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Tips to Negotiate Postdoctoral Salary

Updated on March 21, 2013

During a postdoctoral interview, one of the tough questions asked is: What is your desired salary? It is obvious to feel nervous to answer this question. Many universities have established funding (salary and /or stipend) levels, and it is determined based on a number of years of experience. However, you must have heard or experienced that this rule is not strictly followed by all hiring principal investigators. The employer has the right to decide the salary for the postdoc, especially when you are employed to work for a government-funded research projects such as NIH.

Postdoctoral position is considered as higher level of training of any specialty. This training prepares you to become independent investigators. After completing three-four years of training you will be appointed at the level of Assistant Professor. However, all postdoctoral fellows are not lucky to become full-time faculty members. Many of them continue as Research Associates or as Senior Postdoctoral Fellows. Usually, the salary for postdoctoral appointees ranges $35k to $70k, and senior fellows are highly compensated. Several aspects of a candidate are considered before deciding the salary. Therefore, there is a chance to negotiate your salary. This hub gives you some useful tips to prepare for salary negotiation.

When to negotiate for the desired salary?

It is bit challenging to negotiate for high salary when you apply for your first postdoctoral position. Many labs hire fresh postdocs to train them to work for their on-going projects. However, once you’ve proven yourself well qualified you should start thinking about this tough question. As a postdoc, proven refers to have good publication record and expertise in laboratory techniques. For instance, a laboratory advertises for a postdoc position in molecular biology. You can think about selling yourself if you have two-three good publications and strong proficiency in molecular biology techniques.

How to prepare for negotiation?

Before facing telephone or face-to-face interviews, do some researches on your future Principal Investigator’s lab work. For example, you may have the publication in Nature or Science, but your future supervisor may not be having. You might have developed expertise in some techniques, but those techniques are not part of that lab. This type of information will give you a clue that your experience is very much desirable for the lab you are applying for. Likewise, collecting such evidence will provide you a better chance for salary negotiation.

How to answer this tough question?

Although you may have good publication and expertise in the field, but if you don’t provide the strongest answer, you may miss of getting paid high. So, prepare your answer before facing the interview. For instance, first, you can highlight your accomplishments in the field. I have three years of experience in the field and hands-on expertise in several techniques. I can bring all my previous expertise to contribute to your project and also can train others in your lab. Then you can ask the interviewer: Could you share with me the range that you have budgeted for such an experienced position?

Likewise, construct your own answer. Avoid giving weak answers such as, my current salary is $45,000/annum, and I am expecting more than that. By giving the number is that you are taking a chance. This salary range can be too high for this position or perhaps too low. Additionally, try not to give passive answers. For example, I am very much interested in this project and like to work in your lab. I am not much fascinated in making money and offer me with a fair salary which goes with my experience and qualification. Later, you don’t have to be disappointed when you realize that a technician in the same lab is earning more than you.

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      woshifuyan001 6 months ago

      Very good suggestions!! Thanks a million!