The postdoc salary range with cost of living (situation probably worst than reported)

Nature has an article, Pay for US postdocs varies wildly by institution. True, but as Matt Hahn, professor of biology at Indian University in Bloomington (cost of living 93% of the USA average) observed there isn’t any correction for cost of living. The researcher who dug through the data actually posted it online, so I decided to correct that oversight.

I took the institutions with N > 20, and looked up the cost of living in Best Places. The plot above is messy, but you can see that lots of institutions are paying a standard median salary of around $47,500, no matter the cost of living.

The correlation between cost of living and postdoc salary is 0.39. The weighted correlation is 0.48. These are pretty modest. That means you can find a really good situation, or a really bad one (also, institution reputation matters, there are some gems which pay well and have great reputations from what I can tell!).

Also, I’m pretty sure that the situation is worse than the numbers above suggest. Looking at the list of universities it seems there’s a bias for institutions at high cost of living locations not to want to report their salary data I think. Aside from UCSB the whole UC system denied the attempt to get data, and I don’t see Stanford, Columbia, or Harvard on the list.

The full table is below the fold, but adjusted for cost of living UCSB postdocs get $20,866 per year. In contrast, Michigan State, University of Maryland, Baltimore, and Wayne State University postdocs make more than $60,000 per year when you adjust. Stanford isn’t on the list, but online it says Stanford postdocs make between the low $50,000 to low $60,000 range, which seems reasonable for life sciences, though definitely poverty wages where the university is located (though if you are in a lucrative field it can be more, and depending on your supervisor outside consulting is a possibility, though good luck living in Silicon Valley on a $100,000 yearly gross income if you have a family, as many postdocs do).

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