To help answer this question, ASHA asked several former and current post-doctoral fellows to share details about their experience, and what led them to pursue that career option.
For Shurita Thomas-Tate, an assistant professor at Florida State University, a post-doctoral fellowship allowed her the time to develop as a researcher without the pressures of a tenure-track position (e.g., teaching and service requirements). Mary Jo Cooley Hidecker, a post-doc at Michigan State University, said that "the major positives of the post-doctoral fellowship are time and mentorship to develop my research program, write grants, and submit to journals. Improving my research skills prepares me to take on the many tasks required to be successful in the academic environment."
Additional benefits include time to make the transition from student to professional, the opportunity to gain a general "portfolio" of experience that may make it easier to apply for a faculty position later on, and the chance to develop a new or underdeveloped area of expertise.
There are a number of factors to weigh, however, before accepting a post-doctoral fellowship. Kumiko Boike, a post-doc at Arizona State University, said that a post-doc "will probably be challenging at times," noting issues including salaries lower than those of faculty appointments, limited opportunities to engage in mentoring and/or teaching activities, and a delay in establishing independence from a mentor.
Despite the challenges, the post-doctoral fellows interviewed said that their experiences were invaluable in helping them prepare for a faculty position. Renetta Tull, director of the PROMISE Program at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said that she was able to "make smooth transitions and navigate the campus, the department, and the field from the perspective of a faculty member as opposed to seeing the academic world as a student," and that she enjoyed acclimating to a new state and city "without the pressure of the tenure clock."
Tina Grieco-Calub, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, added that in addition to developing her research project, her post-doc is giving her "the ability to participate in administrative tasks and managerial issues that are part of running a lab."
More information on available post-doctoral opportunities and funding a post-doctoral fellowship can be found on the Web sites of the National Institutes of Health; the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders; and ASHA.