In most scientific disciplines, the next stage after the PhD is now termed the postdoc: other posts and titles exist, depending on the institution and the country, but all are understood as a necessary step on the way through the hierarchy towards a professorship or senior researcher position.
All the data points to a simple fact: the chances are not high to find a permanent professorship, and many talented researchers spend years hoping to finally be hired on a long-term contract. Requirements for international mobility and publication records can make the path especially tough, and combined with a succession of short-term contracts with uncertain outcomes, it is often very hard for many researchers to achieve their goals.
But for those who decide to take the academic path, the adventure can be inspiring! Creating new knowledge by delving deeply into research and being part of a global scientific community, and lighting the way for the next generation through teaching students and supervising junior researchers: those who are in there wouldn’t have it any other way!
It only makes sense to think well in advance about whether you want to choose this route. That means reflecting carefully and honestly about your personal motivations, your real interests, and what you’re willing to give up (and what you’re not!).
If you decide that the academic path is for you, or at least that you want to try it out, you’ll need to find out what’s possible for you and required in your disciplinary field.