27 and a PhD

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Salaries and percentages

Hi all. I know, I know. I’ve gone MIA. It’s been a bit over a month since I last posted something and I’ve been pretty much off Twitter for a long time too. Ever since my Depression 2015 Tour, I’ve clammed up a bit. I feel bad sometimes, but having tons of little messages popping up and on and on and trying to play catch up was getting to me. I check Twitter once a day, usually, and sometimes I engage in convos. But I’m keeping things at a distance until things stabilize (see below).

Today I started thinking about how many salary bumps I’ve had since I was a grad student. When I started my PhD, my stipend was $20,500. Every year after that, we got a raise of a few hundred dollars. After passing the qual, I got a $400 bump (the way my department “rewarded” students that were on time and on track re: finishing the PhD) and by the end of grad school, I was making somewhere around $24,000.

My first “major” bump was going from the PhD and to the postdoc. My salary went up to almost $40,000, though it never went above that. The bump was in the 50-55% range, which seemed pretty good from a newly-minted PhD perspective. If you know a bit about my story, 20 months into my PD I decided to jump ship and accept an offer as a staff scientist in NYC. That took my salary abover the $50,000 range. This bump was somewhere around 52% from that of my PD and while it was great, living in NYC can be a bit expensive (rent-wise, because a lot of my costs were lower in NYC than they are in the south, if you can believe it). Once I moved to my position as a lab manager I got another bump, not quite as significant as the previous ones, actually 15%, but still, at my current salary I’m making 2.5x more than I did as a student! Not bad, I think.

Currently I’m in the negotiation process with a different lab, somewhere else in the nation. Yes, I *finally* got a flippin’ job offer that I hope will take me away from this place and my trigger person. I’m not sad about leaving the lab at all (though I will miss my students and other staff members), but I’m also not bouncing off the walls. Should my proposed salary go through with HR, I could get a bump of ~12%, which will definitely take me to $70k. Can you flippin’ believe that?

I once was talking to a female PI here at school and we got to the salary comparison part. She was surprised (and if I read her face correctly, almost pissed) that my salary was just a few thousand dollars below what she initially was offered as a new prof at school.

I’ve known (and have worked with) lab managers and other senior scientists that are easily in the $100,000 range. They’re not PIs, but they sure keep facilities open and working; they troubleshoot (reducing, and sometimes even eliminating the need for service contracts), train people, teach, write grants to purchase equipment or to soften the burden of expensive service contracts for fancy-pants equipment. They may not “own” a lab, but they’re not scratching their balls (or ovaries) either.

I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. Thus far the terms of the (possible) new job seem pretty interesting, and compared to my current place of employment, this university appears to have their shit together. The position is clearly defined, it’s not something that’s made as it goes (as my current one is). There are other people in similar positions as I could be and they seem down to earth, DIYers that sure keep their hands busy doing research, but mostly dealing with instrumentation, which is really where I want to go at this point in my life.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but for now, whatever takes me away from hell-hole lab and into a more collaborative environment is something I’m willing to consider.

So, there you have it. Those are my bumps in salary throughout the years, starting with my stipend, all the way to lab manager. Have you every sat down to calculate how much your salary changed as you progressed up whatever ladder you went up in science? Did you ever stay in the same range during a lateral movement, or ever go down?

What are your thoughts? Do you have any questions?