Postdoc at Health

The joint framework below for postdocs at Health was approved by the faculty management team at a meeting on 27 June 2023. The framework describes what you can expect as a postdoc at Health, and it aims to contribute to transparency, alignment of expectations and clarification.

A postdoc is a fixed-term academic position of maximum four years. Employment as a postdoc requires a PhD degree, and for many it is an obvious next step after a PhD degree.

The main content of a postdoc position is research. Most postdocs work within a specific area on a research project under the supervision of an associate professor or a professor, who is usually also the head of the research group. However, a postdoc position does not require that you are part of a larger research project. Many postdocs run their own research project funded by external funding that they themselves have applied for and received.

Most postdocs at Health are employed with external funding and for a short period, typically for one to three years. Many acquire additional competencies during their postdoc with a view to continuing their career in academia. While a short period can develop an employee’s competencies, a long-term postdoc employment rarely leads to significant career advancement, and a postdoc employment in Denmark is therefore limited to a maximum of four years at the same university.

A postdoc is not a principal position and does not in itself qualify the employee for an associate professorship. The “straight” career path is PhD - assistant professor - associate professor - professor, and if you want to continue in academia, the next step is typically an assistant professor or tenure track assistant professor position.

The faculty management team at Health has a clear intention that a postdoc should be an attractive position and that, as a postdoc, you acquire new competencies to develop towards your next career step.

Qualification profile

Compared to the principal positions, the formal employment criteria for postdocs are not very detailed. Nevertheless, of course there are expectations of the applicant's personal, academic and organisational competencies, just as there are expectations of competency development during the employment.

Examples of competencies upon employment Examples of development goals
  • You have a PhD degree/are at PhD level
  • You are creative and innovate
  • You are able to apply knowledge in new contexts
  • You have experience with publishing your research results in English
  • You have broad experience with teaching and guidance
  • You use your professional networks actively
  • You have project management skills and can manage projects from start to finish
  • You understand organisational theory
  • You have experience with fundraising
  • You are ambitious, self-managing, reflective and see an overview of a situation
  • You possess academic professionalism
  • You ideally have research experience from abroad
  • You have good English language skills
  • You are a good colleague who respects diversity and equality
The above are examples to inspire anyone looking for an idea of what is generally required from a postdoc. The list should not be confused with appointment criteria and is not a checklist of terms and conditions. Every postdoc position is different, and emphasis is on different aspects, depending on the situation.
  • You are innovative and creative
  • You are able to carry out research on a high international level
  • You are the first author of several publications in recognised, international journals
  • You have some experience with research management and team management
  • You have some experience with attracting external research grants
  • You have experience with international research collaboration
  • You are able to plan and conduct teaching and exams under supervision 
  • You are able to create a constructive and learning-oriented teaching environment
  • You have good communication skills and are a good communicator of research
  • You are able to provide guidance for early career researchers
  • You have participated in committees, organised symposia or otherwise been an academic citizen of the university. 
  • You have participated in the course on responsible conduct of research
  • You have participated in AU's career workshop for early career researchers
  • You are a constructive cooperation partner and can build professional relationships
  • You ideally have international work experience
  • You respect diversity and are consciously inclusive

The above are examples for inspiration and should not be considered as a checklist. A postdoc position is a fixed-term research position, not a principal position or a training position, and every postdoc position is therefore different. The specific development goals must be clarified with your manager as early as possible in the appointment process.

The position

The main content of a postdoc position is research, but the position may involve teaching activities to a certain extent, as well as some routine tasks. There are no guidelines for the weighting of the various responsibilities, and the responsibilities may also vary over time. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to align expectations with your manager in connection with appointment.

Some postdocs are employed to perform clearly defined tasks for a period of time. Examples of tasks you can expect as a postdoc:

  • Independent research – main content of the position and what distinguishes it from academic staff in administrative position
  • Research dissemination – to non-scientists as well as to peers via presentations and publication
  • Congress and conference participation
  • Teaching at Bachelor's, Master's and PhD levels
  • Supervising students, research year students and PhD students
  • Instructing on safe handling of chemicals etc.
  • Designing and executing experiments and trials
  • Applying for foundation grants
  • Professional meetings and networking, also abroad
  • Tasks relating to academic citizenship, e.g. committee work
  • Courses in research management, supervision, fundraising etc. as agreed with the employer

During your employment, you must participate in AU's online course on responsible conduct of research, and anyone who teaches must also create and maintain a teaching portfolio.

Freedom of research

All researchers at Health have freedom of research within their academic field of employment, with the obligations arising from the employment relationship and within the university's research strategy. Within this framework, researchers are free to choose and develop methodologies, approaches and subjects as well as to present hypotheses, results and reasoning publicly. Researchers have freedom of speech and cannot be subject to a duty of confidentiality above and beyond what follows from legislation or binding contracts. Health's advisers on freedom of responsible conduct of research and freedom of research provide confidential and anonymous advice.

Career development

The number of permanent senior positions at Health is limited, and Health acknowledges the fact that far from all postdocs can continue in a research career at the university. The majority will later have to apply their acquired competencies and skills in positions outside the university, e.g. in the healthcare sector, a private research company or as an analyst, manager, consultant, teacher, developer etc. in the private or public sector. Such positions do not require a postdoc, but it is often an advantage because you come with work experience as well as the personal, organisational and academic skills you have acquired during your employment.

A requirement at Health is that postdocs have a dialogue on aligning expectations in connection with new appointments as well as a career development dialogue within one year of employment. The dialogue is held with the immediate supervisor, i.e. the person who was part of the appointment. Such career dialogues are intended to provide feedback, guidance and individual clarification that will assist the employee in making meaningful choices about their further career. HR has developed guidelines for employees and managers for use in connection with the career development dialogue. These guidelines are available on the staff portal:

All postdocs can apply for impartial career guidance from the department's career ambassador. A career ambassador is a senior researcher with insight into recruitment and career opportunities at the department (it is not certain that all departments have a career ambassador). Career ambassadors focus on a career within academia, but they are also familiar with the department's business collaborations and opportunities in the healthcare sector. They are available for general career guidance and can help identify the next step in competency development, as well as refer you to services provided by AU at The Kitchen or at AU Career PhD &JR, for example.

All postdocs at Health are expected to familiarise themselves with the services provided by AU Career PhD & JR and as a minimum participate in "Strategic Career Thinking for Junior Researchers" (workshop lasting approx. three hours).

All employees at Health are ultimately responsible for their own careers. This also applies to postdocs, who are encouraged to reflect on their career aspirations and career opportunities and to work actively with competency development: Should I look for more teaching experience? Research dissemination? Do I need to publish more? Do I lack specific academic skills? Do my personal competencies support my career aspirations? Tools for reflection can be found at AU Career PhD & JR – where you can also access resources such as the Vitae Researcher Development Framework – and on EURAXESS.

Health also has its own template for a personal development and career plan. The template can be used for independent reflection and as a basis for your dialogue on aligning expectations and career development dialogue. Using the template is voluntary.

Personal development and career plan form.

What does the job structure say?

“Employment as a postdoc requires academic qualifications at PhD level. The position of postdoc is a fixed-term academic position. The position may be filled for a period of up to four years at the same university. The position of postdoc is normally a full-time position, but employment on a part-time basis is also possible. The position will be heavily weighted in favour of research. In addition, there will be a certain amount of teaching activities. The performance of other duties may be required to a limited extent. The university determines the exact weighting of the various responsibilities. The weighting of the various responsibilities may vary over time.


  • Classification of academic ranks and titles (Ministerial Order No. 1443 of 11 December 2019)
  • The Ministerial Order on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities (Ministerial Order No. 242 of 13 March 2012)
  • Appointment criteria at Health
  • Danish framework for university pedagogical qualifications in university teaching skills
  • The Consolidation Act on Fixed-Term Employment (Consolidation Act No. 907 of 11 September 2008).
  • AU’s policy for research integrity, freedom of research and responsible conduct of research at Aarhus University