Working as a Researcher in academia without teaching/lecturing

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In summary: What you are describing is generally called a post-doctoral fellow. Post-doctoral positions are designed to be temporary and the salaries are the subject of much hand-wringing due to the borderline exploitative nature of the position.You are also describing what is called in the US a Research Professor. The pay is the same as a regular faculty member, the catch is that you need to write grant proposals and get them funded to over all of your expenses, to include salary. For example, if you are a tenured professor, your salary may be only 75% of what you would make as a research professor.
  • #1
CGandC
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Suppose I have a PhD in physics. If I want to continue and work in academia as a researcher in some professor's lab without lecturing/teaching but just doing research solely - what are usually the salaries ranges for such a job? ( I know it heavily depends on other factors like in which field the PhD is in and the amount of funding the professor gets, but still I'd like to have an estimate ), is it the salary of a PhD student? and how hard is it to get such a job?
 
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There are probably plenty of variants to this. I have seen it when there is a ”center” with “dedicated” funding. The salaries are real salaries. It can be easier to get in because there is no tenure and they generally look for skill set match.
 
  • #3
In which country?
In my country, the Netherlands, there are virtually no academic positions where you do not have to teach. After the post-doc phase doing research for more than 80% of your time is over for you, and as soon as you are an associate or full professor, you're mainly working on managing your students, teaching and getting funding.
 
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  • #4
Frabjous said:
There are probably plenty of variants to this. I have seen it when there is a ”center” with “dedicated” funding. The salaries are real salaries. It can be easier to get in because there is no tenure and they generally look for skill set match.
Do you mean research organizations that are more specific in terms of what they do? like Los Alamos National Laboratories and CERN?

bigfooted said:
In which country?
In my country, the Netherlands, there are virtually no academic positions where you do not have to teach. After the post-doc phase doing research for more than 80% of your time is over for you, and as soon as you are an associate or full professor, you're mainly working on managing your students, teaching and getting funding.
Thanks, I haven't thought about any country but from surfing on the web for more information on the matter and seeing how things are in my country ( Germany ), I think you're right about how things usually go after post-doc.
I was wondering about this because my laser course professor had someone with a PhD who was only doing research for the last 15 years and not any teaching or fund-gathering of some-kind and I was attracted to becoming such a researcher myself ( if possible ), but it seems being a researcher with a normal salary in the academia without any other responsibilities ( such as teaching or funding) is not common.
 
  • #5
CGandC said:
Do you mean research organizations that are more specific in terms of what they do? like Los Alamos National Laboratories and CERN?Thanks, I haven't thought about any country but from surfing on the web for more information on the matter and seeing how things are in my country ( Germany ), I think you're right about how things usually go after post-doc.
I was wondering about this because my laser course professor had someone with a PhD who was only doing research for the last 15 years and not any teaching or fund-gathering of some-kind and I was attracted to becoming such a researcher myself ( if possible ), but it seems being a researcher with a normal salary in the academia without any other responsibilities ( such as teaching or funding) is not common.
The generic term for this type of research is soft money. Some universities have set up large organizations to go after this (MIT Lincoln Labs or JHU Applied Physics Labs). I have also seen dramatically smaller groups that have been set up to service a single contract.
 
  • #6
In Germany, I'd look for a research-staff position at a Max Planck or Helmholtz institute.
 
  • #7
CGandC said:
Suppose I have a PhD in physics. If I want to continue and work in academia as a researcher in some professor's lab without lecturing/teaching but just doing research solely - what are usually the salaries ranges for such a job? ( I know it heavily depends on other factors like in which field the PhD is in and the amount of funding the professor gets, but still I'd like to have an estimate ), is it the salary of a PhD student? and how hard is it to get such a job?
What you are describing is generally called a post-doctoral fellow. Post-doctoral positions are designed to be temporary and the salaries are the subject of much hand-wringing due to the borderline exploitative nature of the position.
 
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  • #8
You are also describing what is called in the US a Research Professor. The pay is the same as a regular faculty member, the catch is that you need to write grant proposals and get them funded to over all of your expenses, to include salary. For example, if you are paid $100K US, you'll need to bring in somewhere in the range of $250K-$300K to cover running the lab and overhead (a tax the university takes out of your grants to cover administrative costs).
 
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  • #9
There are other non-academic research organizations. For instance, I have worked with Battelle Memorial Institute which does interesting stuff in a not for profit corporate structure. They are not small.
 
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  • #10
Thanks for the information! didn't know lots about the subject.

hutchphd said:
There are other non-academic research organizations. For instance, I have worked with Battelle Memorial Institute which does interesting stuff in a not for profit corporate structure. They are not small.
What defines a research organization as non-profit?
Is university research considered as non-profit research? if so then how? ( as a matter of fact, I don't know how research can be talked in terms of profit unless the research is not publicly published )
 
  • #11
I think not-for-profit is the same as for any other such organization. It is basicly a tax designation for organizations dedicated to service before profit. Any lawyers nearby?
I do know that part of the tasks designated to senior researchers was to attract outside money/contract work. They developed the Xerox machine among other stuff. For me they worked on fluid handling (blood/plasma) in small diagnostic cartridges for an instrument we designed and developed . (Sort of like Elizabeth Holmes later idea but ours actually worked...)
 
  • #12
Dr Transport said:
You are also describing what is called in the US a Research Professor.
And these positions are very, very rare. Rarer still are these positions with some job security. With few exceptions, where the grant goes, you do too. Further, such positions are not often eligible to serve as grant PIs, which makes them even more precarious.
CGandC said:
What defines a research organization as non-profit?
Their filings with the IRS (in the US, or the equivalent organization overseas). In the US they would file as a 501(c)(3) entity.

hutchphd said:
Sort of like Elizabeth Holmes later idea but ours actually worked...
Her idea worked. It was designed to separate people from their money - sort of wallet chromotography - the green parts go flying out, leaving the empty husk behind.
 
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  • #13
Vanadium 50 said:
And these positions are very, very rare.
I disagree. They are uncommon. Many universities that have grant-based research centers have them, but as I said earlier, they are looking for specific skill sets.
 
  • #14
In the US, I've known many people with PostDocs, who after the end of the PostDoc position, are converted into Research Assistants at the same university where they were doing the PostDoc. The salary is somewhat more than a PostDoc, but not a whole lot more, which is to say significantly less than a tenured professorship.
 
  • #15
Frabjous said:
Many universities that have grant-based research centers have them
In bio, sure. In physics? Not so much - the funding agencies do not like them, as they plug up the postdoc path. About ten years ago it got really. really ugly - called "The War On Research Scientists". Right now, the majority are either 60+. a problem that will solve itself with time, or 2nd postdocs that are making a little more money (or staying on for another year or two, or similar financial reasons). It is not, however, a stable career path.

DOE supports at most a dozen such positions, probably less, and within a a few years half will be gone, not to be replaced. So nationwide how many positions are there? 100? 50? (Not counting the extra year as a postdoc) Compare that to 840 MLB ballplayers.

I would not recommend this as a career parth for anyone.
 
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  • #16
Vanadium 50 said:
In bio, sure. In physics? Not so much - the funding agencies do not like them, as they plug up the postdoc path. About ten years ago it got really. really ugly - called "The War On Research Scientists". Right now, the majority are either 60+. a problem that will solve itself with time, or 2nd postdocs that are making a little more money (or staying on for another year or two, or similar financial 4reasons). It is not, however, a stable career path.

DOE supports at most a dozen such positions, probably less, and within a a few years half will be gone, not to be replaced. So nationwide how many positions are there? 100? 50? (Not counting the extra year as a postdoc) Compare that to 840 MLB ballplayers.

I would not recommend this as a career parth for anyone.
I believe you are undercounting the number of “centers and institutes” that require research scientists. Given that 90+% of PhD’s do not end up in academia, I do not know what is a good career path.
 
  • #17
Frabjous said:
I disagree. They are uncommon. Many universities that have grant-based research centers have them, but as I said earlier, they are looking for specific skill sets.
With that, you are confirming what Vanadium 50 said; that they are very rare.
 
  • #18
symbolipoint said:
With that, you are confirming what Vanadium 50 said; that they are very rare.
Here’s a list of large US college run laboratories conducting defense research. Yes I recognize that some no longer exist.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_...aboratories_conducting_basic_defense_research
This list does not include small institutes/centers for specific problems that are set up across the country. It also does not include places that originated outside the DoD. It does not include industrial consortia.

So no I did not.
 
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  • #19
Frabjous said:
Here’s a list of large US college run laboratories conducting defense research. Yes I recognize that some no longer exist.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_...aboratories_conducting_basic_defense_research
This list does not include small institutes/centers for specific problems that are set up across the country. It also does not include places that originated outside the DoD. It does not include industrial consortia.

So no I did not.
So are those enough? What will be your chances? I was simply noticing the disagreement. You two sort through this!
 
  • #20
The Wikipedia lists includes a number of entities that are clearly non-university: for example national labs. I would hardly consider them "in academia" even if the contractor is a university. Los Alamos is not "academia". It's not even in the same state as its university contractor.

I would perhaps consider Florida State's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory the best example of a large academic research lab, They might have 20 people in this category, and they just get smaller from there. They have around 50 faculty, so you can compare.
 
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Related to Working as a Researcher in academia without teaching/lecturing

1. What is the main role of a researcher in academia?

The main role of a researcher in academia is to conduct original and innovative research in their field of study. This includes designing and executing experiments, analyzing data, and publishing their findings in reputable academic journals.

2. Is it possible to work as a researcher in academia without teaching or lecturing?

Yes, it is possible to work as a researcher in academia without teaching or lecturing. This is often referred to as a "non-tenure track" or "research-only" position. These positions allow researchers to focus solely on their research without the added responsibilities of teaching classes.

3. What types of institutions offer research-only positions in academia?

Research-only positions are commonly found in universities, colleges, and research institutes. These institutions typically have a strong focus on research and offer various opportunities for researchers to pursue their interests.

4. What are some advantages of working as a researcher in academia without teaching?

One advantage is the ability to focus on research without the added responsibilities of teaching. This can allow for more time and energy to be devoted to conducting high-quality research. Additionally, researchers in these positions may have access to state-of-the-art facilities and funding opportunities.

5. What are some potential challenges of working as a researcher in academia without teaching?

One potential challenge is the pressure to secure funding for research projects. Without the stability of a teaching position, researchers may need to constantly apply for grants and funding to support their work. Additionally, research-only positions may have less job security and may require researchers to move to different institutions to advance their career.

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