Two Postdoc Job Titles — What is the Difference?

Since eligibility for benefits and aspects of compensation and taxation differ between the two Ohio State postdoctoral job titles, it is important to understand what distinguishes a postdoctoral researcher from a postdoctoral fellow. The postdoc’s source of funding, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and grantor’s guidelines concerning that funding ultimately determine which job title is appropriate. Note that postdoctoral scholars who change job titles while at Ohio State will experience a change (gain or loss) in some of their benefits, as well as possible compensation and tax changes.

  • Postdoctoral Researcher (job code 6504)
    • An employee of the university pursuing continued education and specialized research training and experience.
    • Receives a salary (wages).
    • Supported by funding that does not prohibit the postdoc from having an employee designation. Typically performs services on a grant or contract in exchange for compensation during postdoctoral training.
    • Common funding sources are research grants awarded to the faculty advisor.
    • The majority of postdocs at Ohio State are in this job title.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow (job code 6500)9
    • Trainee, not an employee. Pursuing specialized research training and experience primarily for the fellow’s own benefit.
    • Receives a stipend (payment not for services rendered).
    • Supported by a true fellowship, as defined by the IRS, or a training grant that prohibits the postdoc from being in an employee-employer relationship with the university. Does not perform a service in return for compensation.
    • Common funding examples are the NIH Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships (F32s) and NRSA Institutional Research Training Grants (T32s) and certain other individual postdoctoral fellowships.