Resources Q & A

Jobs in India

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  • What is the hierarchy of positions for scientists in a research institution? What is the entry-level faculty position called? #

    There are a few different nomenclatures: some institutions have a letter grade system (Scientist C, Scientist D, and so on); others have entry level positions called lecturer/fellow/reader/assistant professor, which at more senior levels become less varied, settling at the more familiar Associate Professor, Professor etc.

    The good part is that the applicant does not need to know the name of the position they will be considered for. Each institution has rules that indicate what level a person can be considered for. As an example, if an Institution's rules are that 10 years post PhD experience corresponds to an Associate Professor designation, such an applicant cannot be considered for a more junior appointment,and can only very rarely, with exceptional qualifications, be considered for a more senior appointment. The system does not allow negotiations, and likewise, cannot be unfair to an applicant either.

    Bottom line: the level of appointment is not something that needs to be (or can be) negotiated, but you don't have to worry about getting a fair deal either- each applicant will be considered for an appropriate as per an institution's rules. So you can just state that you wish to apply for "an independent investigator" position and let the system take care of it.

  • Whom do we contact at an institution for applying for a position? #

    The Director, the Chairperson of a particular department, or the email on the Institution's website. Different institutions are at different stages in evolving a prompt, responsive application system—meaning that you may not always hear back immediately.

    If this happens, find a young scientist at the particular institution and ask whether they can give you any information about their procedures (in some places, younger faculty are only minimally involved in hiring decisions, and in others, may be able to provide informal information about the frequency of Council meetings etc which may hold up processing of an application).

    Most Institutions are beginning to realize that email confirmations of applications received is a good thing to do, and hopefully this is the beginning of a change in how candidates are kept updated about the progress of their application.

  • What are the requirements for applying to a faculty position? Is there a minimum/maximum years of experience as postdoc required before applying for a position in India? #

    Most Institutions will issue an appointment letter stating a 5-year term, with extension subject to review. The nature of this review varies widely, being stringent and similar to the US tenure track system is a few places, to being basically a promotion review (but not a tenure review per se) in most others. That these latter Institutions, you won't lose your job but your promotion may get delayed if you haven't met the requirements (ASK what these are- varies widely). Therefore, appointments are pretty much tenured from the start with the exception of the few Institutions that have implemented or are actively discussing the implementation of a stringent tenure track system. This is something to explicitly ask, not assume, since it is a point of active debate all over the country.

    Minimum: usually a few years of post-doctoral experience are required. Some Institutions have positions suited for fresh PhD applicants also eg IITs, IISER Pune, NCBS's young investigator program. Each Institution has rules to consider applicants with different numbers of post-PhD experience. Naturally, publications, proposed research plan, and references are part of the requirements and go into evaluating the application.

    Maximum: there is no limit to the experience a candidate may have, but with increasing years of post-PhD experience, candidates must be considered for correspondingly higher appointments. As an example, if an Institution's rules are that 10 years post PhD experience corresponds to an Associate Professor designation, such an applicant cannot be considered for a more junior appointment. These appointments have a higher bar, and naturally require more of a demonstration of success than the promise of it as is the case with more junior appointments in which "potential" is a big factor.

    Age limits: There are several institutes that prefer to hire younger people-this varies quite a lot from Institution to Institution. Age limits are usually flexible- and need to be increasingly more so in order to encourage recruitment. Make your first contact early, approx. 2-3 years before you expect to finish your postdoc. Then you will be in touch with the changing situation at various places.

  • How does the application process work? What sort of time frame are we looking at? #

    Time-frame: begin making your enquiries 2-3 years before you actually want to move. Better still, try to arrange informal visits or seminars (that are not necessarily job-talks) AS SOON as you are nearing the end of your PhD or beginning your post-doc. Institutions are quite friendly to visitors who write saying "I'm coming home on vacation, and I want to begin to explore options of returning to India after my post-doc is over, may I visit and give an informal seminar?" If you don't have work that suits a seminar, give a lab-meeting style presentation hosted by a faculty member in your field, to which a few other faculty may come. This will help the department see your work evolve in subsequent years, and they will have a better background for your job talk which may be 4 years later! Also, practically, an informal early visit will give you a contact you can write to later on when you mail a formal application.

    If you have NOT made initial visits and want to move back on a quicker time-frame, that can also work. Its not as if paperwork necessarily takes so long- appointments can be made on a 6 month timescale depending on the procedures at particular Institutions (others are known to take much, much longer- this needs to change, obviously, in order for them to remain competitive in terms of attracting back talent). We suggest you make contact early only so that you can explore more carefully where you might fit in best- unlike the US, Institutions in India vary greatly on how things are run- so its worth it putting in the effort to visit them early on. If you don't have as much lead-up time, just write to as many places as you think you might reasonably want to visit, and plan a job-talk tour giving talks everywhere. In your initial email, you can indicate that you are planning a trip to India at time X, and would be happy to give a talk at that time. Also state the time frame you want to move back in- it helps the Institution respond.

    The application process: Apply with a CV, names of referees, and a research plan. If you are continuing aspects of your postdoctoral work, be certain to have a good response to the question "how will you distinguish yourself from your postdoctoral mentor".

    Your application will be evaluated, letters of recommendation will be solicited (often a greater number than at US Institutions- provide at least 6 names if possible, and the Institution is likely to seek letters from additional people who look at multiple applications over time, for reasons of comparison and consistency). The evaluation process involves a few different levels of committees- it is best to ask because this varies depending on the policies of each Institution.

  • What is the approximate pay scale for new faculty? #

    The new pay commission has just come into play. A PI with 5 yrs post-PhD experience will earn (ballpark) Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 per month (before taxes). Housing is usually offered to faculty members at no cost (or sometimes a notional amount of a few hundred rupees) or you are given a House Rent Allowance (HRA) of approx. 30% of your salary. In addition, faculty members and their families can also become members in whatever Health service scheme the Institute offers, again at very minimal cost. Therefore the total compensation would be the salary+housing+health benefits. Market rent rates in metropolises can be up to 5 times the salary per month, thus raising the value of the compensation significantly! Special "re-entry" fellowships are offered by the DST (Ramanujan Fellowship) and the DBT (Ramalingaswami Fellowship). These, and Wellcome Trust-DBT fellowships offer significantly higher salaries (approx 50% more) to incoming faculty.

    Many institutions have daily visiting doctors or even a full medical clinic all free. They provide primary/GP services and prescriptions. Some Institutes have tie ups with hospitals. Usually the insurance through the institute will cover prescriptions. Hospital stays will be covered in the range of 50-90% depending on the type of room (private v/s semi-private) you choose.