Postdoctoral Information


Definition of Postdoc

A postdoctoral appointee is a person who has recently earned a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent doctoral degree, and who joins the University of Pennsylvania to perform research full-time under the supervision of a member of the faculty. The position can be held for up to five years irrespective of institution and is meant to provide additional research and/or scholarly training in preparation for a position in academe, industry, or government.

There are three types of postdoctoral appointees:

  • Postdoctoral Researcher is an appointee funded by the University or Research funds.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow is an appointee funded by non-profit organization.
  • NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow is an appointee funded by training grant or fellowship

Initial Appointment

When you wish to officially offer a postdoctoral position, please provide to the Administrative Office:

  1. The candidate's CV, which should include their mailing and e-mail addresses.
  2. Proof of doctoral degree (A letter from the registrar's office or a copy of the diploma).
  3. For the Administrative Office to prepare the appointment letter, they will need the funding source, salary, if family health insurance will be provided (single health insurance is assumed) and a sentence or two about their project. A sample letter is below with the places where this information is needed is highlighted. You can simply write this information on this letter and hand it to the Administrative Office. The form letter is available on the Postdoctoral Programs Office forms   site. The Administrative Office will print the letter on departmental stationery and place it in your mailbox for your approval (or edits) and signature. Return the letter to the Administrative Office and they will then mail or fax the letter to the new postdoc.

For this process to go smoothly, please try to get this information to the Administrative Office at least one month (citizens) prior and preferably four months (foreign nationals) to start date.

Those faculty who have assistants please have your assistant bring the letter and all accompanying paperwork to the Administrative Office.

Appointment Letters

All postdoctoral appointments must have prior approval of the Administrative Office. Prior to making an offer, proof of doctoral degree and the candidate's CV must be provided to the Administrative Office.

Stipend Levels

Recommended minimum stipend levels for Fiscal Year 2013: July 1, 2012- June 30, 2013

Postdoctoral years of experience Amount
0 39,264
1 41,364
2 44,340
3 46,092
4 47,820
5 49,884
6 51,582
7 or more 54,180

Postdocs' stipends should be increased at their yearly reappointment. If they are on a training grant, the stipend charged to the grant should remain the same but the increase should be charged to the mentor's grant as additional compensation.

Transferring Postdocs

When transferring Postdocs within Penn, their original paperwork should be requested form the previous department. If the original paperwork cannot be obtained, the candidate must complete the new hire packet.

Continuation of Existing Transfer


Please see the University of Pennsylvania Comptroller's Website  on this matter.

Postdoctoral Reappointments and Terminations


The Administrative Office will contact the PI by email within 90 days of a reappointment for a postdoc. Please respond to the email stating changes to appointment e.g. salary, funding source, etc. If there are no changes, excluding salary, please note. All postdoctoral salaries are increased at time of reappointment. At which time a draft reappointment letter will be prepared for your approval. Once the letter is approved it will be printed on letterhead and placed in your mailbox for signature. The letter must be returned to the Administrative Office by the date specified so the postdoc salary can continue.


The existing University-wide Postdoc Policy stipulates that the mentor can only terminate postdoctoral appointments with three months written notice. This protects the Postdoc from unfair dismissal. However, rare circumstances may arise where immediate dismissal is appropriate. The following addition to the Postdoctoral Policy as it applies to School of Medicine postdoctoral appointees has been adopted:

Gross violations of postdoctoral obligations as indicated in the Policy for Postdoctoral Appointees in the Physical, Biological, and Health Sciences and in Engineering (Almanac 1996) may be grounds for immediate dismissal. Such situations must be reviewed with the School of Medicine OPP (Office of Postdoctoral Programs). Other University administrative offices will be consulted as necessary.

The University is obligated by law to pay for an H-1 Postdoc return fare to his or her home country if for any reason the University terminates his or her employment prior to the expiration of the H-1 employment authorization currently sought. Postdoctoral benefits will end the last day of the month they terminate.

Penn ID

Penn ID's will expire every year with appointment. A new form is not needed. Postdocs can simply go to the Penn ID Center with the old card and they will look up their payroll record to verify continuous employment.

Postdoctoral Benefits

Postdocs hired on the first of the month and ENTERED in the payroll system on that 1st day of the month, benefits are effective that day even if they have not yet chosen benefits). For Postdocs appointed on the 1st and entered in the payroll system on the 2nd day of the month or later, benefits are not effective until the 1st of the following month. Same goes for an appointment on the 9th, has to be entered by the 1st to receive benefits on the 9th, and it has to have a start date of the 1st on the distribution screen with a distribution start date of the 9th. In this case, we need to e-mail HR benefits to inform them of the situation and request that they not charge us for the benefits from the 1st through the 9th.

Every Tuesday evening, a report transmits all newly eligible employees for benefits from the payroll system. The payroll system has to be correct, for example, if moving an employee from grad student to Postdoc, job 1 should be changed to Postdoc and temporary should be changed to regular. Another example would be to make sure that the Personal Data screen is correct. For example, to receive benefits, they must be a Regular employee with the salary key of S if they are a Postdoc. The following Monday, a letter will be sent to the employee telling them about their health benefits.

University policy states that "Postdocs must have health insurance." The University provides all Post Doctoral Appointees (Postdoc), i.e. Researchers/Fellows/Trainees, with single health insurance coverage under the University of Pennsylvania Group Health Insurance Plan. The entire cost of this coverage is funded by either sponsored program funds or other funds of the department. This benefit should be paid as an addition to the stipend and no premium should be deducted from the stipend of the postdocs.

The Postdoc may elect family coverage, which must be paid by the Postdoc through payroll deduction from their monthly stipend if the department or private sponsor does not cover the additional cost of family coverage. Mentors who wish to pay for family health insurance from a grant must ensure that is an allowable cost against that grant. Please note that federal grants and private foundations may differ in their allowable charges. According to NIH's website on NRSA's - A fellow's health insurance is an allowable cost only if applied consistently to all persons in a similar training status regardless of the source of support. Family health insurance is an allowable cost for fellows who have families and are eligible for family health insurance coverage at the sponsoring institution. Self-only health insurance is an allowable cost for fellows without families. New postdoctoral health insurance premiums are generally announced prior to the Open Enrollment Period in April of each year.

Enrolling in Health Insurance

The Postdoctoral Insurance Plan was conceived and designed through joint efforts by the University of Pennsylvania and Garnett-Powers & Associates in order to offer a comprehensive, quality benefit program to all Postdoctoral Scholars at the University of Pennsylvania. Five insurance plans are offered to provide coverage for you and your family:

  • Medical: Aetna HMO, Aetna PPO (for Postdocs who live outside of the HMO Service Area)
  • Dental: Aetna DHMO
  • Vision: Spectera PPO Vision
  • Life/AD&D: Aetna Life Insurance

All Postdoctoral Scholars are automatically enrolled in the Postdoctoral Insurance Plan with single coverage in all plans. If you wish to waive coverage for yourself, or at a later date for your enrolled dependents, those changes must be made prior to the 15th of the month in which you wish to make the change in order to avoid premium charges. Dependent Contribution Worksheets must also be submitted to our office prior to the 15th of the month for which your dependents would be covered by your Department. If the changes are not made prior to the 15th of the month, the change will not be effective until the following month.

Please log onto the Postdoc Health Insurance Plan website  to complete enrollment. Changes to your coverage during the plan year are only accepted in the instance of a life changing event, i.e., marriage, new baby, etc. All other changes can be made during open enrollment.

Time Off

Sick Leave

Postdoctoral appointees may continue to receive stipends for up to 15 calendar days of sick leave per year. Sick leave is not cumulative from one appointment year to the next. Under exceptional circumstances, this period may be extended at the discretion of the mentor. Mentors may require medical verification by a physician for absences longer than three consecutive sick days. It is the responsibility of the mentor to monitor the sick leave taken by Postdoctoral appointees.


Postdoctoral appointees are eligible for at least one day accrued paid vacation leave per two calendar months of appointment, in addition to the ten days the University is officially closed. Individuals who work on University holidays may take another day in lieu of the University holiday, to be scheduled with approval of the mentor. Vacation leave is accrued annually and is not cumulative from one appointment year to the next. A period of terminal leave is not permitted and payment may not be made from grant funds for leave not taken. All vacation leave must be scheduled in advance and approved by the mentor, and it is the responsibility of the mentor to monitor the vacation taken by Postdoctoral appointees. Requests for additional time must be negotiated with the mentor and it is recommended that those requests be documented in writing.

New Child Leave

Postdoctoral appointees may continue to receive stipends for no more than 60 calendar days of leave per appointment year for adoption or birth of a child. Either parent is eligible. Postdoctoral appointees must discuss the use of new child leave in advance with the mentor. A mentor may not deny a request to use new child leave without the authorization of the appropriate administrative office. Unused sick leave or vacation may, with approval, be used to extend the period of new child leave. Additional new child leave may be approved at the discretion of the mentor.


Postdocs get paid at the end of the month on the last working day of the month. Paychecks are placed in the mailbox after 10:00AM. If the postdoc does not have direct deposit he/she will need to sign for their paychecks in the Administrative Office.

The mentor's department should have the payroll record. If the mentor is supplementing, that information should be included on job screen #1 using job class #217500. This way Postdoc mail, paychecks, etc will be distributed by the hiring department. Screen #2 should be transferred to the training grant department. If the mentor is not supplementing, the training grant job should be added to job screen # 1 but the payroll record should remain with the hiring department.

Postdoc Extra Compensation

INITIAL LETTER OF APPOINTMENT (For Post Docs on training grants receiving additional compensation from non-discretionary funds)

The grantee institution is allowed to provide funds to an individual in addition to the stipends paid by the NIH. Such additional amounts either may be in the form of augmented stipends (supplementation) or in the form of compensation, such as salary or tuition remission for services such as teaching or serving as a laboratory assistant, provided the conditions described below are met. Under no circumstances may the conditions of stipend supplementation or the services provided for compensation interfere with, detract from, or prolong the trainee's approved NRSA training program.

Stipend Supplementation: Supplementation or additional support to offset the cost of living may be provided by the grantee institution. Supplementation does not require additional effort from the trainee. DHHS funds may not be used for supplementation under any circumstances. Additionally, no funds from other Federal agencies may be used for supplementation unless specifically authorized by the NIH and the other Federal Agency.

Compensation: An institution may provide additional funds to a trainee in the form of compensation (as salary and/or tuition remission) for services such as teaching or serving as a research assistant. A trainee may receive compensation for services as a research assistant or in some other position on a Federal research grant, including a DHHS research grant. However, compensated services should occur on a limited, part-time basis apart from the normal research training activities, which require a minimum of 40 hours per week. In addition, compensation may not be paid from a research grant supporting the research training experience.

Trainees can be compensated from federal funds if they have an employer-employee relationship. If the Postdoc is supported by R01 funds, the stipend is not limited to the NRSA stipend schedule. The stipend can be higher than the recommended stipend level as long as the grant budget can handle it. Please keep in mind those Postdoctoral Fellows with a second job as Postdoctoral Researcher will be fully taxed.

If a Postdoc is supported by a NIH training grant or fellowship, it IS allowable to provide extra compensation with government funds. Use the payroll coding chart below:

Postdocs Job Class Object Code Type
Job 1 217703 5043 NRSA
Job 2 (extra comp) 217500 5047 Federal Funds
or Job 2 (ec) 217603 5043 Univ Funds
Job 1 217603 5043 non NIH TGs
Job 1 217500 5047 Univ Funds

Postdocs who have the primary source of funding from government funds have to be paid at least the minimum stipend amount based on NRSA's published stipend levels. They CAN work on one or more government or non-government projects at a time and effort should be reported accordingly.

Bonus Pay

In order to give a Postdoc a bonus the Administrative Office must complete an additional pay form. The bonus must be justified by the PI. The additional pay form and a letter from the Administrative Office approving the bonus must be attached and sent to BGS for approval.

For more information on postdoc please visit the University of Pennsylvania's Postdoc Policy Page .