My apologies for not writing sooner. I’ve been swamped with tasks in the lab, still getting organized, and now the BF and I are addicted to a really funny show called “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Anyways, so while all that was happening I was logging in to check the blog, but not to write.
I noticed that some of the most common phrases typed by users (that ultimately land in the blog) are as follow: “postdoc salary”, ” 28 and a phd”, “post-doc salary”, “postdoc salary USA 2009.” As I mention in the title, this is a very unscientific comparison between my salary as a postdoc, and the one I had as a grad student. Bear in mind that I will not go into details such as comparing salaries between disciplines, geographic areas, etc. I just want to give you a clue as to where I am situated, which is probably more or less in the middle. Also, my PhD is in Biophysics, one of the fields I am currently working in.
Just yesterday I found the letter of acceptance to the graduate program I attended. I started there in the summer of 2003, and my starting compensation was 20,500 USD. My salary increased over the next 6 years to ~25K, gross amount, without taking too much money out for taxes and school fees. I went to a decent-sized school in the Bible Belt, which for undergrad education ranks pretty high and the pay seemed fair enough to live in that city. My gross monthly income was over 2,200 USD by the end of my years there, and usually between 130-150$ were taken out in taxes. My fixed expenses while in grad school were:
- Rent -660-690$ (especially during my last year) for a 2BR apartment located ~ 15-20 mins away from school. It’s pretty expensive staying close to campus, but if you want to save gas and don’t mind walking or biking, it’s no biggie, and you probably end up even in terms of overall expenses between rent and transport.
- Car – I bought a new car when I started. I was afraid I’d end up with a lemon, especially since I didn’t have my parents to help me look for a car. I had it a 2% interest with a well known brand and I paid ~290 USD/month.
- Internet and cell. By the end of my career I had given up cable, so it was ~ 100 counting both. I got a small discount from the cell phone company through school.
- Credit cards. ~600-700$ between the 3 of them … and they’re not paid off due to my laziness and irresponsibility.
- Gas – ~60-100$. I filled up once a week and tried to do the maintenance work at the appropriate times.
- Car and apartment insurance. Ended up costing ~110$.
That left me with a couple of hundred bucks to eat, dress, take care is misc. things and do groceries. I almost always eneded up short of cash. Again, due to my irresponsibility. Compared to what I remember were the salaries of some college classmates who’d gone to get their PhDs in California, Michigan, Texas or Jersey, I was being paid slightly more (except for Cali) and the quality of living was not bad.
Now as a postdoc I’m paid 37,000 CADs, split into 3100 CADs per month. In USDs that amount translates into roughly 25-28k, depending on how the loony is doing. As when I was in grad school, taxes are not taken out of my salary, therefore I *must* set aside close to 800 CADs per month, so when tax season comes, I won’t be even more choked up in debt.
My salary is roughly divided like this:
- 500$ for rent (I live with the BF thus we contribute the same amount, live in an apartment that’s gorgeous, spaceous and is very quiet).
- Credit cards – same as before, and because I’m trying to knock off some of that debt, I’m trying the debt snowball method.
- Cell and internet – a little over 100$, but I don’t have the exact numbers for the internet yet.
- Car insurance – (super expensive) ~230$ … OUCH!
- There are probably one or two more things I’m forgetting, but like I said earlier, this is a very rough estimate, meant to give you a general idea of how money is split.
As you can see, because some of these expenses are shared between the BF and I, I end up with more money in my pocket, or roughly 1/3 of my salary if left in the end. I also pay for parking at school (30$/mo.) and health insurance (90$/mo.).
At my old school, depending on what your level of experience was, the staring salary of a postdoc was ~36k USD. In CADs that’s a lot more than what I am currently being paid, but the cost of living is lower here, and I did not qualify for any fellowships that might have complemented my salary or even bumped it a little bit.
I don’t know if other universities have a policy of showing the base levels for salaries, but my guess is that if they are government funded, more that likely you can check the site(s) of those agencies and see if what you’re being offered is fair and up to standards.
Good luck and I hope this might help you to situate and compare the cost of living and salaries of your current or future postdoc position.
———-Have a great weekend!
In previous posts I had mentioned that the BF didn’t know about my debts, how I got into debt, how I want to get out, how much, etc. Today the BF seemed a bit cold …. honestly, he felt a bit cold at times during the last couple of days. A few years back, while I was dating a college BF I remember getting that cold feeling along my spine, and bracing for a hundred thousand tears, and for an imminent breakup. I tell you, it was NOT fun. Feeling alone, breaking up with someone who’s been your best friend, your life, your everything for a few years hurts. And I am scared of feeling and being that hurt again … of not coming back from that kind of depression. That’s why, when the BF said we needed to talk I braced myself for the worst. And in a way, the best possible thing happened.
When I started writing here, a few months back, I vowed to be very honest about debt, finishing the PhD, etc. I’ve said how much I owe (23K), and how scared I am/was of people I know and love finding out about it. I didn’t want the BF to read the blog, especially those entries. But I realized that I needed to come clean. That if we were/are to have a future together we must come clean, unload our baggage and enlist each other’s help to overcome hardships.
Well, today was the day. I don’t know the exact details of how the BF got the idea, but I had been hinting about things and ways in which he could find out the name of this blog and such. And he did. I was so scared of letting him down, of showing him how irresponsible I’ve been. Of alienating him and going down a path without a way back.
We sat down, he started talking, he asked me about it …. and if felt almost as relieving as when you get the absolution of your sins by a priest (hey y’all, I’m a catholic, so this is the best example I could come up with). We talked about how and when it started, how it spiraled down and what I can do now to avoid making it worse. My worst fear was of a breakup, not only because we’ve been together for a long time, or for my fear of disappointing him, but because I had been and have been irresponsible, and in a way, I felt like I was cheating. He could not hide the sadness, but he offered his help in any way he could. Together we are coming up with ways to funnel money into the debt, and still living a decent life together. The best is yet to come, and the start of it seems good.
On a different side of life, today the undergrads started. I cannot help but wonder if I looked that young and fresh when I started college. I look at myself in the mirror now and feel kinda old and run down (it could very well be PMS-related). But anyhow, the kids just look like that, kids. I feel like I’m from a completely different world.
Seeing those undergrads walking around, some of them scared of the new environment, some of them over-confident, made me go back 10 years in time, to 1999 when I was an undergrad. I felt so scared, but in a way I also felt powerful. I remember cramming down for projects, exams, labs, etc. It was so very fun. Sometimes I feel pain in my heart, an ache for the times by gone. But I’m glad for all of it. FOR ALL, yes, even those undesirable professors (may they rest in peace), even the bad dates, the crazy hairdo’s, and the silly projects. They all helped me in my way to get a PhD. Here I am today, 10 years after first stepping in my school. Here I am, a victor, not a victim, still wanting to learn, to grow, to experience.