The following information is designed to provide tips and advice on how to make the most of your postdoc experience at UC Berkeley, as well as information on how to successfully transition at the end of your appointment. Please be sure to review frequently throughout your tenure.
There are five types of postdoc title codes which determine how you are paid. The same standard for compensation applies to all title codes; however, it is important to know what kind of postdoc you are, as this may affect your retirement benefits and how you pay your taxes. Note that a postdoc may be appointed under more than one title code, since there may be more than one source of funding for an appointment.
Review the UC postdoc exempt and non-exempt salary scales and the UAW Contract to understand how postdocs are compensated. Please note that while salary increments are based on the steps of the NIH/NSRA scale, the bottom of the UC postdoc salary scale (level 0) is the same as level 2 on the NIH scale. "Experience level" means a postdoc's previous experience as a postdoc, including postdoctoral appointments at UC and/or other institutions.
Annual pay increases for all postdocs are mandatory. Postdocs who are already paid higher than scale, must still get at least a 2% increase each year. For complete information on the required increases, please refer to the article on compensation in the union contract.
- Funding Opportunities
Explore ways to fund your postdoc training. While not exhaustive, the VSPA Postdoc Funding Page provides resources to get you started.
- Plan your Time Away
The University observes 13 administrative holidays per year, which are listed in the academic calendar. If you are scheduled to work on an administrative holiday, work with your supervisor to arrange an alternate day off.
We encourage you to take advantage of the time off and other leaves afforded to all postdocs at UC Berkeley. Visit our Leave & Time Off page for more information.
- Complete an IDP
Initial postdoc appointments are at least one year in length, unless a postdoc’s external funding indicates otherwise. A postdoc reappointment is for two years, after the first yearlong appointment, unless external funding stipulates a different requirement. Please note that a reappointment is dependent upon the department/faculty PI’s ability to fund the appointment and eligibility for a postdoc appointment. Eligibility criteria are included in the postdoc union contract.
Remember that at time of reappointment or anniversary date, postdocs must be advanced to at least the next step of the UC Postdoc Salary Scales. This annual increase is not based upon performance. If your current salary is greater than the next step, then a 2% increase will be applied at time of reappointment.
- Annual Open Enrollment - Health Benefits
Each fall, prepare to review your health benefits and make sure the coverage you have is the best fit for your and your family’s needs. Information sessions that provide an overview of offerings as well as insurance plan updates are held every November and are posted on the VSPA Events page.
- Postdoc Career Competencies
The VSPA has established nine postdoc career competencies to offer guidance to individual postdoctoral scholars who must seek out relevant training experiences, in collaboration with mentors, institutions, and other advisors who provide this training. These competencies are meant to serve primarily as: (1) a basis for self-evaluation by postdoctoral scholars, and (2) a basis for developing training opportunities that can be evaluated by mentors, institutions, and other advisors.
- Compliance Training (Sexual Harassment, Ethics, Cybersecurity)
All postdocs must complete the systemwide mandatory training in the UC Learning Center within 90 days of onboarding and annually.
Visit our Compliance page for more detailed information on how to adhere to UC Berkeley professional standards in the conduct of research.
- Safe Travel
In order to mitigate the risk when traveling, the VSPA recommends that all postdocs consult with Risk Services and be aware of domestic and international travel warnings and restrictions. When travelling, postdocs are strongly encouraged to review and follow the security recommendations provided for domestic and international trips.
When traveling more than 100 miles from their home campus on official University business, University employees (all postdocs) and their traveling companions (visit website for definitions) are covered 24 hours a day, worldwide, for a variety of perils. Postdocs may also sign up to receive Travel Alerts for their destination. Coverage is free, but postdocs need to REGISTER for out-of-state and foreign travel. You may also purchase UC Travel Insurance for your personal travel. Visit the website for details.
International scholars should inform the Berkeley International Office of any planned trips outside of the United States.
- Conflict Management
We encourage you to check in regularly with your faculty supervisor for clear communication regarding work expectations and responsibilities. These routine check-ins with your supervisor may involve discussions of flexibility with deadlines and research productivity as needed. This may mean adjusting your expectations of yourself and of others. We encourage you to practice kindness toward yourself and your collaborators. Please review and adopt UC Berkeley’s Principles of Community during your time on campus.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Students and Postdocs is an independent unit that provides strictly confidential, impartial and informal conflict resolution and problem-solving services. If you are experiencing a conflict, The Office of the Ombudsman for Students and Postdocs offers a safe place to voice university-related concerns and review options to manage and address your concerns. They are available to help you think through a situation and make a plan to move forward. Contact them for detailed information on their services.
The VSPA is also here to support you as you navigate conflicts. If you are experiencing an interpersonal concern or conflict, please contact the VSPA Director for resources, referrals, and assistance. VSPA is a resource in the case of conflict.
- Have Fun and Be Well
The VSPA values and prioritizes your well-being and we encourage you to do the same. We recognize that at times you may feel isolated and busy with your research or scholarship. However, please do take the time to take advantage of the programs and activities offered through the various campus units. Check out our Resources and Wellness pages for more information.
We want to highlight the great Be Well at Work Program available to postdocs. Please visit their curated page for postdocs to see what additional health and welfare services are available to you.
- Postdoc Families
Please visit our Resources for Parents page to discover the great offerings available to you on campus and beyond.
For information on maternity/paternity leave, please visit our Leave & Time Off page for details on how the various types of leaves apply.
As a postdoc, you are eligible to access the enhanced Bright Horizons program. Get free access to Sittercity, which is an online database of pre-screened sitters and other types of home help (a regular subscription is $140/year). You can also use this service if you are looking for enrichment programs for your child, reliable caregivers for an elder family member—or you can even search for a pet sitter.
- Auditing a Course
Postdocs with active VSPA appointments may audit a class on the Berkeley campus, subject to the expressed permission of the class's instructor. It is advisable that postdocs interested in auditing a course email the instructor before attending the class. Helpful information to include in your email are your name, host department, faculty sponsor, your area of research and the reason for wanting to audit the course. If you require accommodation assistance in order to audit a course, please contact our Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor/Disability Specialist, Mary Kelly, M.S., C.R.C., CPDM. Mary can be reached by email, by phone at (510) 642-1914 or by confidential fax at (510) 642-6505.
For international scholars on a J-1 Research Visa: Guidance from the U.S. Department of State indicates that J-1 Research Scholars may audit/take ONE class, incidental or secondary to your primary program objective which is your UC Berkeley research (the purpose for your visit here). Furthermore, actual registration into a course not permitted. Contact Berkeley International Office with any questions about the visa and auditing classes.