Stanford University
Postdoctoral Scholars


Careers in Teaching in the Humanities

In Schools and Community Colleges

December 2011

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Postdoctoral appointments may entail some teaching responsibilities of courses at Stanford or outside. However, a full-time research-only scholar may also wish to teach a course in addition to her/his existing appointment.  That is permitted within the guidelines described below and after prior approval.  In all cases, teaching is a recommended activity for the professional development of the postdoc, particularly for those interested in pursuing teaching and/or faculty careers.  See below guidelines and applicable review and approval processes for teaching at or outside of Stanford.

Teaching At Stanford:   Some degree or non-degree Stanford programs hire postdocs to teach, or co-teach, courses. Teaching arrangements are made directly by the postdoc with the department in which she/he is proposing, or been asked, to teach a course. 

Teaching may, or may not, be part of the postdoctoral appointment.  Teaching outside the boundaries of the scholar’s regular responsibilities is allowed.  The determination of whether the teaching responsibilities fall within the boundaries of the scholar’s appointment is made by faculty mentor and is based on the terms and conditions of the postdoctoral appointment described in the offer letter.

Teaching is part of the appointment when the activity is part of the terms and conditions of the postdoctoral offer.  This applies regardless of whether or not the teaching occurs within or outside of the postdoc’s lab/research group, department or school, even if provided within the context of a teaching program.  When teaching is part of the postdoctoral appointment, it does not constitute grounds for payment of additional compensation.

Teaching is not part of the appointment when it is not part of the postdoctoral position description or training goals, and where the university would need to otherwise hire other resources.  Approval of the postdoc’s faculty mentor is required in such cases, as teaching responsibilities will often lead to change in the postdoc’s research commitments and may require prior approval by funding agencies.  Depending on the length and scope of teaching effort, a reduction in the postdoctoral commitment may be required.

Where teaching is not part of the postdoc appointment, the activity should receive additional compensation above the postdoctoral funding offered to the scholar, regardless of whether the work is performed within or outside the postdoc’s lab/research group, department or school, and when all of the following five criteria are met:

  1. The teaching activity is for a degree-granting academic university program or for an established non-degree program such as executive programs in the GSB and School of Engineering; Continuing Studies; Post Graduate Medical Education Seminars; Stanford Program for Gifted Youth; Online High School; Health Improvement Program), AND
  2. The scholar is appointed through the regular appointment process of the program, AND
  3. The program provides compensation to others performing the same teaching duties, AND
  4. In advance of the teaching duties being performed, the scholar discusses any impact of the teaching responsibilities on the scholar’s training commitment with his/her faculty mentor and Human Resources Manager

Review and Approval is done at the local level (by the faculty mentor, the postdoc department administrator, and the hiring department) if:

  1. Teaching occurs on a one-time or infrequent basis: over a period that is 4 weeks or less, or does not exceed 10 hours/week, OR
  2. Teaching does not require a change in the postdoc’s full-time commitment to the postdoc appointment, evidenced by approval by the faculty mentor and in accordance with any funding agency regulations, OR
  3. Compensation does not exceed 5% of the annual funding level of the postdoc.

If one of the above criteria is met, approval is required by the faculty mentor, the postdoctoral administrator in the department and the human resources administrator of the hiring department only.  Payments may be processed directly through payroll as a one-time payment or through a casual hire.

In other cases that do not meet one of the 3 criteria above, additional review and approval must be secured by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs prior to the teaching activity.

Approval by Bechtel International Center is required in all cases of international scholars teaching outside of their postdoctoral appointment responsibilities.

Teaching Outside of Stanford: Many postdocs teach at the local community colleges or universities while continuing their full-time commitment at Stanford.  Discussion with the faculty mentor about such additional work is strongly recommended, for both mentoring by the faculty member and to ensure that the extra effort does not conflict with the postdoctoral commitment at Stanford.  For US citizens and permanent residents, teaching does not require Stanford approval, as long as it does not interfere with the postdoc’s commitment at Stanford, and is done on a temporary, short-term basis. 

Foreign scholars on J1 or H1B visas must obtain Stanford’s prior approval due to the regulations governing off-campus activity for foreign students and scholars.  Guidelines are available on the Bechtel International Center’s website at

Review and Approval at Stanford is not required for US citizens and permanent residents, unless it interfere with the postdoc’s commitment at Stanford. 



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