary.

  • Postdocs receive insufficient training and career preparation
    • As the supply of postdocs continues to far out-strip the number of available university faculty positions, half of respondents report having no exposure to non-academic career opportunities.
    • Over 50% of postdocs receive no training in areas such as project management, conflict resolution, group or lab management, writing, or intellectual property, essential skills required for many jobs in industry.
  • Postdocs do not have clear employment or administrative status
    • They report a confusing array of classifications from university employees or students to independent contractors or trainees. Most would prefer to be classified as employees.
    • Their ambiguous status often leaves them ineligible for benefits such as Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, extended health plans, maternity leave pay and more.
  • Postdocs feel they are undercompensated, both in terms of salary and benefits
    • More than two-thirds of postdocs earn less than $45,000 per year.
    • Only 29% are satisfied with their access to employment benefits.
  • Most postdocs are satisfied with their research resources and facilities plus supervision
    • 77% of postdocs are satisfied with the level of supervision they receive at their university.
    • 72% are satisfied with the resources and facilities available for their research.

“It is our hope that the results of this survey will provide a valuable tool for Canada’s research institutions and encourage them to develop progressive, new approaches to the training and administration of postdoctoral scholars,” said Dr. Robert Annan, Vice-President, Research and Policy for Mitacs. “Postdocs in Canada could be playing an even more vital role in driving discovery and expanding knowledge if we ensure they have the skills and career preparation to succeed either within academia or industry. Mitacs looks forward to working with all stakeholders on this important issue.”

About Mitacs
Through unique research and training programs, Mitacs is developing the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills. In partnership with companies, government and academia, Mitacs is supporting a new economy using Canada’s most valuable resource – its people. For more information, visit 

About the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS-ACSP)
CAPS-ACSP, Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars, exists as a committee of postdoctoral scholars and representatives who meet regularly (and virtually) to discuss issues arising across the country. Visit for more information.

For more information:
Megan Airton-Cindric
Director, Communications
Mitacs Inc.
Office: 604.822.3982
Cell: 604.349.6092